Category Archives: history

‘Holokauston’ of the Sea

The ocean is being burned alive. We might be next.

(I wish this were a joke. I just can’t find any humor in it.)

Ocean warming is killing the greatest places on Earth for life: the coral reefs. This slow warming during the past century has reached its tipping point, and we can now predict with clarity that an entire ecosystem is dying before our eyes.

As the scientist in this PBS report says, we could lose our reefs within 10 years. Predictions like this used to give us 100 years or so to save them, and that timeframe seems manageable, as if the next generation could solve this dilemma with ingenuity. But time is shrinking, and we might need to start thinking about living in a post-reef world—if we can live at all.

Humans have never existed without reefs, and we have no reference point for losing them. We have caused extinctions of singular species, but we’ve never come close to the extinction of an entire ecosystem. It is quite logical to assume that as the ocean and its shallow reefs go, so go we. An indirect, yet self-inflicted Holocaust.

The Greek word Holokauston refers to a burnt animal sacrifice. The slow burning of the reefs has the potential to sacrifice hundreds of coral species, thousands of fish species, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of associated species. We simply do not know the full scope of diversity on the world’s reefs, but they are estimated to contain a quarter of all species in the ocean.

How can such a rich system be dying? It’s inconceivalbe. Yet we know it is happening, we know why, and we know how to stop it.

It’s bloody murder.

Every thinking, breathing person needs to take a moment to decide: Do I care about people who will be alive within 10 years? If so, you must start caring, and caring deeply, about the ocean.

Any person with a heart and a brain will be outraged. You will go into the streets, get mad as hell, and get rid of any politician or business that is tone deaf on issues of climate change, global warming, and fossil fuel pollution. A climate denier, or a convenient “skeptic” who knows better, will be judged by history as complicit in murder.

I’m still not laughing.

With time running out, we probably have about 1 year left to turn this ship around. Even if you’re not convinced about the timing, is it worth the risk? Do you want to look back in a few years and judge yourself, and the human race, a complete failure?

You’ve got 2 marches on Saturdays to join this month.

Stand up for justice. The Holokauston of the Sea can, and must, be stopped.

 

 

 

 

 

My photos from DC Women’s March

For more photos of signs, check out My favorite signs at the Women’s March on Washington from The Washington Post.

One day more of American pride

All my life I’ve been proud to be an American. I’m worried that those days are ending.

To all the nations of the world, let me say: I’m sorry that we’re letting you down. I’m so embarrassed. I can barely express my anguish.

Please don’t give up on us. Maybe this is temporary insanity. Maybe we’ll renew our belief in the true American dream—freedom—that our true leaders have shared with the world.

We still have one day more to dream.

Does environment have a prayer, at inauguration?

Religious leaders are pleading for president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration to include prayers for the Earth. Five prominent clergy sent the letter last Friday, one week before this Friday’s event, to invited spiritual speakers, as reported by Greenwire.

“We are collectively concerned about what we can expect for the quality of air and water, and the protection of our precious public lands,” state the multi-denominational letter. It references Pope Francis’s environmental tome, Laudato Si’, and Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical relief agency led by Rev. Franklin Graham, who is also President and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

The letter is addressed to four of the six tapped to pray at the inauguration:

  • Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York
  • Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
  • Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
  • Rev. Franklin Graham

The letter asks them to “say a few words that would encourage the President and his team to make clean air and water, a safe climate for future generations, and protected public lands a top priority.”

It is unclear why the letter was not addressed to the other two invited televangelists who both preach a prosperity gospel: Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Detroit and Pastor Paula White of greater Orlando, who is called Trump’s personal minister.

Prayers have been a tradition at U.S. presidential inaugurations since 1937. Rev. Billy Graham, 98, presided at inaugurations for Presidents Nixon, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. His son Rev. Franklin Graham, 64, prayed for George W. Bush in 2001 and will return Friday for Donald Trump.

Monday's mood at the National Cathedral was decidedly anti-Trump.

