Tag Archives: sea level rise

Earth Hour 2015: Lights Out

Where were you when the lights went out? If you are of a certain age and lived in the Northeast United States, you’ll remember at least one major blackout, with those of 1965 and 1977 perhaps the most indelible because normal life was disrupted for so many people across a vast region.

I was caught in a blackout in New York City in the early 80’s while on a research assignment in Brooklyn for Technology Magazine – the irony sank in sometime later.  Fortunately for my co-worker and me, we were above ground when the power went out, not trapped in a subway car or skyscraper office.   We, along with hundreds of others hit the streets, giddy with relief.  It was late afternoon when we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, into Lower Manhattan and the Village. There, a party was in progress as restaurants who had lost their refrigeration, were turning out meals on make-shift charcoal grills and offering them, along with slightly warm beer, to whomever cared to take them up on their offer. Although that particular blackout would prove to be relatively local and short-lived, there was no way to know at the time.  “It’s tempting to ask why if you fed your neighbors during the time of the earthquake and fire, you didn’t do so before or after,” writes Rebecca Solnit of the San Francisco earthquake in  A Paradise Built in Hell: the Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster.

Eventually, I got my foot-weary self to the Port Authority Bus Terminal that evening to wait with other New Jersey commuters for the power and interrupted bus service to resume.  Here, too, there was unusual cooperation and camaraderie.  We riders of the DeCamp 66 and 33 who barely exchanged a word before, were talking, exchanging stories and phone numbers, discovering we were neighbors after all.

unpluggedEarth Hour, 8:30-9:30 pm local time, when the Strip in Las Vegas, Times Square and the Eifel Tower intentionally go dark to raise awareness about climate change, was launched in Australia in 2007 by the World Wide Fund for Nature and has become a global movement.  Getting millions of people to power down for one hour a year doesn’t seem like much to ask, even of the electronic device-addicted populace of our century. In our home, we mark the occasion with an hour of candlelight, a glass of wine, a ukulele, some songs, enjoying the respite from the mixed blessing of an always-on, always-connected life that we have embraced so wholeheartedly.  Viewed in long-range or aerial images, Earth Hour is spectacular, and more than a little unnerving.  I would like to think that this scale of community arts activism will help us wrap our heads around what is impossible to contemplate, even for climate advocates: a world without power; life as we’ve come to know it, unplugged.

Artists of all kinds have often taken the lead in making the invisible (under-appreciated or ignored) visible, because they can.  Some are using their gifts to wake people up to the really wicked, society-transforming problem of climate change and a rising sea, e.g. The HighWaterLine project. The brainchild of artist, Eve Mosher, the HWL helps communities visualize the impact of climate change in our own neighborhoods and streets. Mosher began her work in 2007 in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, mapping areas predicted to be impacted by flooding during storm surges. After deep research into climate science and Google maps of flood zones, she spent six months using chalk and a sports field marker to draw the 10-ft. above sea level line in the streets and on the buildings. Yes, that was five years before Sandy.  Click here for more on the HWL.

Blue LightsAs residents of one of the states most vulnerable to sea level rise, Floridians are fortunate that Eve Mosher will be making a return engagement, this time in Palm Beach County later this month, chalking sea level rise for the HighWaterLine Delray Beach event. This day-long performance is part of the 2nd Annual Florida Earth Festival, a series of workshops and demonstrations that runs April 18 through 25, including a weekend of intensives at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton, 2501 St. Andrews Blvd.  Volunteers are needed for all kinds of tasks during the festival, and if you are able, I urge you to find what speaks to you and sign up.  For this yoga instructor and lover of dance, it is the prospect of being in the grand finale of the HWL mapping: a ‘movement choir’ of dancers holding blue glow lights and moving to Neil Young’s new anthem: Who Is Going to Stand Up for the Earth.

I’ve also signed up for the Beautiful Trouble workshop in the hopes that it will help me hone my new-found voice as a spoken word artist (thanks Vagina Monologues!) into a poetry flash mob or open mic performance on environmental themes.  In any case, it sounds like way more fun than climate advocacy usually is, Greenpeace Gorilla suits and the Raging Grannies notwithstanding.  These trainings are intended to serve as “A Toolbox for Revolution.” Bring it on.

