Hurricane Erika Was NBD for Central Florida, Where Natural Disasters Are a Way of Life
Sep18

Hurricane Erika Was NBD for Central Florida, Where Natural Disasters Are a Way of Life

As yet another tropical storm leaves its mark on the Central Florida area, homeowners are left making repairs and cleaning up debris in some of the nation’s most natural-disaster-prone areas. Hurricane Erika had dissipated into “remnants of a tropical depression” after moving past the Gulf of Mexico, the Orlando Sentinel said, but that Central Florida residents should still prepare for storm damage. The National Weather Service warned that Erika was expected to pick up speed again around Monday, August 31, and would be heading up the west coast of Florida. With hurricane cleanup efforts underway by September 1, it didn’t come as a surprise to most homeowners that multiple counties were rated “high” or “very high” by RealtyTrac for natural-disaster activity. The Orlando metro area was ranked “high” for natural-disaster activity, and Lake County was ranked “very high.” As the Orlando Sentinel reported, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rated Orange, Seminole, Lake, and Osceola counties to be at a “very high” risk area for hurricane wreckage. In addition to hurricanes, Florida counties also have a high risk of wildfires; the USDA Forest Service and the Fire Modeling Institute also placed Lake County at a high risk for wildfire activity. With its high risk for both hurricanes and wildfires, Lake County is considered one of the most disaster-prone regions in the country; the Orlando Sentinel reported that only 14% of counties across the country present this same risk. Of course, for residents of Central Florida, this isn’t exactly news and it’s hardly a reason to move away from the Orlando metro area. In fact, most residents state that they were well-aware of the storm risks before purchasing a home in the area; instead of choosing to live elsewhere, homeowners simply purchase extensive homeowner’s insurance plans and make repairs to mitigate floor and roof damage resulting from flooding. All in all, Central Florida residents don’t seem too bothered by the recent weather patterns. “I don’t think {potential homeowners] give [hurricanes] a lot of thought,” said Mount Dora real estate agent Tammy King. “A lot of them are just looking to get out of the cold and the snow and I don’t think they really care about...

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Nature Is Good For Your Sleep, Study Says
Sep07

Nature Is Good For Your Sleep, Study Says

After a long day of hiking — the most popular of all camping activities — have you ever noticed that you slept better? Although it may be that you’ve tuckered yourself out, a new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine suggests that people age 65 or older get better sleep when they’re in a more natural environment. “Studies show that inadequate sleep is associated with declines in mental and physical health, reduced cognitive function, and increased obesity,” explained Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, a member of the division of nutritional science at the University of Illinois in Chicago. “This new study shows that exposure to a natural environment may help people get the sleep they need.” Grigsby-Toussaint worked with two other University of Illinois researchers and several scientists from the New York University School of Medicine. They used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tool, to find out if there as a link between declared days of insufficient sleep and access to green spaces. They also used a USDA index to measure the hours of sunlight in different geographical regions, an integral part in the regulation of the circadian rhythm, and temperature. In response to being questioned on the quality of their sleep in the last month, the most common answer given from a total of 255,171 representative American adults was that participants had slept poorly for less than a week. However, across the entire sample, individuals who reported 21 to 29 days of insufficient sleep consistently had lower odds of having access to green, natural spaces in comparison to individuals who reported having less than one week of insufficient sleep. In other words, the people who didn’t sleep well were also less likely to live in an environment where nature was more present. The study’s results are a huge help for those who may have trouble sleeping, particularly seniors. Communities with retired residents, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes should also take note of the study, and try to incorporate more green spaces as a way to improve their inhabitants’...

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Massive Sewage Spill Contaminates Famed Waikiki Beach
Aug29

Massive Sewage Spill Contaminates Famed Waikiki Beach

World-famous Waikiki Beach and surrounding areas of Honolulu’s coastline remained closed Aug. 26 after heavy rainstorms caused 500,000 gallons of sewage to spill out from manholes and into storm sewers leading to the ocean. “All I can do is apologize to the public,” Lori Kahikina, director of environmental services for Honolulu, said at a news conference. “This is unheard of. It’s unprecedented.” Rainstorms, combined with worn-out sewer systems, are common culprits when it comes to sewage backing up into homes — one of the reasons home sewer connections need to be replaced every 40 years or so. But the city supposedly has systems in place to prevent overflow. Tourists were warned to stay away from the water, since it could be contaminated with pathogens and therefore constitute a serious risk of illness or infection — though not all complied. Local news station KHON reported Aug. 25 that a communication breakdown may have contributed to the spill; apparently, one of the pumping stations located at Ala Moana, a short stretch down the coast from Waikiki, was offline at the time of the spill. City Councilman Trevor Ozawa, who represents the district, told the station that he hadn’t coordinated with the Department of Design and Construction to ensure the pump was in working order. “We were all aware that the rain was coming … but we didn’t look at some of the glaring obvious things that we could have done,” Ozawa admitted. The closures — unfortunately timed in the middle of the busiest season for the island — have had a serious impact on Waikiki businesses, many of which rely on tourists wanting to try ocean-based activities (though it’s possible businesses in other areas of the island may benefit from the displaced tourists). Dave Carvalho, owner of Big Wave Dave surfing school, told local TV broadcast Hawaii News Now that they’ve been informing tourists of the situation but allowing them to make their own choices as to the risk. The brown-water warning did, however, delay prominent events scheduled as part of Duke’s OceanFest, an ocean sports festival timed around the birthday of surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku. Aug. 24 marked the 125th anniversary of his birth, and the festival was slated to involve more than 2,500 athletes and thousands more spectators. The city has promised to lift warnings as soon as water testing has been...

