Monthly Archives: September 2014

PCM Poem: The People’s Climate March

Birds on sticks fly kite-like

Yellow banners high, dip under wires

Space opens in silver canyon to


One hundred twenty seconds feels long

to hold a stranger’s hand, surrounded by

three hundred thousand other strangers,

street peoples bigger than your city

on an Avenue of the Americas.

All lead and all decide and

all hollered and all walked, together,


Child to great-grandparent,

Mother Earth to Father Time,

Seeking, marching,

Trying to rewire history,

To baptize, cleanse the air

To rain climate justice on fertile ground

Turning concrete into wheat

Harvest coming

Change here

United we live

One Planet,

One Life.


why i march

Soweto broke my heart when I visited as a teenager in 1985 and again in 1989. Both times, as the church broke into full-bodied song, I burst into tears. My overpowering grief grew from my fear as a white male that I represented nothing but pain to the black South Africans, yet they welcomed me warmly. I was there to represent my church and my beliefs, but I hardly knew what I was doing. I was in shock.

tumblr_namizxrCVM1rp9guao6_500This Sunday I may also be in shock as I join my comrades at the People’s Climate March in New York City. Living in Miami, I feel very isolated from places like New York and San Francisco where green living is celebrated as a way of life and climate change is recognized as a threat to all. Marching with tens of thousands of like-minded people will be a novel experience. I’ll probably cry, because that’s just part of my character.

Pollution is a civil rights issue, and climate change is simply carbon pollution writ large. It hurts everyone, but it inflicts the greatest pain on the helpless and the poor, such as the people living in the ghettos of Soweto. Or the islands of the Indian Ocean. Or the people who can’t afford to pack up and fly away from South Florida when the big hurricane eventually hits.

In the 1980s, the grip of apartheid appeared intractable, and pain and confusion were like Berlin Walls against freedom. In the year 2014, the ogre of climate change has the future in its claws and feeds on insatiable greed. How can we possible stop the fossil fuel industry, the richest entity that has ever existed? How can we possibly overcome centuries of atmospheric pollution that has been accumulating since the Industrial Revolution?

We don’t know the future, and so we march. We march to change the arc of history. We march so that we don’t become history. We march because we have hope, and we have hope because we march.

Apartheid came crashing down and Nelson Mandela arose much quicker than I could have imagined when I visited and studied the South African situation as a college student at Columbia University, a place leading the divestment movement that exerted significant pressure on the South African government. I was not an active protester at the university, but I was willing to put my body on the line and take a stand by visiting South Africa when the situation was still very violent, tense, and hopeless.

Climate change must come crashing down quickly. Denialism must end, and action for a sustainable future must arise much quicker than we can imagine. It will be a monumental battle, and it is unclear what direction it will take. But change is coming, and some of it is still within our control. We can fight for greater justice, or we can sit down and let the stranglehold of pollution slowly choke us to death.

I march for the ocean. To me, it is the most beautiful and life-affirming place, and it is also the most vulnerable and misunderstood place. It suffers from an apartheid — an apart-ness from humans — and we are destroying it. Thinking that we are disconnected from or superior to the ocean is insane. If the oceans go, we go.

I march for the traditional, sentimental reasons too: for my nephews in their 20s, for extended family, for friends, and for the next generation. I don’t want people or the planet to suffer, period, especially when we can prevent much of it.

Climate change is very much like racism. Everyone shares some guilt of being a carbon polluter, because we have inherited that way of life, just as our history was built on racist heritages. Ending these injustices requires long-term, unwavering efforts on multiple fronts. It is complicated and confusing, but such misgivings are not an excuse for inaction. We act, or we get acted upon.

I’m not sure I can explain exactly why I am marching. If nothing else, I feel that I have to try, to make some kind of effort, in some way, to reach the leaders of the world, because we need a fundamental shift in society to address this threat. My faith in humanity is weak, but I have to believe that justice will prevail.

Sorry, kids of the future, if we break your hearts. We didn’t know who we was.

Small houses with style

Stylish Fifth Avenue is not just for New York. This street number also connects the homes within a few blocks of my house, and I have come to appreciate them during morning walks with Pepe, my doggie. My house dates to 1948, and most homes here appear to date to the 1950s — well before central A/C and I-95 allowed for sprawl and McMansions. These homes are modest in size and real estate value, but each is unique and intriguing. With a little imagination, each house becomes the setting for a novel of great mystery.

Through the looking glass of the camera lens, here are some glimpses of the neighborhood around Northeast Fifth Avenue in North Miami, from 126th to 130th Streets. (New signs a few blocks away have named the area “Historic Griffing Park Estates,” but I’m not sure if these streets are included. They should be.)

