Category Archives: Florida Keys

Delaney Talks to Statues

Delaney talks to statues as she dances ’round the pool
She chases cats through Roman ruins and stomps on big toadstools
She speaks a language all her own that I cannot discover
But she knows I love her so when I tuck her ‘neath the covers
Father, daughter, down by the water
Shells sink, dreams float, life’s good on our boat

Jimmy Buffett
Delaney Talks To Statues, album Fruitcakes (1994)

Life sure is short.

When you are young, I suppose it can feel like we will live forever and that we have a seemingly unlimited amount of time to lead an impactful life, but the sad truth is we don’t really have much time here on this green and blue ball after all. The sooner you start your life’s work, the sooner you start trying to make a positive difference, the better because there is a lot to be done and truly so little time.

I turned 24 last week and in just a couple of days my baby brother Owen will turn 22. Both of us are committed to living impactful lives, to trying to be agents of change, but I have to admit that at our age it’s at times easy to feel a sense of longevity. To think we have an unlimited amount of time. That is until reality raises its head, such as the case with this weekend’s news of the passing of one of my true heroes: singer, song writer, adventurer, and environmentalist extraordinaire, Jimmy Buffett.

If you grew up in South Florida in recent decades like I have you know Jimmy to be an iconic presence that helped portray, and in many ways created, an American Caribbean lifestyle countless of people adore. And nowhere around these parts is that truer than here in the lower Florida Keys where I’ve spent so much of my life. Jimmy’s influence is literally everywhere here and we are better because of it. His untimely passing this weekend has me thinking a lot about my own relationship with Jimmy beyond just the places all around me that drift in and out of his songs and stories and the great times they always evoke.

I grew up in a home where my mother and father simply adored Jimmy, met him many times and had countless “Jimmy Buffett stories” to happily share. His music was on the radio in our homes, ever present on the boat, and, yes, he was “with” us as we traveled to one western National Park after another all summer this year through his Radio Margaritaville on the car’s satellite radio.

It’s fair to say that Jimmy Buffett’s music is the soundtrack of their lives and, thus, it became a large part of my own. When I was just learning to speak I’d yell out what I thought was his name, “Barry Muffet!,” whenever I heard his music as I jumped up and down and ran around the house like a crazy person dancing and singing. And the bedtime lullabies my father would sing to me when he put me to bed, Delaney Talks to Statues and Little Miss Magic, were often laced with Jimmy Buffett and still ring deep in my memories.  Heck, for the longest time I even wondered if I’d been named after Jimmy’s own daughter, (Sarah) Delaney.

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As I grew older I had the distinct honor of meeting Jimmy and was struck by how down to earth, genuine and engaging he was to me, a total stranger. And I was also fortunate to see him in concert many times and ways including at stadium shows like the night he opened for his good friends The Eagles at Hard Rock stadium in front of what had to be 50,000 people, as well as an intimate gathering of a hundred or so folks at a museum fundraiser with Gloria Estefan of Miami Sound Machine fame (talk about South Florida music royalty!).

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I am especially thankful to have been there at his very last Key West show this past February. I’ve rarely seen my father and mother more excited to see any live show than they were in the days before that concert, yet a bit ominous as Dad wondered aloud if this might be the last time that we ever saw him in concert. Sadly, it was just that, but Jimmy was at the absolute height of his powers playing the guitar, singing, and sharing story after story about those songs and his life in Key West. It was an intimate outdoor show at the Coffee Butler Auditorium, a place where I’d acted as the emcee for a Hurricane Irma Relief Fundraiser a few years ago when it first opened, on what was a perfect late winter night’s party with a thankful, colorful crowd of fellow Parrot Heads knowing we were witnessing something special. It’s a night that I will never forget.


Even if you never saw him perform in person, there are countless places all over the Keys that he sings and writes about and in some way or another they have long been part of my life. Captain Tony’s. Caroline Street. AIA. The LaTeDa. Blue Heaven.


