A Look Back on Awareness in Agriculture

 A Look Back on Awareness in AgricultureThe 21st century has seen agriculture go from labor-intensive to machine-heavy: with tractors replacing draft animals, the transformation of agriculture from a cumbersome field to an automated one has led to a dramatic rise in food security and productivity, as well as a dramatic fall in long-run agricultural costs. However, the introduction of mechanized and engineering-based farming tools and techniques has not been 100% positive: this shift has given rise to its own set of challenges, with the need for sustainable farming practices – practices that do not hurt the environment in the long-run – having become a top priority.

Here are three ways in which irresponsible agricultural practices hurt the environment:

Reducing biodiversity
Almost one-third of the earth’s land is used for agriculture, of this, over 40% sees intensive or modernized farming. Hence the consequences of modernized farming – whether positive or negative – have ramifications for the entire human race. The excessive use of pesticides, for example, has led to the creation of pesticide-resistant pathogens; while the proliferation of genetically-engineered seeds is threatening a number of bird species with extinction. Furthermore, ineffective water management during irrigation has led to wide-scale water depletion, water-logging and salinity. Since the advent of modern agriculture, over 50% of the world’s wetlands have been lost due to ineffective agricultural practices; no less have been polluted. With 25% of the species under threat being fish and amphibians, this poses a serious risk for the global food chain.

Causing soil erosion and compaction
Soil erosion is the process by which soil is removed from one site and shifted to another; while soil compaction happens when soil particles are pressed against each other. A high rate of erosion can lead to lower yield and nutrition on-site and sedimentation and damage off-site; while a high rate of soil compaction reduces the number and size of pores between soil particles, lowering water infiltration, gas exchange and drainage in the soil and stunting growth.

How do irresponsible agricultural techniques cause soil erosion and compaction? There are a number of ways. Unvaried moldboard plowing or disking is one cause; wheel traffic through tracks and tires is another. In both circumstances, farmers can alleviate the problem by varying the depth of tillage over time. Controlling the traffic – restricting the amount of soul traversed, by using same wheel tracks – is another technique. Farmers might also want to expand crop rotation, as greater rotation increases rooting systems and spreads out the potential for compaction through traffic, instead of concentrating it in one period. Use of fuel-less generators for the effective running of heavy farm machinery would help a great deal.

Creating air and water pollution
In traditional agriculture, animal waste is used as a fertilizer; in modern farming methods, it is a major pollutant. Why is this? Because intensive farming concentrates a massive number of animals in a small space to cut down costs and achieve economies of scale, it produces an unmanageable amount of waste – case in point: intensive farm with around 30,000 hogs would produce over four million pounds of waste in a week.

Intensive farms deal with this waste by funneling it into giant pits called waste lagoons, where it is mixed with water before being sprayed on to cultivated land. The cons to this method are numerous: the sheer amount of the waste results in over-application that the raises phosphorus and nitrogen to toxic levels; or breaks and leaks in the lagoons that send pollutants and bacteria into water supplies. In addition to polluting it, the waste lagoon system also depletes ground water. For all of these reasons, it has become essential to determine an optimal point between cost and quality that not only leverages agricultural mechanization, but also sustains the planet.

Contributed by Zyana Morris

Sharkwater, the Film

Sharkwater, is a FREE film screening that will be presented by the Nassau County Sierra Club on June 10, 2016, at 7:00 p.m. Shown at the Fernandina Beach Public Library, this is a documentary by Rob Stewart who dives into shark-filled waters to help raise awareness and disprove stereotypes. He ventures into treacherous territory, and amazing locations underwater to explain how sharks are an essential part of our ecosystem.

This award-winning film, with renegade conservationist Paul Watson, he and Stewart expose the criminal and highly-profitable harvesting of shark fins, face shark poachers, and a corrupt court system.

The film is rated PG; some content might be disturbing for young children.

Inspired by nature, the Sierra Club works to protect our communities and the planet. They are America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, and they are always looking for volunteers.

For more information, please visit their website.

2016 Hands Across the Sand

Hands Across The Sand, partly sponsored by the Sierra Club, raises awareness for the need for clean energy. This is a world wide event! Come on out and join the movement and take a stand.

Here’s how:

1. Go to Main Beach in Fernandina Beach at 11.30 AM, rain or shine, on May 21, 2016.
2. Join hands for 15 minutes at 12:00 PM, forming lines in the sand, against dirty fuels. Say yes to clean energy and renewables.
3. Leave only your footprints.