Pepe has seen enough.

Pepe has seen enough.

Should you stop eating fish?

“Yet wild fish, like wild birds, have a place in the natural ecosystem which outweighs their value as food.”

We asked legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle for her menu advice.

Oceanographer (and TED Prize winner) Sylvia Earle (TED Talk: My wish: Protect our oceans) has spent half a century campaigning to save the world’s seas. A new Netflix original documentary about her life’s work sheds light on the environmental impact of the commercial fishing industry and Earle’s crusade to create underwater “hope spots” through her organization, Mission Blue. After watching the film, it’s hard not to wonder: Are any fish still okay to eat? We turned to our favorite aquanaut for advice. Below, check out Earle’s take on wild fish, tuna rolls, and her ideal meal.

To restore the ocean ecosystem, you’re saying we must put an end to overfishing and bottom trawling, which you liken to “catching songbirds with a bulldozer.” Is there such a thing as eating fish responsibly these days?

Except for those living in coastal communities — or even inland if…

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Piney or Pine Rocklands, it’s dying

Today, two plants that cling to life in one of the world’s most endangered habitats were added to the U.S. list of endangered species. Less than one month ago, two butterflies endemic to the same habitat were also listed.

This endangered Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly depends on Pine Rocklands to survive. (USFWS)

This endangered Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly depends on Pine Rocklands to survive. (USFWS)

The ecosystem is called Pine Rocklands (although grammatically it should be Piney, but whatever). My article about it was just published, and it outlines the scandal involving Walmart and the last large patch in urban Miami-Dade County.

Yes, it’s bad, and it looks like it’s getting worse and worse for the plants and animals that depend on this shriveling habitat.

People in southern Miami-Dade can voice their opinions about proposed developments in Rocklands at a town hall meeting on Thursday, September 11 at 7 p.m., sponsored by the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations. The location is Kendall’s “Little House” at 8625 SW 124 Avenue.


Hall of Ocean Extinction

Confirming extinction in the ocean is difficult, and my researched list is here. To help you visualize that list, below are photos collected to represent each species.

Please realize that this list of 19 represents only extinctions confirmed by science, and there are likely hundreds of unrecorded extinctions. Still, it is worth seeing some of what we have lost.

1. Steller’s Sea Cow (click for funny video)

MSU V2P1a - Hydrodamalis gigas painting.png

Extinct 1768  (Wikipedia)

2. Sea Mink

3. Caribbean Monk Seal


Extinct 1952  (Wikipedia)

4. Japanese Sea Lion

Zalophus japonicus.JPG

Extinct 1950s  (Wikipedia)

5. New Zealand grayling

Prototroctes oxyrhynchus.jpg

Extinct 1930s  (Wikipedia)

6.Green Wrasse

(no image found; related species shown is Anampses elegant).

Extinction 2010, assumed but "data deficient."

Extinction 2010, assumed but “data deficient”  (Wikipedia)

7. Great Auk


Extinct 1852  (Wikipedia)

8. Labrador Duck

Labrador Ducks AMNH.jpg

Extinct 1875  (Wikipedia)

9. Large St Helena Petrel (no representative images found)

Extinct 1500s  (

Extinct 1500s  (

10. Small St Helena Petrel  (no representative images found)

Extinct 1500s  (

Extinct 1500s  (

11. Pallas’s Cormorant


Extinct 1950s  (Wikipedia)

12. Auckland Islands Merganser

Auckland Islands Merganser.jpg

Extinct 1910  (Wikipedia)

13. Canary Islands Oystercatcher

Canarian Oystercatcher.jpg

Extinct 1940s  (Wikipedia)

14. Eelgrass limpet

Extinction date unknown  (

Extinction date unknown (

15. Rocky shore limpet (no image found; related species shown is Lottia atrata)

Collisella atrata 002.jpg

Extinct 1860s  (Wikipedia)

16. Periwinkle Littoraria flammea (no image found; related species shown is Littoraria cingulata)

Littoraria cingulata 002.jpg

Extinct 1840  (Wikipedia)

17. Horn Snail (no image found; related species shown is Cerithideopsilla djadjariensis)


Extinct 1935  (Wikipedia)

18. Bennett’s seaweed

Vanvoorstia bennettiana.jpg

Extinct 1890s  (Wikipedia)

19. Turkish towel algae (no image found; related species shown is Gigartina serrata) 

Extinction date unknown  (

Extinction date unknown (

20. Most likely next extinction in ocean: a limpet

Represented by Diodora italica


Survival TBD

Diodoraitalica” by Wilson44691Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.