Monday’s mood at the National Cathedral was decidedly anti-Trump.

The choir of the Washington National Cathedral will perform at the inauguration, and on Saturday it will host an interfaith prayer service for the new president. At Monday’s memorial service for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Cathedral hosted an event where speakers openly challenged the incoming president.

The tradition of a church service before the inaugural ceremony will continue. The Washington Post reports: “Trump, who identifies as a Presbyterian, plans to follow tradition and attend a private family church service at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House the morning of the inauguration.”

World more black than white?

On this holiday in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., pause for a moment to think about the world’s population by race. Things are not black and white.

The majority is Asian, with nearly two-thirds of the world’s 7+ billion people living in the region shared by India and China.

As the world’s second most populated continent, Africa has more than 1 billion people, which is larger than North and South America combined. Combine Europe and North America, based on these Wikipedia numbers, and it reaches 1.4 billion. But it’s unclear if the world is more “white” than “black.”

Here’s a map that tries to visualize nations by their population instead of their geography alone:

worldmapperpopulationcartogram2011

This map shows how the world’s population is distributed (note how much Canada and Australia shrink).

If the world’s most populated continents could be represented by a classroom of about 25 students, you would expect to see this approximation: 15 students from Asia, 5 from Europe and North America, 4 from Africa, and 1 from South America.

This worldview may be disturbing to people who want to think they live in the center of the universe (I’m talking to you, New Yorkers). It may be disturbing to those who think their survival depends on being a part of the majority. Yes, there is a certain truth behind the saying of “safety in numbers.”

But you are a minority. Whether by race, or religion, or sexual orientation, or economic status, you are a minority. In one way or another, everyone falls into minority status. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Diversity is reality.

you are a minority. 

Does that scare you? Does than make you unsafe or weak? That is for you to decide. MLK Jr. says it could make you better.

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Today, you could make the world better. But first, it may require you to accept the fact that you, yes you, are a minority.

 

Decency is Dead. There’s a Casket for That.

img_3693Donald Trump has the foulest mouth and the dirtiest mind of anyone elected president.

Decency is dead.

Since his election, protesters have been chanting “Fu** Trump.”

Decency is dead.

At least the anger of the protesters makes sense. They are so shocked and so angry that they are seeking the most violent words possible. Violent words are less harmful than violent actions.

For me, the only reaction right now that makes sense is No Words. A Blackout on social media, #NoWords. Silence and Mourning. No arguing, no explanations, no justifications. No Words.

Obviously I’m breaking my own rule by writing these words right now. I want to get beyond the period of mourning, the wake of silence, and find a voice. You have to start somewhere. But my gut reaction for now remains No Words.

“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.” No Words.

“The next president of the United States of America is…” No Words.

“Mommy, what’s an immigrant?” No Words.

Someday soon I’ll find some words to place on my black sign. I’m waiting until they can be decent.

Action Number One

On Veteran’s Day, I rode my bike into central Washington, D.C. and walked around with my black sign with No Words. I tried to hear what the great presidents and the great monuments were trying to say. They gave me No Words.

I kept walking.

Sitting outside the new Trump International Hotel, just two blocks from the White House, I still felt too heavy to speak. But I did find an action.

I took my black sign with No Words and I walked around the hotel. In the back I found a construction area with a large dumpster. I took a photo of my sign, and then I tossed it into the dumpster.

I dumped my silence, my shock, my lack of words into one of Donald Trump’s very own trash cans. Now he owns it.

Trump will have to pay to have it removed. It’s the decent thing to do.

Big bay, small swimmers, tough decisions

Where should we go?

Even if you don’t swim, you can help me figure out the best place to hold an official marathon swim in Biscayne National Park, the underwater jewel just south of Miami. For a couple of years I’ve been ruminating about The Swim for Biscayne National Park, and now it’s morphed into a crowdfunding idea (http://www.gofundme.com/Biscayne). The swim’s main intention is to enlighten locals about the park’s existence, because no one will care if they don’t know it’s there.