In addition, consider getting involved in a local organization that supports clean energy and remember to invite your friends! Let’s join forces and hands for a common, clean and realistic goal.

New Ordinance Addresses Personal Property Left on Amelia Island Beaches

Finally, the beaches of Amelia Island will now be controlled by an ordinance that regulates unattended personal property found on our beaches… Ordinance No. 2016-06 Aims to Keep Shores Safe, and Clean for All.

Amelia Island, Florida – A new ordinance on Amelia Island has been implemented to keep the beaches and waterways of the barrier island clean of beach debris and safe for locals, visitors and wildlife. Visitors to the island will find instructing new ordinance in place mandating that any personal property left or abandoned on the beach will be removed and destroyed. The goal is to ensure safety of all beach-goers, including sea turtles that return to nest among the island’s dunes each summer.

“Amelia Island has earned a long list of awards and recognitions from Conde Nast Traveler, Southern Living, TripAdvisor and others, due in large part to the quality of the visitor experience here – and particularly our beautiful beaches and waterways,” said Gil Langley, President and CEO of the Amelia Island CVB. “This new ordinance serves to protect some of our most valuable assets that residents and visitors cherish and that our local wildlife depends on.”

Effective June 1, personal items left unattended on Amelia Island’s beaches later than 8 p.m. will be removed. This ordinance comes just as sea turtle season begins along Florida’s eastern coast.

Beach Clean Up on Amelia Island May 30th

Beach Clean Up on Amelia Island May 30thSurf Asylum and Waxhead Sun Defense Foods have joined forces to organize the inaugural Coastal Crusaders Beach Clean Up, a grassroots effort to remove litter from our beaches, starting right here on Amelia Island.

They will provide shady tents, ice cold water and raffle prizes.

All volunteers are welcome, so invite your friends, neighbors and family. Please bring your own environment-friendly tools: buckets, work gloves, biodegradable bags and reusable water bottles.

Together we will make a difference for our beautiful coasts everywhere.

Registration and more info: http://gowaxhead.com/cleanup

Saturday, May 30, 2015, Check in at 4:00 pm, Main Beach Amelia Island, Florida.

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Can Government Tax You for the Sun?

Solar panels under governement attack

Solar panels under governement attack

Growing up my mom would often remind us that on this earth only the rays of the sun were free. Everything else on this earth had a price tag attached. Well, that ‘free’ sticker appears to be no longer the case either, now that officials in Spain have come up with something that is so outlandish that I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t read it in official print. They’ve decided to start taxing people who have installed solar panels on their roofs. And what exactly are they taxing? Their usage of the sun.

Believe it or not, they are actually taxing people’s use of the sun to generate electricity in their homes. No if that is not a classic example of bait and switch tactic, then I don’t know what is. First incentivize the use of solar energy with subsidies and tax credits and then wack them with a sun tax! I hear that the White House are kicking themselves for not having thought of this first. Especially since that move potentially opens the doors to a whole slew of other, equally absurd tax laws.

At least two international publications so far have labeled this taxation as “ludicrous” and “stupid.” A Forbes magazine reporter wrote, “You get the feeling that government officials, out of ideas, stared up at the sky one day and thought, “Why not? We’ll tax the sun!” Teresa Ribera, a senior adviser to the Paris-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, said the law was “illogical in terms of energy efficiency and costs” and “a serious invitation by the government for citizens to become even more anti-system.”

Personally I would like to ask the folks who came up with this idea a couple of questions like: “When did you take over ownership of the sun?” I’d also ask, “From whom did you acquire the sun?” And staying on the topic I’d want to know, “Are you also going to tax everyone who goes to the beach to get a sun tan? Because, while you’re at it, you might as well tax everyone who benefits in any way from the sun, which, of course, would be all of us.”

“Oh and one more thing….are you also going to put taxation on rain, like if I build a cistern and catch rain water for consumption? And how about chess pools used to water the fields and gardens? I was planning a little windmill in my backyard (after all I’m Dutch) to generate some wind energy. What type of taxation am I looking at”.

No, I’d better not give them those ideas. I’ve heard of some ridiculous laws in my day, and I’ve seen many politicians behave in incredibly audacious and irresponsible manners but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything quite this far-fetched yet. But then again my mom also warned us early on that ‘een kat in het nauw vreemde sprongen maakt’ or translated ‘a cat in a tight spot makes strange and unexpected moves.’

Our governments are in a very tight spot, which foreseeably will give this tax law in Spain enough momentum to also become potentially applicable in all the other countries under budget pressure, including the US.

What’s the most absurd law (existing or proposed) you’ve ever heard of? I’d love to hear about it.

Invasive Exotic Plants Workshop

Invasive Exotic Plants WorkshopOne of the greatest threats to our great state of Florida is invasive exotic plants. With spring in sight, now is the time to prepare your yard for weeds and invasive plants. Plants are awakening from their winter slumber and their energy is focusing on new sprouts and new growth. When the plants are most active is when herbicides will have the best impact.

Popular and easy to grow plants like the asparagus-fern, bamboo and schefflera, easily spread and take over our natural areas, and the City of Fernandina Beach and the University of Florida/IFAS Extension want to partner with you to put a stop to the invasion.

Learn how to identify and remove invasive plants that may be in your yard, receive native plant and invasive plant ID cards! It is important to properly identify questionable plants before you pull them up or apply chemicals. You should also use extreme caution with chemicals and avoid spraying during windy and rainy conditions, or near water bodies.

Breakfast will be provided. This workshop will be held Saturday, March 8, 2014, at the Atlantic Avenue Recreation Center and will last from 9:00 to 11:30am and only costs $5.00.

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Inaugural Amelia Tree Conservacy Tree Planting

Inaugural Amelia Tree Conservacy Tree PlantingFernandina Beach, FL – The Amelia Tree Conservancy and the Boys & Girls Club of Nassau County will be celebrating the very first Amelia Tree Conservancy Tree Planting Celebration to be held on Tuesday, January 21 at 10:00 a.m.

The ceremony will take place at the Boys & Girls Club, 1175 Lime Street, in Fernandina Beach.

In case of rain, ceremonies will take place under shelter.

Please join city and county residents and volunteers in recognizing Florida’s Arbor Day and in creating a legacy for future generations so all can learn how to plant, protect and preserve our unique maritime forest canopy.

According to www.arborday.org, Florida’s Arbor Day is always the third Friday in January, a date created to coincide with the best planting times for the state. National Arbor Day is celebrated each April.

Here is a schedule of Tuesday’s events:
8:30 to 10:30 School children help plant trees; children’s educational activities
10:00 Ceremony/speakers with invited guests, community members & volunteers
10:25 Everyone walks over to tree planting area to watch or help
10:30 – 12:30 Tree planting continues
12:30 Lunch break
1:45 Back to work planting trees
3:00 Boys & Girls Club children start to arrive at club
3:15 Rebecca Jordi will lead B & G club kids in activity & kids help plant trees
4:45 Job complete – 8 trees planted

For those so inclined, bring your gardening gloves and shovels and dig in! Volunteers welcome anytime between 8:30 and 4:00.

The Amelia Tree Conservancy (ATC) is a diverse coalition of Amelia Island, Florida citizens formed in 2013 and dedicated to preserving our Maritime Forest Canopy.

Annual memberships are available beginning with a Student Level for only $15.00.

Learn more at www.ameliatreeconservancy.org.

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Beaches and Structures 101

Beaches and Structures 101You are invited to attend a presentation called, Beaches & Structures, 101: An Intro to How Beaches Work by Dr. Kevin Bodge. The South Amelia Island Shore Stabilization Association (SAISSA) is pleased to announce a new series of informative presentations on beach related topics. Their objective is to provide an annual educational opportunity that will appeal to anyone living on or near a barrier island or with an interest in enjoying the wonderful recreational and aesthetic opportunities that our beaches afford.

The first informational program is with beach expert and Coastal Engineer, Dr. Kevin Bodget, with Olsen and Associates, Inc. Dr. Bodge has 25 years of coastal engineering experience and will discuss how beaches and beach structures work including the unique features of Amelia Island’s most important economic and natural resource.

Over the last four years, the City of Fernandina Beach, Duval County and the SAISSA property owners have collectively spent over $35 Million to nourish their beaches. This investment represents an important and significant community commitment to this economic and natural resource. Kevin’s knowledge and insight into this important issue is free of charge and the presentation is open to the public.

The program will be on Monday, February 27, at 3:00 PM in the Egret Room at the Racquet Park Conference Center at Omni Amelia Island Plantation. Parking is available with direct access off of A1A.

This talk will provide you with interesting and significant background on our beaches. If you are interested in Amelia’s unique environment you are encouraged to come learn about it from the experts!

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Keeping Florida Our Home Sweet Home, Part 2

Keeping Florida Our Home Sweet Home, Part 2Contributed By: Marty Winchester

In light of the recent tax relief bill and subsequent budget cuts to Florida’s water systems, homeowners are becoming more aware of the need for energy efficiency and conservation. As we discussed in Keeping Florida Our Home Sweet Home Part 1, the bill designed to relieve the tax burden of property owners is cause for concern for the environment, partially because of the cuts made to the Everglades Foundation.

Another reason citizens are concerned about the bill is job loss. The water service center in Stuart will be closing and as a result, its 25-35 employees will either be laid off or relocated to West Palm Beach. While that may seem like a small number of jobs, 10% of the residents of Stuart (population: 14,000) already lives below the poverty line; the cost of living is higher in Stuart than the national average.

One way to counter-balance the issues imposed by the tax relief bill is for homeowners to make improvements to their homes for the sake of the environment. In doing so, you can potentially lighten the burden of your income tax more significantly than the property tax bill, which will save Florida homeowners less than $100 a year on average.

To date, the energy-efficiency tax credits cover:

    Insulation – 10% of cost up to $500
    Roofing – 10% of cost up to $500
    HVAC – tiered credits range from $50 – $300

    Water heaters
    Non-solar – $300 credit
    Solar – 30% of cost, no upper limit

    Windows, Doors and Skylights – 10% of cost, $200 cap for windows.
    Geothermal Heat Pumps – 30% of cost, no upper limit
    Wind Energy Systems – 30% of cost, no upper limit
    Fuel Cells – 30% of cost, up to $500 per .5 kW of power capacity
    Biomass Stoves – $300 credit

Depending on the situation, a homeowner may also qualify for tax rebates up to $1,000 for hiring a certified energy rater and licensed contractor. While you can’t give the Stuart service center employees their jobs back, you can make a statement by providing work for the environmentally conscious. EnergyStar offers tips for finding “green” contractors and specialists.

Unfortunately, most of the energy efficiency tax credits are only available to homeowners upgrading their primary residence. The only upgrades the tax credit covers for second homes are solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, and small wind turbines. The good news is that residential and commercial property managers are being given new incentives to go green because of the Better Buildings Initiative and other proposals made by the White House early this year. Congress is working to create tax incentives for property owners in a way that will also create jobs.

Grandma Shares Go Green Wisdom

Grandma Shares Go Green Wisdom

Is this tree too big to hug?

Grandma sent the following about the new generation and the green movement. When you think about, I can see how my 91 year old grandmother may be offended when kids today think that her generation was wasteful with our environmental resources.

How many of these enviromental friendly practices do you remember? This forwarded email is making it around the internet and it brings up a few good points!

The Green Thing
Author Unknown

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to him and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. The former generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

He was right; that generation didn’t have the “green thing” in its day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

They didn’t have the “green thing” back in that customer’s day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.

They didn’t have the “green thing” in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts… wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right, they didn’t have the “green thing” back in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house, not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right, they didn’t have the “green thing” back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But they didn’t have the “green thing” back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful the old folks were just because they didn’t have the “green thing” back then?

Uncorking Party

Uncorking Party

Uncorking Party

Join Waterwheel Art Gallery for a wonderful evening exploring the wonderful world of Cork products. Cork handbags and accessories beautifully combine innovation, sustainability and top quality in unique pieces.

Waterwheel Art Gallery will be presenting a line of cork fashion accessories that will make your winter 2010 greener than any other! Usually only found in major cities around the world like New York, Tokyo and Los Angeles and now here on Amelia Island.

    Thursday, December 9th
    4 – 7 Pm
    Waterwheel Art Gallery
    5047 First Coast Hwy
    Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

Wine and Cheese, good company and of course… fabulous Cork purses, shoes, hats, boots and more!

The Truth about cork:
Many people are under the false impression that the cork oak tree is endangered or becoming less available. The truth of the matter is that the Cork Oak Tree grows readily throughout Portugal, Southern Spain, France, and Italy as well as in the similar regions of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

The cause of the decline in the number of cork trees is the inexplicable trend of using simulated corks in wine. The majority of cork has always been used to produce wine corks and with the declining call for wine corks, the loss in value of the trees results in the forests being cut down and re-appropriated as agricultural plantations. While the loss of these magnificent and incredibly functional trees is a travesty in its own right, the econiomic, cultural and environmental loss to the region and the world of such a life sustaining vessel which is supportive to human livelihood and animal habitat is staggering.

Without the forests, the world will lose the Ibizan lynx, the largest cat in Europe, several species of owls and numberous other creatures that can only survive in the environment harbored by the cork oak forests. Also the loss of these forests would be devastating to the more than 30,000 poeple in this region who are employed by the cork industry and who have inherited these trades from their fathers and their fathers before them.

How to Reuse Plastic Bottle Caps

How to Reuse Plastic Bottle CapsMy 90 year old grandmother has sent a great tip on how we can reuse those plastic bottle caps!

This is a great idea!

No more fumbling with twist ties or rubber bands to get an air tight seal.

Whomever first thought of this idea should given an award for originality!

How to seal a bag and make it air-tight!

Step one: Cut up a disposable water bottle and keep the neck and top, as shown in the first photo.

Step two: Insert the plastic bag through the neck and screw the top closed to seal the bag.

Sealed bag with bottle top

The bottle is made to be air-tight, such that water will not leak, the secret lies with the top and screw!

This is a great idea to share. Good for us and the environment too.

Convincing Teens to be Environmentally Friendly

Convincing Teens to be Environmentally Friendly

Convincing Teens to be Environmentally Friendly

Teens like to be cool and being cool means being green or environmentally friendly, right? Well, not always. As much as teens like to jump on the “bandwagon of the week” and be trendy, being “green” is not always at the top of their list.

Teens, for the most part, are not yet paying utility bills so we parents often find ourselves following them from room to room turning off lights and unplugging chargers. On the up side, teens really are concerned about the environment, they just don’t know how to help save it. Well there is a new three-year research project designed to increase awareness for this impressionable demographic. Researchers will encourage spreading the word on social networking sites, study the evolution of teenage psychology, and evaluate changes in attitudes among the teens.

If you don’t want to wait three years to implement the study’s findings in your own home, here are some ideas to help motivate your teen:

First, challenge the members of your home to help save the environment and save money on your utility bills. Tell your teens you will increase their allowance if you noticably see a difference in their behavior.

    -Turn off lights everytime you leave the room.
    -Recycle – EVERYTHING!
    -Don’t turn on the shower until you are ready to get wet.
    -Take shorter showers.
    -Put fresh plants that help remove indoor air pollutants in their rooms.
    -Share rides, walk, catch the bus or other public transportation or ride bikes more often, especially to school.
    -Parents, we can save fuel, money and encourage better physical fitness if we stop agreeing to be the family’s taxi service.
    -Limit time watching television or playing on the internet.
    -Make a compost pile for your family to dispose of certain waste products.
    -Cut back on cell phone calls and texting.
    -Don’t let the water continuously run in the sink while brushing your teeth.
    -Use public computers if feasible for school projects and research.
    -Keep compact fluorescent bulbs on hand. When your traditional bulb burns out, replace it with a CFL that lasts up to ten times longer than an incandescent bulb.
    -Play more board games.
    -Unplug electronics when not in use. This is easy to do if you use a power strip for the television, stereo and DVD player.
    -Eat fresh snacks after school. Give up using the oven to make pizza rolls for one person and choose a piece of fruit instead.
    -Go outside and play sports that run on the body’s fuel, not electricity.
    -Share your ideas with your friends and on social media sites.
    -Recycle your clothing. When you tire of old clothes, trade with your friends. Local consignment shops are a great place to shop, as well as selling some of your unwanted apparel items.
    -Start a movement in your school or community to have recycling bins added to public places where refuse cans are already provided – giving your neighbors the opportunity to recycle in public.

Imagine if our teens would implement just a few of these ideas!

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International Coastal Cleanup Day

The International Coastal Cleanup is the world’s largest, one-day volunteer effort to clean up the marine environment. Do your part and help the park keep these beaches pristine. Registration for the cleanup will be at the first parking lot on Amelia Island. No reservations are necessary.

On Sunday, September 26, 2010, from 9am – 12pm, come to the Amelia Island State Park on State Road A1A North to help out. For more information call (904) 251-2320.

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