Earth Hour visuals

Earth Hour, March 19, 2016

Biggest Blackouts in History

HighWaterLine Action Guide

Advertisements

Raising Fields: What History Can Teach Us

When you come in for a landing at Palm Beach International, you pass over a network of blue waterways, canals, inlets, and bays that link pastel buildings and homes to the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal.  In fact, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway that touches my life and yours if you live and work here, is a much larger network that runs North-South, from Norfolk, Virginia to the Florida Keys, some 1,090 miles of navigable interstate.  This Blue Highway is what makes our part of the state so attractive to boat-loving vacationers and retirees alike.  It is also what puts South Florida’s future as a tourist mecca, retiree haven, and agricultural giant (second to California) at great risk from sea level rise (SLR). The experts in local government and higher education know this:

The risks from sea level rise are imminent and serious. This is not a distant problem, but one that is affecting us now and will certainly affect our children.  Sea level rise will impact millions of Americans and threaten billions of dollars of building and infrastructure. — Sea Level Rise Summit 2013

And so do the insurers and activist organizations, and all have our work cut out for us, given the denial in Tallahassee and among billionaire developers.  The latter are (for now), as one Facebook comment had it, so 20th Century.

???????????????????????????????Attorney Mitchell Chester isn’t waiting for anyone’s blessing to bring the message of SLR to whomever will hear it and act upon it. The fastest way to get up to speed on sea level rise is to visit his site SLRSouthFlorida for the latest news on the subject. It’s not good news for us coastal dwellers, but it may also represent an opportunity to save the Florida that people have loved almost to death, and to prosper in an entirely different way (and I don’t mean Waterworld).

I first heard Mitchell Chester speak at a breakout session at the Second Annual Sea Level Rise Symposium in July, sponsored by The Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades, the Oxbridge Academy and the League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County.  The session addressed the need for our legal and financial systems to “engage the shared emergency of sea level rise.”  Meaning, of course, that they are not doing so in any significant way.  Currently, for example, you will not find any warning about the threat of a rising sea to your property in your real estate disclosure documents.  Mortgage documents also reflect the same myopia.

Last week, I heard Mr. Chester making an electrifying presentation to the Climate Action Coalition meeting about his idea to save the billion dollar South Florida agriculture, “some of the best growing fields in the U.S.”  He was here, he said, “to bring reality to the recommendations” of adaptation and mitigation contained in the South Florida Regional Climate Action Plan.  Without action, our ability to grow 250 food crops (and feed the country) could end “as soon as the second term of the incoming American president.”  Whoa!  That’s within 10 years.

In a nutshell: “For [Florida’s] agriculture, it’s either up or out.” As he pointed out, the strategy of containing the sea by building up the land is nothing new. The Dutch have been doing it for centuries, and are still the masters of their dike-and-windmill system in modern times.  The Maya and Aztec also created farm lands on human-made mounds and managed excess water with canals, according to Raising Fields, the website created by Mitchell Chester to educate and make a case for adaptation of this kind.

While the ocean will advance and someday cover Southeast Florida, the use of mound farming and elevated agricultural strategies will serve to extend the life of valuable rural properties and precious growing fields.

For us South Florida residents, it could be an idea whose time has come.  And, as if to anticipate the drum beat about jobs gained or lost that plays through every political discussion, this proposal has an answer.  To build a new agriculture for a wetter, water-logged South Florida — and continue to feed all those urbanites who rely on farmers they’ll never meet — it will be everybody in, everybody working together: engineers, economists, architects, agronomists, water experts, farmers, environmentalists, mapping experts, permitting agencies, planners at many levels. And that’s before the first shovelful of soil.

Links to help you dig in 🙂

SLRSouthFlorida
Raising Fields Blog  — you can back up into the main site
South Florida Regional Climate Action Plan
EPA Climate Change Adaption SE
That Sinking Feeling – NBC Report

 

 

 

Miami Dice

I love Miami. I love the amiable mix of cultures, the scene at Hoy Como Ayer in Little Havana, the outdoor murals of Wynwood, the new South Pointe Park, the art deco homes, the new Perez Museum, built inexplicably enough on Biscayne Bay, next to new science museum under construction. Miami is a mere 77 miles from my hometown and along the same coast, so what happens in Miami isn’t going to stay in Miami. My county may be a foot or so higher in sea level, but we share the same porous limestone, the same array of barrier islands with their luxury high rises, and the same professional climate change deniers.

The sense of carpe diem might have had as much to do with our choice of Miami as a destination to celebrate our 30th anniversary this past summer as the city’s many undeniable attractions. So, we treated ourselves to three nights at the Marriot on Biscayne Bay where the management – alerted to the occasion by a child – gave us an upgrade that included a sweeping view of the Bay, Causeway and cruise ships. To my surprise, this Marriot (as in West Palm Beach) is growing food on site for its restaurants. Lettuces, tomatoes and herbs are the edible landscaping by the pool area.

That ‘farm to table’ glimmer aside, I am worried about Miami. It is clearly failing the test in how coastal cities will need to adapt to a rising sea. The $500 million earmarked for a new pumping system for Miami Beach is already acknowledged as a mere stopgap. I am concerned about friends there who recently spent weeks and a small fortune to install stronger new windows in their ground floor condo. I fear for the stalwart efforts to forestall what appears inevitable, even if we were able to cease using fossil fuels immediately. One of these is a permaculture food forest, right in the heart of the city, designed by Deva Marcus Thompson, founder of Permaculture Miami, whose intensive at The Mounts Botanical Garden I attended this weekend. Eve Mosher’s High Waterline project to show just how high the water will rise, is another. Also, Colony1, a sustainability research center that combines art and science. Closer to home, and heart, Transition Palm Beaches.

Sunshine_State_movie_posterIt is uplifting to see smart, persistent media coverage on the climate crisis, e.g. a feisty overview of what keeps The Sunshine State from becoming a solar energy giant in a blog post from Fred Grimm in The Miami Herald last Friday: Florida Utilities Stay Shady…  While Florida denies, he writes, neighboring Georgia is preparing to add 900 megawatts of solar by 2016, thanks to an unlikely alliance between environmentalists and the Tea Party, aka, The Green Tea Party (the latter on free-market principles).  When you realize that some $12 million has been allocated by our largest utilities to fund, “on average, one lobbyist for every two [Florida] state legislators each legislative sessions between 2007 and 2013,” you know what we are up against.   The choice at the polls has never been clearer.  Or the need to rid politics of money.

On the local level, my Unitarian Universalist congregation has become a partner in the Climate Action Coalition of South Florida, joining the UU Fellowship of Boca Raton, The Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, Oxbridge Academy, the local chapter of Organizing for Action, and League of Women Voters, among others. Our goal is to educate our municipalities on the risks we face as small cities and citizens, and get them to sign the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Action Plan. We hope to bring Eve Mosher’s High WaterLine to our area.  There is mounting evidence that local politics may yet do, piecemeal, for Florida what the big boys can’t, see: Pragmatism on Climate Change Trumps Politics … 

Pitch in, please, every way you can. It sure beats relocation to … Anchorage.

Read more:

High Water Line: http://grist.org/cities/street-artists-trace-against-time-and-sea-level-rise/

http://highwaterline.org/building-a-resilient-miami/

High Tide on Main Street, John Englander

Safer Cities

Water: Next Capitalist Tool?

This photo of a Burmese girl at the head of a long line on her daily water-collecting chore went viral last year; the girl became a new poster child for injustice, incompetence and greed in Burma.  Involuntary child labor is rare in our part of the world, and a chore like this the stuff of weather-related emergencies, unless you happen to live in Detroit.  Retrieving the photo was no more difficult than turning on a tap to fill my kettle or wash my hands.  In a well-functioning society, we take water — and Dala township, Burma: people line up to collect waterelectricity, and until recently, the Internet — for granted, squandering them as if there was no tomorrow.

