Monthly Archives: August 2011

The E Word

“Costa Rica Sucks.” That was the new slogan that we came up with while on vacation there. The country’s official slogan is “Pura Vida,” meaning Pure Life and celebrating authenticity, but we felt that it needed updating. That much sincerity and idealism gets really annoying, real fast. Costa Rica Sucks.

In reality, it was quite the opposite, but the contradiction was funny. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the week of timeshare that allowed four of us to visit Condo-vac, our headquarters on the western Pacific coast. No sarcasm there). Sure, there were annoying situations and inconveniences that merited a bit of anger, but mostly we were thinking that Costa Rica Rocks.

Environmentalism sucks. Actually, it does for the individual. It’s all bad news, gloom and doom, we’re all gonna die, blah blah blah. Who needs that? Why not focus on what really matters in today’s world. The Economy, and shopping online. Shopping Rocks!

Of course I don’t hate nature and sustainable living, but it does get annoying when you’re striving for Pura Vida while most places, not being neutral countries with no military, like Costa Rica, tend to focus on protecting themselves and producing more, more, more at any cost. What’s the point of growing your own vegetables when you know they will get covered in nuclear fallout?

Come on, we can do better than that. We don’t have to wallow in the inevitability of a destroyed planet and extinct human race. We can maintain hope that Pura Vida exists today and will continue tomorrow. There’s got to be a way.

Denial sucks, and that’s for real. No longer can we stick our head in the sand and pretend that our Earth is not ill, like we did in the early days of AIDS, of the Holocaust, of slavery, etc. The longer you deny it, the worse it gets. And that’s pure truth.

Hurricane Kit How-to with Two Weeks of Supplies

Hurricane Kit: 12 Items

Do not wait until the last day to prepare your emergency supplies, because stores will run out of certain popular items. Also, the electricity could shut down before the highest winds arrive. Be prepared to live without electricity for at least two weeks.

Other basic items that should be available should be prepared days or weeks before, not minutes before, the storm arrives. Here are some basic recommendations of items to have on hand:

  1. Water: 7-14 gallons of water per person. Save large plastic soda bottles for this purpose. Plain bleach can be used to purify the water. As a last resort, fill the bathtub and sink.
  2. Food: Non-perishables work best. Obtain charcoal or gas for a grill for cooking outside. Sterno-type stoves are also useful.
  3. Manual can opener
  4. Flashlights with batteries
  5. Radio with batteries
  6. Matches
  7. Tools (non-electric)
  8. Fire extinguisher
  9. Mosquito repellent
  10. First aid kit
  11. Plastic garbage bags
  12. Cash (ATMs may shut down)

Emergency Medical Kit: 9 Items

Do you have enough medication for at least one month? As soon as you hear reports of a storm approaching, check your list of medications and confirm that a month’s supply is available for each medication.

If your area is under a Hurricane Watch or State of Emergency, you should be able to obtain an additional, advanced 30-day supply of medication. In this situation, you do not need to wait for the refill date.

Medication requiring refrigeration can be problematic after a hurricane, because electricity may not be available for days or even weeks. You can use a generator to run appliances in your home, or determine a place near your home that has an emergency back-up system for power and a place to store your refrigerated medications.

In your medical kit at home, you should maintain the following at a minimum:

  1. a list of all your prescription medications and dosages
  2. specific instructions in writing, including provider contact information
  3. specialized medical equipment, such as diabetes equipment and wound care supplies
  4. a cooler or ice chest
  5. special dietary foods or supplements
  6. incontinence supplies
  7. personal hygiene supplies, such as toothbrush
  8. thermometer
  9. first-aid kit
Visit this link for more guidance.

Hurricanes Bigger than Irene

Warning: what you don’t know can still kill you

Earlier this summer I attended Florida’s hurricane conference, where I met with leading forecasters while researching this article for Scientific American: “Are Category 6 Hurricanes Coming Soon?”

Stormy weather in North Miami Beach

Stormy weather in North Miami Beach

Needless to say, it’s a disturbing thought. Run for the hills! Or if you live in the flatland called Florida, duck!

With Hurricane Irene gobbling up the Bahamas like gumdrops, we are being hit with another type of inundation. Disaster Drama. Oh how TV news loves to scare us, keep us glued to the set, and then retract overblown statements.

But don’t completely ignore them. Look at If Hurricane Irene is one day away from you, drop everything and get ready. As this article suggests, “run from the water, hide from the wind.”

Next I’ll share some interview material that didn’t make it into this article. Meteorologists are very careful not to link any one hurricane, an event of weather, to global warming, a measure of climate. They get very touchy about that.

