Attention crazy people! Your ideas are becoming reality in Florida. Remember when Governor Scott promoted the idea of bulldozing state parks to build golf courses? Well, that was tame compared to these harsh realities.

Article: Sifting for Truth in the Deep Dredge

That article about dredging in PortMiami made the Army Corps of Engineers see red. They published in this month’s Biscayne Times, and they sent me a nasty email that started this way:

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE
Mr. Harper:
I find your headline a bit ironic with the use of the word “truth” when your article in the most recent issue of Biscayne Times contains anything but the truth.

PortMiami is digging deeper.

PortMiami is digging deeper.

My response? None. I only have one question for the Army Corps of Engineers: Who is responsible for digging, dredging, and otherwise contorting the Everglades into such a ill state that it requires a $10 billion-plus restoration?

Moving on…an even more disturbing prospect is the expansion of oil drilling in Florida, starting in protected areas. It is really sickening. Look for my article in this month’s Biscayne Times if they ever get around to posting online (okay, so it’s not a breaking news operation, but April has been here for a week already).

Tired of the ugly? Read about the pretty in my Park Patrol columns.

I’m also pleased to report that our young anti-climate change organization, 350 South Florida, has reached 200 members!

Oh, and my master’s thesis is nearing completion. Results to post soon. Go Jim!

A visit to the hamlet of El Portal, just north of the City of Miami, is usually short and sweet, but for a recent Park Patrol column I spent a couple of afternoons there to soak in this village-wide bird sanctuary. After viewing the photos below, view the park review here.

These are the glasses mentioned in the article's opening.

These are the glasses mentioned in the article’s opening.


Why did the peacock cross the road?


The neighbors erected this Christmas tree on top of the ancient Indian mound.


Peacock in a private front yard.


The new mini park of Sherwood Forest.


Even the village’s newsletter, the Peacock Express, is for the birds.


The fountain in Sherwood Forest Park.

Chef Kurt and yogi Giancarlo welcome you with open hearts and fine dining.

Chef Kurt and yogi Giancarlo welcome you with open hearts and fine dining.

How often does a Saturday night approach and you think to yourself, “I need to go somewhere for my sanity.” The regular options of a mediocre dinner and a horrid movie don’t cut it anymore, and you want some more, something with substance.

Enter the Tree of Life Center’s dinner parties. The brainchild of yoga teacher Giancarlo Solimano and chef Kurt Schmidt, the new center combines the worlds of yoga and healthy eating into one palate-pleasing package. Along with the yoga studio, the twice monthly dinner parties launched in October.

“A fantastic, relaxing evening,” said Lori Coorper-Rider of El Portal about the event on November 23. “It’s just like having dinner among friends.”

The homey atmosphere stems from sharing dinner in a quiet yoga studio with a small assembly of about 10 people–a very different experience than a typical restaurant. In addition to personal attention from Kurt and Giancarlo, local herbalist Victor Rivera shared his insights into health and displayed natural therapies from around the world.

Savory squash soup with coconut and a topping of pumpkin seeds.

Savory squash soup with coconut and a topping of pumpkin seeds.

Personal trainer Adam Wenguer was eating it up. “I’ve been getting into herbs more, because you’re getting the energy frequency from the earth itself,” he said. He felt the same way about dinner. “Kurt’s food was incredible. It has a different energetic feel. It’s like eating knowledge, and it tastes good.”

The dinner party’s theme was anti-inflammatory foods, and its five courses featured tangy salads and wild-caught salmon. Kurt, a practicing nurse for decades, throws his knowledge of physiology into his cooking. Before dinner,

The dining concept combines friendship, food, and healthy living.

The dining concept combines friendship, food, and healthy living.

he explained how inflammation is becoming widely recognized in medical research as the root cause of major diseases such as cancer and diabetes. By consuming anti-inflammatory foods, you reduce your risk for these diseases.

The five course event, including a glass of wine, costs $96. On this evening, the five courses included:

  • appetizer of baked pear on arugula salad
  • squash soup
  • fennel citrus salad with goji berries
  • wild salmon with Peruvian potatoes and greens
  • dessert of bing cherries in coconut cream sauce

The leisurely event lasted from 7 pm to 10:30 pm. Reservations are required.

