Tag Archives: Nature

Surviving Hurricane Irma: Part II

I’ve never felt so lucky.

When I woke up early Monday morning, I was surprised the storm had already passed. I was also surprised I managed to sleep through the worst of it. After anxiously awaiting what was being predicted to be the worst hurricane ever recorded, I guess my nerves were so shot they just needed sleep. Looking outside our friends’ apartment, you almost wouldn’t know a hurricane had just blown through. Sure, there was tree debris scattered about, but no trees down, no power lines down, no damage to any buildings as far as I could see. Their building hadn’t even lost power, which I was expecting at the height of the storm, around 1-2 am. They were high enough above sea level to experience no flooding, and protected enough to experience minimal damage from the winds.

But I knew my sleepy little town of Tarpon Springs would not be so easily missed. And I was right. Although my coworker called ahead to let me know he drove by my house and it looked unscathed, I really had no idea what I was going home to. The 40-minute drive home seemed to take forever; lights were out at major intersections and no one seemed to understand the rule of “treat it like a 4-way stop.” I anticipated accidents the whole way home. Huge trees were down all over the place; pockets of rain had pooled in various locations along the roadside. If things were this bad inland, I could only imagine how bad they were near the bayou where I lived. I pictured streets flooded up to front doors, and trees blown over, crushing anything in their path. I was hoping for the best and expecting the worst.

When we drove by our street, my heart definitely started pounding. Both entrances to our street were blocked off, so we couldn’t get close enough to see what was really going on. All we could see were trees everywhere, and no sign of our house. It was tucked back behind the trees, but we really couldn’t tell if it had been hit or not. When we pulled up and got out, the power company was already there. We spoke to one of the crew members; he told us they were securing the live wires and making it safe for the city to come back and clean things up (which they haven’t, but my neighbors got it done with their chainsaw; gotta love those reckless Floridians). We gave them a few hours, and then we drove back over and skirted our way through the debris to our front door. IMG_0665

I was in shock. Not one, but two trees had fallen from our yard. The one on the right I expected, because it was dead and constantly dropped branches on my car during any light wind or rain storm, so there was no way a hurricane wasn’t taking it out. But the beast of a tree on the left of our house, that thing was so solid I never would have pictured it coming down. Amidst all this disaster, our house was untouched. I couldn’t believe it. Not one branch hit the roof on its way down. There was no flooding in our house, no water damage that we would see. After witnessing accounts of homes destroyed on Irma’s path inland, I expected much more damage than this. I don’t know how we got so lucky, but I have never felt more grateful in all my life. I just wish the storm had instead taken out that annoying mango tree I hate so much (it’s stubbornly still standing, the only tree remaining in our front yard, the jerk).

But really, I know how lucky we got with our house, and our town, and ourselves. I know this storm should have been much worse; I know the damage should have been much worse. The most we got was some trees down and our power knocked out. We won’t go home until our A/C is back on and our fridge works again, but at least we have a home to return to. I know the power companies are working tirelessly to restore as many homes to normalcy as quickly as they can. Of course I would like mine to come back fast, but I can understand if it’s going to take awhile. Because damn, did we dodge a huge bullet.

I have no intentions of leaving Florida any time soon, but if the next hurricane that rolls up like this could wait another 50+ years or so, I’d appreciate it.

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Filed under Environment, Opinion

Trashy with a twist

For some people, living in third world countries, garbage is reality. Living among heaps of trash is part of life and you just become used to it, because there’s nothing to be done about it and nowhere else for all the junk to go. But I’m lucky enough to live in a country that has developed better ways to reduce, reuse and recycle that garbage to make  our country, our home, a little cleaner and a better place to live. So why do people insist on littering? Why do we continue to pollute the world we live in when we have alternatives? I’ve never understood it and I guess I never will, because I’ve always had the mentality that the Earth and the environment is a precious gift we’ve been given, not one to be taken for granted and one to be protected and cherished.

Side note: I once got my sister, her ex and I into a spot of trouble because of my passion to protect the environment. We were at a stoplight and the guy in the truck next to us rolled his window down, stuck his arm out and dropped a huge wad of paper onto the road. I called him an asshole out loud, but because my window was down, he heard us. He then proceeded to engage us in a “high-speed chase,” tailing us for about 20 minutes to try and scare us, acting like he was going to ram us. We eventually dodged him, but my sister was pretty shook up (having been the one driving) and her ex was not thrilled with me. I was most pleased with myself for having called this man out on his horrible behavior, and only hope my words serve him well in his future actions. Highly doubtful.

We found this "no dumping" sign by all the trash we collected. How appropriate.

We found this “no dumping” sign by all the trash we collected. How appropriate.

Back to the point, people are going to litter regardless of what I say or do to try and convince them not to, so it’s up to me and others like me to protect the environment (or so I’ve always believed). So I (finally) started a volunteer group with some friends and family to meet locally and pick up trash in the community. Today was the “inaugural” cleanup and although it was a very small group of us, it was still more than just me out there on the side of the road picking up trash like I used to do for fun. In my spare time. Because I have no life.

Anyway, I’m super excited I have friends and family who not only support my undying love for all things eco, but who get out there with me and share the same passion. It’s a truly great feeling to give back, even in small ways. It doesn’t have to be a global takedown (although I’m working on that one next); putting in any effort, big or small, is all it takes. And it feels good to do good.