If you’ve been following social media, you may have noticed that water is on the brink of becoming a marketable commodity, like fossil fuels.  Maybe you thought that just because water makes up between 50-75% of our bodies, it is a human right.  Corporations like Nestlé beg to differ. Nestlé has been bottling water from aquifers in Palm Springs, California, and selling it to drought-stricken Los Angeles.  Maybe we should have seen it coming when we gave in to the whole bottled water craze like our European neighbors, without cause.  New York tap water is wonderful.  But there’s no stuffing that genie back into the bottle, recyclable or otherwise.  I’m not generally an alarmist, but this latest corporate move does seem like a strike against basic human rights on a whole new order of magnitude. Water: Next Capitalist Tool.

As a coastal Florida resident, I think a lot about water, maybe more than most of my neighbors.  We prefer our water where it ‘belongs’:  at the beach where we can use it for recreation, and flowing from our taps for all the things we must do with water … and then some.  But too much water or the wrong kind can change that in a flash, as neighborhoods in Miami, Delray Beach and Loxahatchee know too well every time there is heavy rain, high tides and/or a full moon.

Last week, at the Second Annual Sea Level Rise Symposium, I got a refresher course in just how important water is to my adopted state, delivered by a group of smart, dedicated people — scientists, elected officials, activists and philanthropists.   Attendance this year was roughly double, filling up the auditorium of Oxbridge Academy.   In sum, according to keynote speaker, Kristin Jacobs, Broward County Commissioner and Co-Chair of the President’s Subgroup of the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience and others, unless we can respond appropriately and very soon, climate change will deliver two distinct threats to a state that is essentially entirely coastal: 1. the risk to real estate and tourism in the billions due to storm damage and flooding, and  2. saltwater contamination of drinking water wells, due to sea level rise and a compromised water table.  The maps made by Jayantha Obeysekera, aka “Obey”, chief modeler, South Florida Water Management District were, in a word, scary.   There are, he said, no wells that will not be affected.  Who should care?  All of us. And yet, according to Keren Bolter, FAU Geosciences PhD candidate, there is a chasm in public awareness between those who get it and those who haven’t … yet. Even EPA operatives are behind the curve on climate science, noted Bryan Myers, Energy and Climate Change Coordinator, EPA Region 4.  Don’t look for much help from our current state administration.  Commented Bobby Powell Jr., Florida State Representative, District 88, salt water would have to flow from our taps before there would be any action.  Just remember that come election time. So, where to turn?

Go local (where have I heard that before?).  Said West Palm Beach Major, Jeri Muoio, in any emergency, the buck stops at the mayor’s office.  In Miami, considered the most vulnerable city in the world for storm surge and sea level rise, 87% of residents approved higher taxes to address impacts, and agreed to an 84% increase in their storm sewer fees.  We, the people.

Jan Booher, South Florida Climate Action Partners, and Barbara Eriv, League of Women Voters of PBC (one of the Symposium sponsors), running a breakout session on Community Outreach, would agree.  The two are members of the Climate Change Working Group which is designed to enable climate activist groups to share information, plans and results. They intend to use citizen muscle — that would be us — to get more municipalities to sign on to the Mayors’ Climate Action Pledge.  As of this writing, only two out of 38 municipalities in Palm Beach County have done so: Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.

According to attorneys Mitchell Chester, SLRAmerica.org and Richard Grosso, Nova Southeastern University, Director of Environmental and Land Use Law Clinic, (Breakout: Legal Wars and Economics) the existing environmental laws are ‘more than sufficient to protect health, business, property.’   However, our justice and financial systems have yet to understand that climate change and sea level rise (SLR) represent a “global phenomenon that are a major challenge to our way of governance,” or to prepare for it.  We need a financial system for SLR because it is a monetary problem for individuals, and ‘there is money to be made’ in addressing it.  “If you deny climate science,” said Grosso, “you can still value the health of your children, the economic value of our coastlines, the need for clean air and water.”  How to communicate better with skeptics?  We could all use some help with that.  Until someone designs such a course, consider these.

HuffPo on Nestlé

The Everglades supply 66% of all the water used in South Florida.  Check out Love The Everglades.  Support this and other eco-organizations with your time and money

Read John Englander’s High Tide on Main Street

Write/call your state representatives, and VOTE.