The Tree of Life Center is located in the lofts at 8101 Biscayne Boulevard. For details, call 503-705-6095.

“I could see the lights of Key West.”

Diana Nyad

Feeding time in between Cuba and the U.S. (from Diana Nyad’s Facebook).

On Labor Day 2013, September 2, Diana Nyad, age 64, walked ashore onto Florida after spending more than 50 hours and two nights swimming under her own power from Cuba. Watch these videos of her triumphant arrival.

She delivered three messages to the world, which I will simplify here:

  1. Never give up.
  2. You’re never too old.
  3. It takes a team.

I want to recognize her incredible courage and take a moment, as a swimmer myself, to think about the two nights she spent swimming in the open ocean. In complete darkness. Out there, civilization is gone. There are no lights. There are no landmarks to inspire you and keep you focused in the right direction. It is a place that swallows people in silence, and left alone there, you will die.

But she was not alone, as she pointed out in message number three. She had her team on the kayaks and boats, she had her doctor, coach, navigator, and many other crew members urging her onwards. The team had to keep the water dark to avoid attracting sharks, and Diana wore a red light on her cap to be identified. In the water, Diana was guided by a thin, red strip of LED light trailed underneath her from a mount on the main boat, creating a sort of bioluminescent mermaid’s tail, pointing “this way.” But little red lights in the middle of the ocean do not keep you safe or alive. Diana had to trust her team completely.

The sun rose after day and night one, and she had not slept. Another day passed as she kept swimming and willing herself forward, and the sun set again. Night number two. She had been awake for a period that would make most mortals delirious–and she had been swimming the entire time. She was entering the darkest night.

I cannot imagine how she felt on that second night. Her body had to be in survival mode from a technical standpoint, but one organ was even stronger than her body. Her mind.

In an interview today with CNN, Nyad said that for the final 15 hours of the swim, she could see lights in the distance. She knew it was Key West, her destination. After many hours of wishing herself towards those lights, there came a much greater light.

On day three, the sun rose.

Can you imagine how beautiful it must have been? Can you see it slowly peeling away the fear of darkness and ushering in the hope of day?

I could go on and on, gushing about the symbolic victory as well as the technical triumph of Diana Nyad’s swim. This feat was much, much more than a swimmer’s Mount Everest. It was one person’s dream that had died, gone into hibernation for more than 30 years, and then arose again. It was a foolish, fool’s pursuit of a gold medal in history, in life. It was impossible.

Until now. Diana Nyad proved a lesson that seems to be hitting me over the head lately. Everything is possible.

How do you explain something that only happens in a movie–when it happens to you?

Surprise rings purchased after the surprise wedding.

Surprise rings purchased after the surprise wedding.

My family doesn’t know. My friends didn’t know until they checked Facebook. I’m still in shock. Today is Friday, August 16, and it has become the date of my wedding anniversary. Until about 11 a.m. this morning, I had no idea that I was getting married.

Thank you Yohandre, for giving me this dream. You have been my angel and my rock for the past 18 years, and I would do anything for you.

You didn’t care about marriage, so I learned to let go of that idea. Actually I don’t care that I got married–I care that I got married to YOU. You are a gift to this world and an unbelievable blessing in my life. In my perfect world, I would clone you 7 billion times and spread you across the planet.

I wanted to marry you so that I could stand up, tall and proud, and tell the world that I love you and that you are an amazing person and that you deserve to be respected and loved. I don’t deserve you, but as sung by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, “somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”

Yesterday I had no idea that our vacation to Los Angeles would turn into a wedding, that our friend Claudia would turn into a witness, that our plans to have a “nice lunch” would take a detour to the courthouse in East L.A. You got me good.

I got the best surprise I could ever wish for. Everything is possible.


Let’s get real — unlike the Discovery Channel, which just aired a FAKE documentary about a giant, attacking shark (see the fraud skewered by the Daily Show in “Sharks, Lies, and Videotape“). Sharks would starve to death if they depended on eating humans.

