Category Archives: city

Feeling Nature Deficit. Sad!

Last month I bought a “happy lamp” to fill my office cubicle with the light of a fake sun. This form of light therapy is supposed to mimic the effects of sunlight and improve your mood accordingly. The disease it tries to cure is SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, which usually occurs in winter when the days are darker, sunlight is milder, and time indoors seems preferable to braving the cold.


Fake ads.

You’ve probably felt it on a rainy day. String together a seemingly endless set of rainy days, and your mood and energy level drop. SAD.

Does the lamp work? Maybe. But I’m not sure that sunlight is the only thing I’m missing. What about fresh air, greenery, water, and wildlife? I’m feeling less SAD and more NAD, or nature deficit disorder.

Unlike SAD, this disorder is not diagnosed clinically, and debate continues about what it really is. The term comes from a journalist’s perspective (author Richard Louv) instead of from experimentation. Grad students, get on this!

Cubes of Death

I have lived in worked in very natural environments and very artificial ones. My current


Cubicle farm, minus the outdoor-farm part.

situation is one of the most artificial, and we joke that it’s a “cubicle farm.” One gray cube blends into another and another, and most of us don’t have a window to light our way. It feels very much like a cage. It is a dead zone. The hallways have zero plants. The windows cannot open, ever. It takes 16 flights of stairs and passing through a security gate before I can take a  breath of fresh air.

Because our office  works on marine conservation, I’m surrounded by photos of fish, whales, and other attractive, natural settings. I’m not sure if the pretty images make things better, or if the extreme contrast makes things feel even more desperate and disconnected.


Pepe will walk me.

Today I plan to walk my dog into Rock Creek Park, a lovely, wooded oasis in the middle of Washington, D.C. My dog loves the walk, but really it’s the dog taking me to see the trees and the water.

Why Build What is Given

When I think of the greatest palaces and most impressive places built by humans, nothing comes close to even one flower. Why is that? Why can’t man-made “human nature” replace Nature? Shouldn’t we know best what we need?

Apparently we deceive ourselves into separation from natural inspiration. We build cathedrals for spiritual life, yet these spaces cannot compare to the wonders of nature.

I wish there were a bottle of Nature Supplement that I could drink to fix my deficit. I wish that my happy lamp could replace the Sun. I wish that I could become as free as wild fish, whose avatars hang in my cube. I miss being surrounded by life.

Letter from an Octopus

Attentive Readers of Earth,


This octopus crawled across a parking garage floor in Miami Beach. Really.

Greetings from Inner Space! We’re so glad that you agree with us that the ocean is too small. With your help, we’re planning a mass migration into your parking lots and condominiums. Thanks for thinking of us!

We’re already sending our eight-legged real estate agents into your coastal cities to assess their value. We’re not too impressed yet, but there is potential. You know, the kind of potential that says “just add water.”

By the way, we’re smarter than you. But you knew that already.

You know, we used to live in your neighborhoods—all the way into Kansas and beyond. But when we weren’t paying attention, the Earth’s temperature dropped, the ice formed, and too much dry land appeared. Bummer.

Now you’re helping the planet get back to the way things were—you know, warm, dinosaur-friendly temperatures. We’re with you, and we pledge allegiance to the United States of Fossil Fools. We love to clap our suckers together and cheer, “Drill, baby, drill!”

We can’t wait to see what the next decade brings. Your flood is our gain!

Goodbye beach, goodbye reef

We have to let go of so many things in this lifetime, and one of those many things is living in Florida.

The new February issue of National Geographic magazine spells it clearly in the feature article Climate Change Economics. If you can only stomach one more article about climate change, read this one. Check out the excellent maps and graphics.

Treading Water – Photo Gallery – National Geographic Magazine.

It states:

“Many coastal places are at risk, but Florida is one of the most vulnerable. While government leaders around the world, in Washington, and even in Florida’s statehouse in Tallahassee dither over climate change, here on Florida’s southern tip more than a few civic leaders are preparing. Florida’s future will be defined by a noisy, contentious public debate over taxes, zoning, public works projects, and property rights—a debate forced by rising waters.”

On Monday, I spoke to the Miami-Dade County Delegation at a public hearing in Miami, and I sent this message about sea level rise: “STOP DITHERING.”

The noise and anti-dithering should extend to coral reefs, and National Geographic knows that too. Its video alongside the article, “A Stressful Time,” provides glimmers of hope in an otherwise hopeless situation for the world’s coral reefs.

Treading Water – Video: A Stressful Time – National Geographic Magazine.

Goodbye Florida. Goodbye house. Goodbye Florida Reef. Goodbye Everglades. Goodbye South Beach, and so on, and so on, and so on . . .


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.


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.

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.


El Portal Gone to Birds, Indians

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.