Monthly Archives: October 2011

Cousteau family keeps the faith

“Instead of becoming hopeless, create hope.”


The film shares its title with an earlier book.

Those thoughtful words were spoken Friday night by Fabien Cousteau. He and his sister, Celine, were in Miami as their father, Jean-Michel, hosted the world premier of his new documentary, My Father, the Captain: My Life with Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Check out my review of the film.

Seeing this family was a highlight of the conference I attended for environmental journalists, as Jacques Cousteau was and remains my number one hero. The college freshmen I teach at FIU have no clue who he was, so I have to explain why he was so inspirational and how he became the world’s most recognized figure of the 20th century.

Granddaughter Celine, who is six months pregnant with the fourth generation, talked to me about how one person can change the world. People across the world tell her how her grandfather inspired them. “One person can have a domino effect. You don’t know how far that ripple effect goes.”

Fabien pointed out his grandfather’s support network. “Jacques Cousteau opened the door to concern about the environment. But he couldn’t do it alone. It was a communal effort, and he was the face of it.”

When I asked him what he says when speaking to schoolchildren, his words become sharp. “I say we need a revolution. We need all of you, an army of young people to change what we’ve done.”

Thanks, Fabien, and the four other Cousteau’s who shared their spirit of determination with journalists who could use a boost or two.

That spirit will be needed to save Planet Ocean, and especially our coral reefs—an early victim of


How could he refuse?

global warming. They could be gone within 100 years, as discussed in my article here.

With the bad news about the environment getting consistently worse, it would be easy to give up. But Jean-Michel Cousteau says he finds the reason to continue when looking into the eyes of a child, because that child will inherit the consequences of our actions. He can’t bear to disappoint today’s children and future generations, because they are looking to us, with innocent eyes, and they deserve a fighting chance.

Don’t Buy a Fake Xmas Tree

… and other assorted tips for the Big 3 holidays is in my Biscayne Times article here. While some people assume that a fake Christmas tree, which can be reused year after year, would be less wasteful than a cut tree, I’m not convinced. What do you think? The fake tree requires assembly of various unknown substances (metallic bark?) in a factory, probably in China, and then it must be shipped here in a box, which was made from a dead tree. When the fake tree eventually gets tossed, or worse — burned — its toxic remains will stick around for centuries.


Coconuts and sugar cane instead of cocoa and candy canes?

An evergreen tree has the distinct advantage of being biodegradable and actually beneficial when dumped, although a woodchipper could make it more immediately useful as mulch. IKEA used to do that; they would take back old trees and give you a coupon for Swedish meatballs.

It has also been argued that evergreens capture carbon dioxide, and farmers raise them more quickly than nature would. Oh, and Taylor Swift grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania, so it must be OK. It’s a Country Christmas!

The main drawback of a tree farm, I think, is that is displaces natural habitat that supports native wildlife. But I still think the farm is better than the factory. And it sure smells a lot nicer.

Food Justice Now!

Locavore Lounge

Locavore Lounge is where the vegans meet to eat.

As the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations continue to swell, there are quieter activists in the shadows who have been very focused on one thing: our food supply. Yesterday while driving, I honked at a handful of middle-class protesters in front of a Publix grocery store with signs pleading for fair wages for migrant farmers. The grocery store chain clearly has the upper hand.

Speaking of vegans, last week I visited the second annual Community Food Summit of the Greater Everglades Foodshed. I’m assuming that “foodshed” draws its name from “watershed,” and that both refer to a geographical area that supplies our needs. At the meeting, I saw some of the same people I interviewed for my farmer’s market cover story.

"Vibrant, Healthy, Just and Sustainable local food system"

Also there was Michael Brownlee from Colorado, whose organization has the goal of reaching 25% of food from local sources by 2020. To get there, Transition Colorado is developing awareness to increase the demand for fresh, local produce. They publish a “yellow pages” called Eat Local!, and they encourage individuals to pledge a shift of 10% to local foods. Those people in Colorado are really organized!

Some places have an app for that, on, but you’ll notice the participating cities are far, far from Florida. I applaud the efforts of Earth Learning to create a network of local food sources, but their battle is up Florida’s steepest hill: Mount Ignorance.

As far as we’re concerned down here, food comes from Publix, and that’s all we want to know. We don’t want the truth; we want convenience. Can I get that to go?

When Chickens Get Attacked

chicken voodoo

Headless chickens mean bad news.

Speaking of chickens, the other day a few headless ones appeared on a street near my house. Now, this is Miami, so chickens tossed in front of your house means that you have been cursed. Was it the Cuban Santeria or the Haitian Voodoo? The chickens didn’t live to tell.

In our backyard, 1 of the 4 chickens has recently endured almost as traumatic an event. I call her Baby Momma, because she’s the first of the two hens we’re raising that has laid eggs. At first, Baby Momma refused to lay her eggs in the coop’s incubation condos. So, she dug her own nest near a secluded corner of the house, deposited about 8 eggs, 1 per day, and finally decided it was time to brood.

The day I discovered her setting was thrilling, but I was concerned about her being exposed at night. But one night couldn’t hurt, right?

Baby Momma

Baby Momma, Interrupted

Wrong. Something wicked came in the night and bashed her eggs and scared Baby Momma. She survived intact and only with a minor cut on one leg. My best guess at the intruder is a possum, but I’m not sure. Whatever it was, it left four of the eggs cracked but not eaten. Maybe the possums are practicing portion control.

Now Baby Momma is locked in the coop with a few leftover fertilized eggs, but she is too agitated to set. Poor Baby Momma: I’m sorry we tried to count those eggs before they hatched.