Heck, as soon as I clear the channel in my boat here on No Name Key I only need look to the east to see the Seven Mile Bridge, the place where Jimmy finished writing his legendary song Margaritaville while stuck there in traffic for two hours one day. And, yes, I think of Jimmy every single time I see a gentle manatee drift by in the waters off the shores of No Name Key. He is everywhere here in our lives in the Keys.

“It’s pretty simple, we live in paradise, and paradise is in peril. We need to have a little more attention about the place where we grew up, and where our children should grow up. It’s not that hard, it really isn’t.”

Jimmy Buffett
During a 2018 Concert in Support of Democrat Gwen Graham

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Jimmy is one of my heroes, not only because he was a world class entertainer and highly successful businessperson, but because of his deep love and support of the environment, especially our oceans. Long before I was born, he served as Chairman of the Save the Manatee Committee NGO at the request of former Florida Governor Bob Graham, worked to save the Key West Salt Ponds, and led many other environmental causes. His environmental work is, to me, what made him a truly special person and an inspiration.

Over the years he appeared in front of Congress to support renewing the Endangered Species Act, supported countless NGO’s such as Reef Relief and never ever seemed to shy away from helping others in need whether after Hurricane Irma here in the Keys, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, or the entire Gulf Coast region following the horrific BP oil spill.

And, yep, there he was leading the way at his very last ever Florida show, in Hollywood, Florida this past February, when his final words that night were “stand with Parkland” as a message against the gun violence ravaging our country. Earlier that night he put it, as always, perfectly and simply  by saying “it’s not about politics, it’s about humanity.”  Jimmy Buffett put, as they say, his money where his mouth was and did so for more causes than can be counted and should always be remembered for his passion to help others and our environment.

I’d Rather Die While I’m Living.
Than Live While I’m Dead.

Jimmy Buffett
Growing Older But Not Up, album Coconut Telegraph (1981)














Jimmy Buffett was a living, breathing blueprint of how to live one’s life to the fullest and how to have a positive, multifaceted impact along the way. He was an American institution and inspiration.

While I hope he’s now off performing a perpetual “Labor Day Weekend Show” like he sung about so many years ago, I am trying to make sense of my grief over his passing by thinking about how his life illustrates what we can accomplish during our short time here on earth. It’s an ironic lesson coming from the guy who helped issue the “License to Chill” but his impact is indisputable, and I sure am grateful to have crossed his path and to have my heart filled with his music. More grateful than he could ever possibly know.

Bubbles Up,
They will point you to home,
No matter how deep or far we roam.

Jimmy Buffett
Bubbles Up, album Equal Strain on All Parts (upcoming 2023)

“Bubbles Up” Jimmy and tight lines. May you sail on with the wind at your back forever more. Bravo for a life well lived and loved.

A Coastal Catastrophe

Although the year is only slightly more than half over many of my colleagues in the scientific community are already predicting that there’s a good chance that 2023 may become the hottest year in Earth’s history. Record breaking high temperatures and the duration of that heat has rightfully alarmed people, while also damaging environments all over the planet. And nowhere should those alarms be louder than right here in Florida where we are amidst what could very well be a coastal catastrophe caused by that heat. Heat, I dare say, that is largely fueled by man-kind’s use of fossil fuels.

Miami, where I principally live, experienced over three weeks in a row of Excessive Heat Warnings from the National Weather Service last month (July 2023). The prior record for such warnings were three days. In fact, for 46 scorching hot days (June 11 to July 27) this summer, Miami sizzled under heat index temperatures that topped 100 degrees every afternoon. That broke the prior record (from 2020) of 32 days in a row above 100 degrees. A heavy rainstorm on July 28th ended the streak by producing a downright cool 98-degree day. During those 46 days Miami set 10 daily temperature records, 27 daily heat index records, received its first-ever excessive heat warnings from the National Weather Service, and was subject to 23 days of heat advisories. What did the rest of the planet do during that time frame this summer? Well, it set a new all-time temperature record and then broke it three times.