The angel shark's shape shows that rays and sharks are related.

The angel shark’s shape shows that rays and sharks are related. Called Elasmobranchs, they are fish, not monsters.

The humans most responsible for the increase of reported shark attacks are scientists and surfers — scientists, because they love to count things that were never counted before, and surfers, because they love to swim in torrid waves where sharks are hunting for fish. Put in more diplomatic terms, the authoritative International Shark Attack files states: “The numerical growth in shark interactions does not necessarily mean that there is an increase in the rate of shark attacks; rather, it most likely reflects the ever-increasing amount of time spent in the sea by humans, which increases the opportunities for interaction between the two affected parties.”

Party of surfers, perhaps? It continues in its most recent annual report: Surfers and others participating in board sports (60% of cases: 48 incidents) were most often involved in these incidents in 2012. Less affected recreational user groups included swimmers/waders (22%) and divers (8%). Surfers have been the most-affected user group in recent years, the probable result of the large amount of time spent by these folks engaged in provocative activity (kicking of feet, splashing of hands, and “wipeouts”) in areas frequented by sharks, the surf zone.”

Across the entire world in 2012, during the billions upon billions of times that people entered the water at the beach, a total of 18 swimmers were bitten. More people were bitten by dogs right now while you are reading this sentence! (And dogs and snakes kill vastly higher numbers, but where is Angry Dog Week? Snake Week?). Of the total 80 attacks worldwide last year, 7 people died. Seven. More people than that died this instant trying to cross the street.

If I were a shark, I would try to kill many, many more people as a Public Service Announcement to GET OUT OF MY BACKYARD.

The fact is that drowning is a huge risk and shark attacks are not. Locals in Miami do not believe me when I tell them that no person has ever been killed by a shark here. Think about it: Miami does not have large waves, therefore it doesn’t have many surfers. It certainly has sharks — any part of the ocean does — it just doesn’t have as many people doing “wipeouts” in a shark’s dining room.

Our friends at the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville don’t want to offend surfers, so they call them “Surface Recreationists.” But let’s get real. If you want to surf, you accept the risk that you are playing in a wild, dangerous environment, where many animals are just trying to survive. If they bite you instead of a fish, it’s your fault.

But if you prefer fear over facts, watch the Discovery Channel.

P.S. To reduce your chances of a shark encounter, wear a dark or drab bathing suit. Or swim nude.

Why has Florida’s senior senator Bill Nelson, who has a strong pro-environment record, changed his stance this year to favor the Keystone XL pipeline extension?

This movement's name comes from carbon pollution.

This movement’s name comes from carbon pollution.

That mysterious switch is the current focus of a new club that has been meeting at my house, called 350 South Florida, and the group is the subject of my Going Green column this month in the Biscayne Times. In the article, several founding members express reasons for joining this grassroots group to address the climate crisis.

Solving the Sen. Nelson mystery is just the first of many efforts that the group is planning, with the intent to raise awareness locally and solve climate change issues globally. The group formed after an intensive weekend training in Coral Gables provided by, an international movement founded by Bill McKibben, a leading writer and activist against global warming. Within only a few years of existence, the movement has led some of the most visible and effective demonstrations to address climate change.

Actress Daryl Hannah gets arrested in front of the White House this year to protest the Keystone pipeline.

Actress Daryl Hannah gets arrested in front of the White House this year to protest the Keystone pipeline.

Getting back to Sen. Nelson, he was against the Keystone XL pipeline before he was for it, so something or someone influenced him within the past year. Money? Fame? A secret crush on Republicans? As a leading Democrat from a non-oil state–actually an anti-oil drilling state–his position makes little sense, and suspicions grow around such contradictions.

Recent comments from President Obama indicate that he is likely to kill the project. Even if that happens, supporters of the project will need to explain why they want to risk pumping dirty fuel through the heartland so that a port in Texas can send it overseas. The new pipeline from Canada offers very few jobs and benefits for Americans and a very, very high risk to the seven billion people of planet Earth.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 114 other followers