I would love a large grant from one of the donors to the South Florida National Parks Trust, but I haven’t approached most of them, because I haven’t succeeded in drumming up much enthusiasm within my circle of influence. I’m even reluctant to talk about it, because I can’t afford to do much on my own, and I don’t have a boat to explore the park. Obviously, I could use a little boost, whether in word in in dollar.

Biscayne National Park is the large blue outline, just east of Miami (Florida Ocean Alliance 2013)

Biscayne National Park is outlined as a large block attached to Miami-Dade County. (Map from Florida Ocean Alliance 2013)

 

 

Swimming in Circles

As for the swim’s course, considering that you can fish nearly anywhere, and take your boat nearly anywhere, it’s safe to assume that you can swim nearly anywhere in Biscayne National Park.

Almost. A triangle in the Atlantic, directly east of Elliott Key, is off-limits to everything expect drift fishing and trolling. The Legare Anchorage holds an ancient British shipwreck, the HMS Foley, that sank in 1748.

Never mind, as there are plenty of other wrecks in the park’s Maritime Heritage Trail, and plenty of space to float around.

BISCmap1

The border of Biscayne National Park is less than a mile from Miami. (credit: “BISCmap1” by Mgreason, Public Domain, Wikipedia)

From the island of Key Biscayne near Miami, the park border lies less than half a mile from Bill Baggs State Park. Less than two miles away is historic Stiltsville, one of the most arresting sights in Florida. A group of wrecks surround the houses on stilts, and that loop would makes for a very cool, four-mile round trip swim. It is unknown if anyone has attempted this swim, and logistically it’s the easiest one to attempt. We could pull that crew together (kayaks and swimmers) in no time and at minimal cost.

Despite its huge size, most of Biscayne National Park is less than 12 feet deep, especially within Biscayne Bay. A deeper strip runs on the Atlantic side, further out to sea, but it becomes shallow again within sight of Elliot Key. Here are dozens of beautiful, shallow coral reefs.

That’s where I would love to stage a swim, and it’s where I went snorkeling in 2013 with classmates from Florida International University studying marine protected areas. Read more about that experience in an article I wrote for National Parks Traveler. We saw endangered elkhorn corals thriving here, which essentially represents their northernmost limit. That sight alone is worth the trip.

For a self-propelled visit from an island, the closest reef to Elliott Key requires more than one mile of swimming. Most reefs are more than three miles offshore, so swimming to them and back would require quite an effort. Not impossible, but challenging, and the exact course would require some consultations with experts.

Getting to the reefs by boat is not difficult, so another option involves hopping off a boat, like the snorkelers do, and finding a pathway between the patch reefs. With the right launching point, you could hit several reefs within a one-mile trek.

On the Other Paddle

Perhaps the most media-friendly challenge would be the “escape to Miami” swim from Boca Chita Key, a popular haunt for boaters with a scenic lighthouse. Either west to the mainland or north to Key Biscayne would involve about nine miles through shallow water. Definitely do-able, and it’s unlikely that anyone has tried it.

Depending on the currents, we may want to go one direction or another. Help! The Gulf Stream is nearby and pushes north, but there must be many other currents driven by the tides, especially around the sandy, grassy area known as the Safety Valve. Viewed rom above, the tidal stripes clearly run east to west.

Well, I guess I’ll keep studying the options. It would be fun to organize an inaugural, communal swim around Stiltsville by the end of May (the 31st?) as a way to kickstart this campaign.

Visit the Park, Any Way

Even if you don’t want to get wet, definitely plan to visit Biscayne National Park soon. When arriving by boat, consider using the existing mooring buoys instead of an anchor. Most buoys are in water of about 20 feet deep.

Arriving by car involves driving through Homestead to reach the Dante Fascell Visitor Center at Convoy Point, open until 5:00 p.m. You can’t easily swim in the shallows around here, although kayaking is encouraged. There’s a boardwalk and areas for a picnic near the bay.

Not far from shore, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles are living the dream in Biscayne National Park. Join them.