Vacation for Nature

Adult and unrelated baby manatee at aquarium in Bradenton, Florida

Orlando, Las Vegas, and New York City stimulate the senses, but at the end of a vacation there you feel exhausted. Why not try a place that offers natural beauty and wildlife along with the essentials of peace and quiet? As most people in the world live in urban areas, it makes sense to prioritize escapes to less urban, more natural areas. Run away to nature.

You don’t have to go camping or otherwise give up civliization (aka hot showers) to dip your toes in the ocean. I relaxed this past week at a timeshare in Fort Myers Beach that is within walking distance of a state park and bird sanctuary. Hot showers (and hot tub) at night; kayaking and bike riding during the day.

Have you ever watched a wild dolphin leap into the air? Or stood on a bridge above a manatee mother and her baby? Or spotted a shark from 400 feet in the air, while parasailing? These were just a few of the wildlife highlights of the week.

Fling! There goes another mullet (the fish, not the haircut). A trio of dolphins were playing with their food. With the foot-long fish in its mouth, the dolphin tossed it into the air and then chased it down again. At other times the fish popped out of the bay water vertically, as if the dolphin below had flicked it with its tail. Funny to watch, but for the dolphins it must represent some hunting strategy. Mullets are great jumpers naturally, but being tossed into the air unwillingly may stun them into submission.

At another spot near the inlet I also observed a baby dolphin, about 3 feet long, surfacing alongside an adult, presumably its mother, who had a jagged dorsal fin, as if it had been bitten twice. The baby was mostly hidden by the seven-foot mother and could not be seen from a distance or even up close if looking at the other side. Luckily I was on a kayak and could float around without disturbing them too much. Another dolphin eyed me when surfacing about 20 feet away, and it continued swimming at a steady pace. There was no reaction to indicate if I was considered a threat or a curiousity. Within minutes this pod had swum out to sea where I couldn’t follow, disappearing into the horizon.

That was a good vacation.

Old Macdonald had CSA


For three years now, I have subscribed to a local veggie and fruit delivery service. Called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA for short, it brings fresh produce directly to the consumer instead of through a grocery store. The one I joined was Bee Heaven Farm in the Redlands, a farming community south of metro Miami.

It has been mostly great. It’s much easier than going to a farm or farmer’s market, and I find the price comparable to the supermarket in the long run. And you’re doing something good for the community and for your body.

Produce at Jackson hospital, a farmer's market that shut down this year.

If you don’t join a CSA, try frequenting farmer’s markets. I wrote a cover story about them recently, and one of my sources, Mike Moskos, has published his own comprehensive list of alternative food sources in South Florida. Let me also plug Trina Sargalski’s food blog, Miami Dish.

This year I’m giving up the CSA, probably because I couldn’t figure out what to do with all that dill. One can only eat so much cucumber salad. That’s the CSA’s major drawback — they choose the produce based on what is freshest. Good thing I learned how to stir fry! i’ll just have to find other ways to stay in touch with the local dirt.

Tell me what you really really want

Submit topics you want to learn more about

Hurricanes? Extinctions? Light bulb choices? Writing about environmental issues can be a crapshoot in terms of picking the right subject. What do people care about? More importantly, what do they need to care about that they don’t know about yet? Birds falling from the sky may cause a media feeding frenzy, but that becomes irrelevant when your house is under water.

Yes, we grew some bananas; we grew some bananas today

So, tell me what you want to read about here, and I’ll do my best to cover it. Go on, hit the Comment button (look to your left … )

Some of my favorite things to write about are, in no particular order, sea turtles, manatees, farming, beaches, seafood, dolphins, whales … ok, so I tend to get pulled into the ocean. I’m just fascinated by the creatures there. And it can be breathtaking. If you’ve ever seen a healthy tropical reef, then you’ll know that it’s the most beautiful place on earth. Am I right, or what? Tell me.

Toilet Talk


Host Jim Jordan and I at The Island School

Flush only when necessary

When I go to the bathroom, I think of the Bahamas. Visiting the lovely Island School on Eleuthera a few years ago, I was instructed to conserve water by flushing only feces. The urine could stay put. When I got home from that trip, I started doing the same thing, and by now I have saved thousands of flushes! You can, too.

Instead of a small island, think of the continental islands we live on and your 7 billion neighbors who do their “business” every day. Even if they only flush once, that’s 7 billion flushes a day. Not everyone has a toilet, of course, but you start to get the picture that sewage is serious.

Eventually everything ends up in the ocean. Excess fertilizer, the oil that drips from our cars, and every flush of the toilet goes downstream, so to speak. Some of the U.S.’s sewage gets dumped directly into the ocean, and these massive pipes are called outfalls. California has had major problems with them, and South Florida alone had six operating until a coalition (Reef Rescue) got one in Palm Beach County shut down in 2009. A 2008 state law says that all of them must go by 2025. Resistance can be expected.

Happy flushing, or not. And check this out: