Tag Archives: environment

reading the fine print

There is much medical research that touts the benefits of eating a diet high in Omega 3s and DHA, especially during pregnancy. One of the best places to get your Omegas is through fish. Not only does eating fish help lower depression during and after pregnancy, but it is also shown to aid in eye and brain development of the baby. Okay. I’m on board. Time to eat my omegas.

Except…except…I don’t really like fish. I loved fish when we were sailing in the Caribbean and we hauled fresh tuna and mahi aboard for sushi and tuna tartare. But big game fish are off limits during pregnancy due to increased levels of mercury and other toxins. I’ve tried wild caught salmon, catfish, tilapia–yuck, yuck, yuck. So what about taking fish oil supplements? A recent study (which, for the life of me, I can’t find) argued that you have to actually eat the fish to get the benefits. Other studies now show that there is no correlation between enhanced levels of DHA and baby brain development. I say tomatoe, you say toematoe?

Regardless, eating fish is a healthy, low-fat way to get protein. I’m trying to make an active effort to get some canned tuna (ok as long as it isn’t albacore) or sardines in my diet a couple times a week.

open-face sardine melt on homemade whole wheat bread. Cabot, seriously sharp cheddar.

I was excited when I found this new brand of sardines in the grocery store: Wild Planet, wild sardines. The box and their website purports that they are “sustainably caught along the California coast.” Great. But then turn the box on its side and look at the fine print: “processed in Vietnam.”

Are you kidding me? They sustainably catch the fish off of California, ship it to Vietnam for processing, and then ship it halfway across the world to Philadelphia where it ends up on my plate? Sure, they may be practicing sustainable fishing methods, but Wild Planet is not practicing sustainable processing and delivery methods.

Don’t even get me started on the canned yellowfin tuna you can buy at Trader Joes.



beware of the glare

Philadelphia got hit with a big snowstorm last night. The airport is reporting about 16″. I trudged up and down the dock around midnight and at that time it only about 8″ had fallen. I estimate around 3″ fell after midnight, so, in my very scientific opinion, I think we have around one foot at the marina. It’s heavy, wet snow. Perfect for snowmen. Not so perfect for boat biminis. Hans did his best to bang the snow off the bimini a couple times before we went to bed last night and luckily there is no damage. The whole marina is now iced in, but the sky is blue and the temperature is well above freezing so hopefully there’ll be no ice skating here.

My question of the day: how do I go from this….

the bright winter view from Stinkpot this morning

to this?:

Vieques, Spanish Virgin Islands

And no, I don’t plan on buying a plane ticket. My novel is set on a Caribbean island, so on this snowy, winter wonderland-esque day in Philadelphia, I need to transport my imagination to a tropical beach in the Caribbean and write about heat, humidity, afternoon thunderstorms, surfing, snorkeling, fishing, and beach bars.


If you’re from New England, no doubt the word “bubbler” will make you think of the filtered water cooler in the office. Unless you live on a boat. Marinas in colder climates run bubblers all winter to keep ice away from the boats. A bubbler is a plastic cylinder with a fan that is submerged in water and spins and pushes the water around the boat. The surface of the water appears to bubble, hence the name. They keep the ice away, sometimes. But when the temperature is consistently below freezing, mother nature shows us, once again, that she will always win.

Large sheets of ice are flowing down the Delaware River from northern Pennsylvania and upstate New York, and they all crowd the entrance of the marina, pushing to get a spot in our calm waters.  High tide, 4:36AM. Knock, knock, knock on the hull. We’re surrounded by ice sheets. I’m beginning to think it would be better to be completely iced-in. Hungry and wide-awake, I went outside and turned on our bubbler. I ventured onto the foredeck with the boat hook and tried to push the ice away but ended up just swearing at it. (something along the lines of “don’t you know I’m 7 months pregnant and need my sleep?  A little common courtesy please ice.” I probably didn’t say please.) I gave up, came inside, ate a bowl of granola, and crawled back into bed. At least the bubbler provided some white noise to mask the sound of the  ice knocking on the hull.

I asked Hans if next winter–when our 3rd crew member will be sleeping up in the vee-berth (site of the majority of the ice knocking)–will the baby get woken up by the ice? He said: “Maybe. And then we’ll be dealing with knocking ice and a screaming baby.” I crawled further into the down cocoon and told myself that maybe the ice isn’t so bad after all.


the reward

I believe that a gorgeous sunrise is nature’s reward for waking up early. This is what greeted us this morning as I fried up eggs and sipped my hot tea.

I saw my favorite sunrises at sea while we were on passage on s/v Whisper. Passage sunrises were the reward for a restless, sometimes sleepless night, sharing 3 hour watches. Passage sunrises signaled the end of a long, cold night and brought the promise of hot tea and coffee.

en route between Dominican Republic and the Bahamas

Sunrises in Sweden in the summer are amazing. Sunset turns into sunrise and the event lasts at least seven hours. (If you want to see the sunrise, you need to stay up from 11PM to 6AM–and how do you tell when the sunset stops and the sunrise starts?)