And if I never see another cigarette butt again in my life, I will be all too thankful. Really, people, most cars- scratch that, ALL CARS- come equipped with an ash tray. It’s pretty standard. And they don’t put it there for you to keep change in (although that’s what I recommend using it for if you’re a nonsmoker, like me- very useful). And I don’t want to hear any crap about how putting the cig out in your car’s ash tray makes your car dirty and smelly. You should have thought about that before you chose to light up. The environment is not your personal ash tray, so stop acting like it. End rant.

In what ways do you and your friends/family give back to the environment? How can we continue to make a difference, even on a small scale?

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Filed under community, Environment, Uncategorized

Shark wrestling (and 5 other sea creatures I’d like to meet)

I defeated a shark.

Albeit, a baby one. But a shark nonetheless.

Sharkie and me.

As a diver and avid water enthusiast, I’ve always been fascinated with sharks. Sure, I’m terrified as much as the next guy, but I’ve always been strangely obsessed with things that terrify me (hence my all-consuming obsession with horror, gore and all things Halloween).

And when it comes to sharks, the more up-close-and-personal I can get with them, the better (unless they’re sneaking up on me to have me as dinner). Now, I’ve been diving around sharks before, and I’m sure there have been plenty of times they have been lurking below me as I frolicked at the surface, but there’s nothing more exciting than coming into contact with one (in a good way, not a “my-leg-just-got-ripped-off-by-a-shark” kind of way).

Shark attack!

Catching the six-footer off the coast of Key West two years ago was awesome. I wish I could find the pictures to show them off to you now, but you’ll just have to trust me. But we cut the line before I even had a chance to say goodbye, let alone touch it. So catching Sharkie (as I’ve dubbed him) last week was quite exhilarating; here was a baby shark that was big and strong enough to put up a good fit but small enough to come on board for a quick photo op. As terrifyingly awesome as it was to hold the thrashing beast in my bare hands, there are still several other sea-beasts I’d like to encounter before I croak. In no particular order:

A whale. They may be gentle-ish creatures (to us, not plankton), but they are so massive and hard to come across it would be a shame never to meet one. Plus I could probably even have a conversation with one if I channel Dory from Finding Nemo.

Dolphins. I swam with dolphins on several occasions (thank you travel & tourism), and it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. But I want to get cozy with a wild dolphin. I’ve tried to no avail, but I know one day it will happen. And when it does, they will push me out of the water with just their nose. I’m sure of it.

Sharks. I know I’ve already encountered several sharks, both above the ocean and below it. But until I encounter every species (okay, maybe not every species of shark, but at least all the really cool ones), this one will still be on my list. With a giant, man-eating great white at the top of the list.

The Loch Ness Monster. I know this one doesn’t technically reside in the sea (if it resides at all, which I believe it does), but it’s too noteworthy not to include. I want to dive Loch Ness and come face to face with the elusive monster and hope it doesn’t swallow me whole.

A giant squid. I’m not talking a tiny little blob of a creature that is smaller than a boat or one of those dinky ones that you see at the aquarium. I’m talking legendary Kraken-size, like, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea proportions. I want to go down in my little submarine with Jules Verne and be overtaken by a giant squid whose eyeball alone could swallow the city of New York. And then I will write the best-selling, Nobel-prize-winning novel 21,000 Leagues Under the Sea and retire with (most) of my body parts still intact.

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I closed a zoo

I’ve been seeing trailers lately for Matt Damon’s new movie, We Bought a Zoo, set to hit theaters this December. And it looks like it’s going to be good. 

And I’m going to see it when it comes out. But I couldn’t disagree with the premise more.

When I think of what zoos and aquariums represent, it’s hard not to feel enraged. They base their success and profits on the imprisonment and degradation of wild animals, living beings that should never be put in cages and kept locked up.

And it’s not that I’m ignorant of the arguments made against my opinions, because they are valid, and I could understand why most people would agree with them.

People in favor of the so-called positive work zoos do would argue that they provide endangered animals a safe habitat, keeping them from becoming extinct, and that they save animals that are injured and on the verge of dying. They would also argue that, without zoos, the general public wouldn’t have exposure to the wild and exotic animals that zoos are able to house.

But you can’t ignore the most integral part of this debate: these are wild animals, and wild animals belong in the wild.

They don’t belong in cages, and humans have no right to put them there. For one thing, if an animal is injured in the wild, it isn’t man’s responsibility or right to swoop in and save them. We need to stop playing God. If the animal is going to survive, they’re going to do it on their own. And if they die, they were meant to per the natural cycle of life. If you save their life by putting them in a cage, how is that truly saving them? In fact, it’s condemning them to a life of domesticity, something wild animals aren’t used to and can’t endure. Have you ever gone to a zoo and really looked at the animals on the other side of the thick glass? They are tired, disinterested, depressed. Just look into their eyes and you will see the pain, the suffering there.

And sure, maybe some animals are at risk of becoming extinct, and zoos provide a guaranteed habitat, but let’s ask ourselves this: would these animals be endangered if it weren’t for humans? If we stopped destroying the ecosystems they live in, if we stopped poaching them, if we stopped interfering with their way of life, they wouldn’t be in this situation, and we wouldn’t feel like we have to save them by providing them with an artificial habitat. Because, what are we saving them from but ourselves?

 

We should be the animals in cages.

I’ll check back in after the movie is released; maybe after seeing the positive outcome of this true story I’ll have a different opinion. But I wouldn’t count on it.

 

If I had the chance, I would buy a zoo, too.

Then I’d set all the animals free.

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Filed under animals, Entertainment, humanity, zoos