“This isn’t just Miami in July heat. Miami isn’t just breaking its record heat index values — we’re absolutely obliterating the previous records on a daily basis. Miami is well on its way to recording the hottest year meteorologists have seen in 130 years of keeping weather records. Thanks to climate change, this summer is likely a preview of summers to come.”

NBC 6 Hurricane Specialist, Meteorologist,  John Morales

My friend and fellow CLEO Institute Board Member, NBC 6 Hurricane Specialist John Morales, was widely quoted in recent days as explaining, “This isn’t just Miami in July heat. Miami isn’t just breaking its record heat index values — we’re absolutely obliterating the previous records on a daily basis.” John went on to say that “Miami is well on its way to recording the hottest year meteorologists have seen in 130 years of keeping weather records. Thanks to climate change, this summer is likely a preview of summers to come. This summer should repeat with much greater ease here in South Florida because of the trend of hotter temperatures all around the planet, which is undeniable, and undeniably linked to mankind and our continued burning of fossil fuels”. John, I could not agree (nor thank you for your sensible analysis) more.

As I write this post I am home here on No Name Key in the Florida Keys after a summer of travel to many of America’s iconic western National Parks (you can read a bit about that trip here). Florida, where I live, is a peninsula with 1,350 miles of mainland coastline abutting the Atlantic ocean to our east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west with the waters of Florida Bay to the South. The Florida Keys is a magical chain of about 1,700 islands running from the southern “tip” of Florida’s mainland where Miami, Naples, and the Everglades National Park are located to the west through the Gulf and Ocean waters before culminating in the Dry Tortugas National Park. Needless to say, most of mainland Florida and all of the Florida Keys are surrounded by water and it’s in those coastal waters that the catastrophe I write about today is brewing.

In its July 2023 Marine Heatwave (MHW) discussion post, the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded that in 2023 44% of the global ocean is experiencing a Marine Heatwave. That percentage, 44%, ranks first since such conditions began being measured in 1991. NOAA expects that this figure will grow in the months ahead and that approximately 50% of Earth’s oceans will experience a Marine Heat Wave in September-October of this year. Here’s the MHW data from 1991 when records were first kept through last month (notice that as time passes the temperatures have increased?):


Now closer to home, consider Manatee Bay, a shallow basin just off the southern tip of mainland Florida near Everglades National Park, where a temperature of 100.2 degrees was recorded one night last week only to be followed by a temperature of 101.2 degrees the very next day. In 2010 the temperature there hit triple digits (100 degrees) for the first time and then in 2017 set a record at 102 degrees so last week’s 101.2 reading appears to continue a trend that portrays triple digit temperatures taking place more often. Here are the historic water temperatures from 2004 through last week, 2023 in Manatee Bay.

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But it’s not just Manatee Bay that’s boiling. It’s all the waters around South Florida including the Florida Keys. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  typical water temperatures for the region this time of year should be between 73 degrees and 88 degrees (23 and 31 degrees Celsius), yet they have been averaging about 91 degrees (33 Celsius) in recent weeks, thus much higher than the normal mid-July average of 85 degrees. NOAA and its partner Coral Reef Watch have prepared this excellent graph which displays that sea surface temperatures in the Florida Keys have been well above average for much of 2023:


And it’s not just in Florida that sea temperatures have increased, but this is happening all over the world. Travel up the eastern coast, for example, to Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, places I visited in 2019 as part of a geology expedition, and you will find sea temperatures that are 9 to 11 degrees hotter than is historically normal. One or two degrees would be alarming but 9, 10, 11 degrees portrays a catastrophe. Perhaps of even greater concern is that the worst might be ahead of us in August or September when water temperatures typically peak. In fact, NOAA’s experimental Ocean Heat Wave Forecast tool that I shared earlier in this post now suggests that there is a 70-100% chance that the extreme heat in the North Atlantic will continue through September or even October. And, as noted above, NOAA believes that 50% of Earth’s oceans will experience a Marine Heat Wave in September / October of this year.

