Living off the land while leading

My friend Yvonne Hill recently convinced Sanibel's Island Cinema to show the movie "Harriet."  This superb movie is full of riveting moments and inspiring drama.  The setting for much of the action was a land that is much like parts of the western half of Sanibel:  mostly flat, interspersed with brackish tidal waters and marshy woodlands.

How did Harriet Tubman survive, traveling through that tough wilderness, I wondered?  The movie, wonderful as it is, does not really cover this subject.

Even on a small, 3.5-acre tract of upland and lowland wetland woods that my husband and I once owned on Sanibel, we would become disoriented as we wandered through the dense foliage.  What kept us from becoming completely lost was the sound of traffic on Sanibel-Captiva Road.

But Harriet had no traffic noise to orient her.  Instead, she relied upon her knowledge of nature.
The place where she was enslaved as a child is now in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern shore …

Mangroves make the world a better place

In these days of concern about climate change, we often hear about the importance of forests for storing carbon.  Worldwide, mangroves account for storage of more carbon than almost any other kind of forest on earth.  I wrote about mangroves in this blog four years ago.  Since then, a study published in 2018 has shown that the earth’s mangrove forest soils hold 6.4 billion metric tons of carbon in 2000 – far more than previously estimated.[1]

Florida, according the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has 554,515 acres of mangroves.[2]  About 11,000 of those acres are on Sanibel.

Besides sequestering carbon, these mangroves around us are stabilizing our shorelines. Their root systems slow the flow of the water, causing sediments and nutrients to settle and form a foundation for marine life.

Mangroves are important to fish.  The Florida Museum affiliated with the University of Florida tells us that “an estimated 75% of the game fish and 90% of the commercial species in south Florida are dep…

Walking the ever-changing beach

I begin my morning walk by just ambling down the lane on the hushed and heavily wooded Porpoise Point, heading south along the aptly named Coconut Drive.  On breezy days like this, I avoid walking directly beneath the taller, fruit-laden coconut trees.
One day last week, a cannonball-size coconut fell to the pavement right in front of my car as I drove home on Coconut Drive.The impact was so great that a gush of coconut water shot up from the cracked husk.I felt blessed that I was no longer driving a Miata, but a CX-3 instead.
As I began my walk this morning, I thought about which route to take.On a windy day, I might not opt to walk on the beach because I do not wish to be sandblasted. Being sandblasted hurts.But this morning was simply breezy in a blustery way.When I could see Sunset Bay as I passed the cute, old beach cottages across from Castaways Lane, I could see the exposed sandbar.Hmmm. Tide is low, I thought.In spite of the breeziness, I decided to walk the beach.
I could he…

Providing Sanctuary

Last weekend, I finished my most favorite volunteer job ever:  a one-year term as moderator of the Congregational Church on Sanibel Island.  The moderator leads the church council, the governing body of the church.  In our church, one prepares for being moderator by first serving a year as vice moderator.  So this was really a two-year stint.
My first thought, when it came time to prepare my “Year in Review” comments for last Sunday's annual meeting, was to do what I’d done before when I’d led nonprofit organizations:go through the year’s reports, minutes, news releases, calendar, etc., and write a summary.
But the church annual report already had brief and informative reports from each of the committees, the deacons' board, and the church council.  I urged church members to take them home, read them, and think about how they’d like to be involved with the church in the years to come.
So instead of trying to summarize those summaries, I wanted to talk about just three things that…

Can Sanibel Walk the Walk?

After hearing dozens of citizens complaining loudly about the air pollution and noise emitted by gas-powered leaf blowers, the Sanibel City Council reacted by merely reducing the hours that these devices can be used by commercial landscapers and city employees.  Because a few landscapers do not want their workers to wait until 9AM to start working, they have replaced the gas-powered blowers with more environmentally friendly electric ones.

That ordinance was passed by the Council in December, but even as the Council members passed it, they acknowledged that they need to do more to reduce or eliminate the use of these pollution spewing machines.

In January, they shocked the citizens by doing as little as possible: they passed a resolution to "encourage individuals and businesses to voluntarily use environmentally friendly alternatives to gas-powered landscape equipment, including electric and battery equipment, in addition to manual tools."

I thought that this request for vol…

Ban the Plastic Straw

Published in local newspapers June 2018 -- In early February, the News-Press published an article about the remarkable news that Fort Myers Beach now has a ban on plastic drinking straws.I thought to myself, “If Fort Myers Beach can do this, then Sanibel certainly can!”
After reading the newspaper, I went for my morning walk.On that walk I saw my neighbor, city council member Jason Maughan, and asked him what he thought of the idea.He was positive.We talked about how many more straws were probably on Fort Myers Beach because of all the commercial enterprises there.But there are some near-beach establishments where plastic straws are routinely used on Sanibel.
The first person I ever heard talk about the environmental threats posed by plastic drinking straws was Carolyn Raffensperger, our keynote speaker at the Committee of the Islands (COTI) annual meeting in 2011.Several COTI board members took Carolyn out to lunch and there she made a point of ordering her ice water with “no straw.”Th…

A Pelican in Peril

April 21, 2018 -- A sick pelican sat in the middle of the road, just ahead of me, on Castaways Lane.  In the early morning in late April, these streets are quiet.  Maybe I was the first person to see the sick pelican, as I nearly completed my hour-long walk.  I hoped he wasn't sick; perhaps he'd just consumed a large fish and was temporarily impaired.  So I walked the short distance of Tropical Way and back, hoping to find that the pelican had flown away.

No, the big bird was still there, stubbornly sitting smack in the middle of the blacktop.  Something was wrong with him; my guess was that red tide poisoning was his problem. 

I've taken small birds to CROW (Care and Rehabilitation of Wildlife -- a wildlife hospital on Sanibel Island) in the past.  But I'm not trained in how to handle big birds. 

So I called CROW.  Thank heavens for mobile phones!  I wanted to call my neighbor Jim, whom I know does rescue big birds regularly.  But I didn't have his number.  When t…