3:00AM, Holmsund, Sweden

If you’re watching the sunrise in Philadelphia in the winter, don’t let your eyes stray from it for too long because it quickly turns to a cold, gray winter sky.

anybody want to play soccer in the desert?

A satellite image of Qatar. Lush soccer fields? Nope. It's a desert!

(Image courtesy of: School of Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton University, http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/Qatar-Sabkhas.htm)

I’ve been complaining, grumbling, and preaching from my soap box ever since FIFA announced that Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup. Hans (no doubt sick of my repeated proclamations) told me to write a blog posting (presumably to engage an audience larger than two).  Without further ado:

QATAR? The World Cup? Do you know how hot it gets in Qatar in June? The average high is 106 degrees! Am I upset that FIFA said no to the US as a host? Yes, of course. But my main gripe is the environmental implications of this choice. Qatar is a desert. Wikipedia describes Qatar as “a low, barren plain, covered with sand.”

  • How do you play soccer in a desert? To play soccer in the desert (unless they’ll be playing on sand, which I doubt), Qatar will have to import sod. Lots of sod. They’ll have to make water, lots of water, to hydrate the sod.

Perhaps I am misinformed. Look! Grass does grow in Qatar!

(Image courtesy of: School of Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton University, http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/Qatar-Sabkhas.htm)

  • How does a desert nation make water? Reverse osmosis. How does a desert nation run a r/o plant? Why, oil of course. Oh how convenient. Qatar is dripping in oil.
  • How will the players run up and down the field for 90+ minutes without dying of heat stroke? Simple. Air conditioning. Qatar has promised to build “open air air conditioned stadiums.” Yes. You read that correctly. It sounds like an oxymoron but that’s the plan. And how will they run the air conditioning? Oil.
  • Where will the players and fans stay? In hotels. And how will they stay cool? Air conditioning. Powered by…oil.
  • And how will all these people shower in the desert? Aha! Using that r/o water which is made in the r/o plant which is powered by oil.

Let me pause for a minute to let out a scream of frustration.

In a time when climate change and global warming are finally getting some mention in popular culture, this is a giant step backward. FIFA is basically giving the earth the middle finger and for whatever political and economic reasons, they have decided that Qatar, a desert nation, is the best place to hold the biggest international sporting event in the world.

Qatar, apparently, does not have much of an environmental conscience:

“Qatar has the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions, at 55.5 metric tons per person in 2005.” And, get this: “Major uses of energy in Qatar include air conditioning, natural gas processing, water desalination and electricity production.” (source: Wikipedia) Can you even imagine how high these figures will rise during the month-long World Cup?

Qatar playing host to the World Cup is akin to Arizona and New Mexico hosting the winter Olympics.

no activist here

I have always believed in strong civic involvement–volunteering, helping out a neighbor, donating $$–but since we moved to Philadelphia last May I have been living an insular life. I believe that I live a good life, in a way that is responsible to the planet and to its inhabitants (my neighbors), but I need to to do more. I need to take action; get involved.

With that in mind, last night I attended the initial interest meeting for a new group, Transition Philadelphia, part of a larger international group, Transition US. The premise behind the Transition movement is that we are going to reach Peak Oil (the point where oil runs out) and we need to start preparing for that moment–we need to build resilience throughout our communities–energy, transportation, eduction, food, etc. (It sounds somewhat apocalyptic but I think the overall goals and theory are sound.)

This makes a lot of sense. But I left the meeting knowing that it’s not for me. I want to believe in grassroots organizing and activism, but I’m too much of a cynic. No matter how organized and active local groups and people can be; no matter how strong a local community is, the corporations are the ones that have the final say. I believe in macroeconomics. I believe that real change will come from cooperation with governments, corporations, non-profit groups, and neighbors.

This is  pretty defeatist way to start off a Thursday morning and I wish I could be idealistic but, over the past 14 years, I have learned that, at my core, I am not a grassroots activist. I admire what they do and I wish I could put my heart and energy into local causes and actions but every time I try my cynicism butts me in the head.

living on the Delaware River

Delaware River just north of the Ben Franklin Bridge - Philadelphia skyline

The Delaware River originates from two branches that start in the Catskills and converge near Hancock, NY. By the time it reaches Trenton, NJ, it starts mixing with tides from the Atlantic Ocean and becomes a tidal river.  Philadelphia, located south of Trenton and about 87 nautical miles from the Atlantic Ocean, has a mean tide of about 6 feet. What does this all mean? How does this impact my life afloat on the Delaware River?


Chuck, the harbor master, tows a tree out of the marina this morning

A strong storm blew through Philadelphia last night and we were woken up at various points in the night by knocking on the hull.  Were we hitting the dock? Nope.  It was logs. Sometimes we get stumps and other times we get logs. I walked up to put laundry on this morning and saw an entire tree floating on the other side of the dock. In the winter we get ice floes (shudder). And on a daily basis we get trash: plastic bottles, old shoes, condoms (yuck), plastic bags–you name it. It’s amazing how many different odds and ends float down (and up) the river and work their way into the marina.