So what’s the big deal with a warmer ocean? Well, aside from the dire impact warmer water has by increasing the melting rate of glaciers which, in turn, causes seas to rise, such temperatures also harm animals within the water and can damage or destroy habitats forever. Warmer water houses less oxygen and that can lead to mass fish kills. It can also kill sea grass, especially in shallow beds such as those that are prevalent here in the Florida Keys, that many species rely upon for food and shelter. And warmer water can help algae grow more quickly which, in turn, can lead to algal blooms that cause added environmental damage.

And speaking of the threat to animals, coral for example, is a living, breathing organism that is vital to our marine environment, protecting the mainland, and to our economy. Florida’s coral reefs annually produce billions of dollars in economic benefit from tourism and fishing. They are a vital natural buffer from hurricanes. They are also, of course, habitat for countless marine life on which our ecosystem depends. They are, in short, a critical natural resource and yet, like so much of our natural environment, they are at dire risk of extinction because of mankind’s love affair with fossil fuels and the resulting warming temperatures from those fuel emissions pouring into our atmosphere and oceans.

Coral Bleaching

You see, algae lives (or tries to, temperature permitting) inside the coral and provides coral its color and food. Coral is, however, highly susceptible to higher temperatures which, when present, can lead to what is called bleaching, which is what happens when coral expels the algae due to higher temperatures than the coral can tolerate. It’s a bit like throwing a blanket off yourself in the middle of a warm summer night’s sleep to try and cool down. When coral expels its algae to cool itself, it’s also throwing its food away and, thus, can starve.

Depending on the amount of heat and its duration, some corals can recover from brief bleaching events but as waters increasingly warm and last longer these events can kill the coral. The stark white coral in the picture above and the one below are examples of what bleached coral looks like.


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Up until about 40 years ago bleaching was rarely observed but as our water temperatures have continued to rise from climate change it has become more and more prevalent in recent decades. Certainly what we are seeing this year, both in the temperature and how early bleaching is taking place, is the earliest since satellite records began being used in 1985. Perhaps worse yet is that the warmer waters we would normally expect in August or September appear to be arriving earlier and earlier each year. Higher temperatures combined with longer durations of those higher temperatures are catastrophic for coral. The chart below, also from NOAA / Coral Reef Watch, illustrates stress on coral based both on record high temperatures and setting a record for how early the warming took place.


And what do I see here in the waters off No Name? A lot of dead and dying coral struggling for survival. And snorkeling in the shallow waters around the island in recent weeks is akin to stepping into a hot tub.

“What we found was unimaginable – 100% coral mortality.”

Sadly, others in the region are sharing similarly grave news.

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Consider Sombrero Reef, off of Marathon Key just to my east above the Seven Mile Bridge, where the folks from the Coral Restoration Foundation visited their decade old coral restoration site last week and reported the following: “What we found was unimaginable – 100% coral mortality.” Or consider their coral nursery at Looe Key here in the Lower Keys, a favorite dive spot of mine over the years that’s just a short boat ride from No Name, where the Foundation sadly now reports “We have also lost almost all the corals.”

The news, what with warming oceans and warming lasting longer and longer, is not (to say the least) good. That said, and as dire as this situation is, allow me to end with some positive news… at least as positive as is possible given the threat our coral reefs are facing.

First, if our society will only ever take these threats seriously and quickly transition from using fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, we can very likely overcome the current threat to coral from increased temperatures. But we need to act quickly and demand that our political “leaders” set aside the polluting politics of the past and demand change right NOW. If you are worried about what’s happening and want to play a role in fixing the problem please contact your state and federal representatives and demand action by eliminating fossil fuel use.