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Protesters Get Nude at UC Berkeley to Save the Eucalyptus Trees
Aug09

Protesters Get Nude at UC Berkeley to Save the Eucalyptus Trees

The tree hugging hippie is alive and well in Berkeley, California. Earlier this month, UC Berkeley announced that they would be moving forward with a tree clearing program that plans to clear a grove of eucalyptus trees from the University’s campus. On July 18, 50 protesters responded to the tree clearing announcement by arriving at the grove, stripping down to their birthday suits, and posing naked with the eucalyptus trees. Standing by was their leader, Jack Gescheidt, who photographed the protesters’ intimate encounters with the trees. The photographs are set to be apart of a series called “The Spirit Project”, a photography project that aims to show environmental awareness for eucalyptus trees through the juxtaposition of naked bodies and trees. According to Campus Reform, Gescheidt felt that trees were being treated like ‘monsters’ rather than the longest living organisms on earth. He adds, “We need to tell more people and get them involved and put a stop to this nonsense.” The protesters also made clear that the glyphosate, the chemical used to treat the trees, is in fact toxic and poses a threat to the safety of the community. The initiative to remove the eucalyptus trees was put in motion by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA) as a response to the rampant wildfires previously caused by eucalyptus groves in the past. Eucalyptus trees are also considered an invasive species. Eucalyptus trees use a great deal of water to grow, and their rapid growth poses a threat to biological diversity in the Bay Area. Despite all of these very real concerns, Gescheidt and his protesters feel that the claims made against eucalyptus trees are completely untrue. He feels that the trees are not, in fact, an invasive species, and that “all living trees and forests are fire resistant”. Considering the rampant wildfires rampaging across Washington States only states over, Gescheidt’s statement is a bold one. FEMA plans to set the tree clearing initiative in motion in late August. Will the protesters’ naked bodies be enough to keep the trees out of harm’s way? Only time will...

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You’ll Never Guess What This Thief Got Caught Stealing on a Surveillance Video
Aug04

You’ll Never Guess What This Thief Got Caught Stealing on a Surveillance Video

Residents of Sheffield Lake, Ohio, thought that deer were responsible for removing the flowers planted alongside the city’s covered bridge. But when police watched surveillance video taken at the scene, they found something even more shocking. It turns out the missing flowers were taken deliberately by 63-year-old Deborah Stottlemire, who wanted the flowers to plant in her own yard. When police arrived at Stottlemire’s home, they saw that the stolen goods were planted right in her front garden. Locals were upset by the petty theft, too, which resulted in a $269 fine for the culprit. Lovette Malatarich, another Sheffield Lake resident, said that the flowers had been planted by elementary school-age Girl Scouts. “My daughter is a Brownie and the day they planted flowers for the area that they were going to meet in, they were so excited. Not that it made any difference that Brownies planted it, but it’s just nice to walk here and see the flowers,” Malatarich told Fox8 in Cleveland. Maybe next time, the thief should just visit a local garden supply shop or find a florist online — she has 36,613 of the latter to choose from here in the United States! Perhaps even more baffling is that Stottlemire returned to the scene just days later, this time trying to replant the flowers that she’d stolen and display an apology sign. Police told her and the man accompanying her to move along, and make her restitution in court instead. When reached for comment, however, Stottlemire did say that she felt badly about the incident. The 63-year-old told police that she hadn’t had the money to buy flowers, which had motivated her to steal them, topsoil and all. But Sheffield Lake Police Chief Tony Campo said this isn’t the first time Stottlemire’s been in trouble with the law. “We had a previous incident with her in December of last year over a petty theft at a local store,” Campo said. Stottlemire is due to appear in Mayor’s Court on Aug....

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Greenpeace Protesters Create an Aerial Barricade Against Shell Arctic Icebreaker
Jul30

Greenpeace Protesters Create an Aerial Barricade Against Shell Arctic Icebreaker

Preventing a major oil corporation from drilling in the Arctic is no small feat, but Greenpeace protesters are proving that, with a little bit of creativity, anything is possible. On July 29, 13 Greenpeace protesters set up camp on the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, Oregon. According to local news station KATU, the protesters suspended themselves on the edge of the bridge in an “aerial blockade” in order to prevent a Shell oil ship from passing through. It was around 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning when the protesters rappelled over Portland’s tallest bridge, which stretches over the Willamette River. Thirteen additional protesters have remained stationed on the bridge as lookouts for those dangling over the river. According to Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, the protesters have enough food and water to remain suspended over the river for about a week. Their harnesses allow the protesters to raise themselves to let other ships pass through, but for Shell oil, they’re saying #ShellNo. The ship, named the Fennica, is an icebreaker and is part of the Shell Oil Arctic fleet which received presidential approval earlier this year from the Obama administration to begin exploring Arctic drilling off the coast of Alaska. The Fennica had been damaged earlier in July, according to TIME, when the hull collided with an underwater object in the Aleutian Islands. The icebreaker arrived in Portland last week for repairs and was scheduled to depart on Wednesday but was forced to remain docked indefinitely in the Swan Island port, which is an important location for ships, like the Fennica, that need repairs in order to transport around 95% of the world’s cargo. As the Washington Post reported, the Fennica is transporting critical cargo for Shell’s operations in the north; without the safety equipment aboard the icebreaker, Shell workers do not have emergency response equipment that would be necessary in the event of a spill. No charges have been filed against the protesters yet, but local law enforcement agents have stated that criminal charges might be filed if...

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