Secondly, I am deeply proud to report that scientists, environmentalists, and many other concerned citizens have sprung into action (and into the water) in recent weeks to save as much juvenile coral as possible by moving it into climate-controlled labs or into deeper, cooler water. As rising temperatures threaten our coral populations, a variety of amazing stakeholders including our government, universities, and non-profits have been growing new coral and planting them all along our coast to attempt to replenish dead and dying coral. To save that coral, countless folks are in the water right now trying to protect those “babies” by working literally around the clock as I type these words, as well as working to find ways to temporarily protect as many established reef sites as possible.

If we are to ever save our incredible coral reefs here in South Florida, we will most certainly have science and scientists to thank, so please join me with a HUGE Shout Out to everyone who is in the water and their labs right now trying to avert this brewing coastal catastrophe.

Summer Time 2022

I’ve just finished my first year of graduate school, in this case my first year of law school in a dual degree program at the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy here at the University of Miami where, in the years to come, I hope to earn both my law degree as well as a Ph.D. The last year has been incredibly interesting, fascinating really, but everything you’ve heard about the first year of law school being rigorous is, well, true. Reading hundreds and hundreds of pages of cases and related work every day has led to countless late nights and more than a few occasions where I found myself having fallen asleep on my books, but I’d not trade it for anything in the world. I’ve learned a great deal, made some incredible new friends, and been inspired by my professors.

I’ve also been honored to be selected to join the Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic; organized a wonderfully received symposium on campus related to the Juliana v. United States climate lawsuit and Florida Rule setting goals for 100% renewable energy by 2050 that was led by my friend and Senior Litigation Attorney Andrea Rogers from Our Children’s Trust, who visited from Eugene Oregon; and to top things off no sooner than the school year ended, I learned that I’ve been chosen to attend the Conference of the Parties (COP) 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt this coming November. Thanks so very much to Dr. Jessica Owley and Professor Abigail Fleming for your friendship, inspiration, and dedication to the law, our environment, and, well, me. I am grateful.

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With the arrival of a much needed summer break I have spent the last month away from the law library, books, and computer as much as possible while traveling to some of North America’s truly beautiful places. The start of the summer saw me travel to upstate New York to visit my brother at Cornell University and while there check out the gorgeous nature that surrounds Ithaca, including some of the tallest waterfalls I’ve ever seen. When I typically think of New York I think of New York City, a place where I’ve met some incredible people and done important work over the years, but I am here to say that upstate New York is stunningly beautiful.

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After a quick stop in NYC my next stop was a visit to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia where I drove the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive, hiked on the Appalachian Trail, stayed at the nearly 100-year-old Skyland Lodge, and explored the mysterious Stony Man trail amidst some of the most fabulous rock formations, while being followed for several minutes by the largest deer I’ve ever met. Shenandoah is simply breathtaking, a treasure for sure and my visit there allowed me to check off having visited my 11th of America’s 63 National Parks (one of my life goals is to visit all 63).

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And speaking of National Parks, my next trip was to Congaree National Park in South Carolina, a stop that allowed me to check off number 12 on that loft list of 63 National Parks. Talk about a great way to start my summer! Congaree was once owned by a Chicago logging company and as you kayak through the park’s South Cedar Creek River, as I did early one morning, or hike the Boardwalk trail, as I did one afternoon, you can understand why that would have been the case. The Cyprus, Tupelo, and Loblolly Pine Trees that the park is well known for tower one to nearly two hundred of feet above the forest floor.

The park is a fascinating place for many reasons including the fact that it floods by as much as 12 feet several times during the year and thus much of the habitat is a dense, near swamp like, environment filled with mystery. 1989’s Hurricane Hugo, then the largest natural disaster to hit North America, did an estimated $4 billion in damage in the region and while it thankfully missed most of Charleston to the South, much of the dead remains of its damage can be found in Congaree as once majestic gigantic trees killed by that storm lay decaying amongst their cemetery of the forest floor. Seeing those trees ominously silent in their final resting place three decades after that storm led me to think about the increasing number of devastating hurricanes you and I will face from our global climate change crisis that is warming earth and makes me wonder what special place will next suffer the fate so many in Congaree did in 1989.​


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A few days after my time in South Carolina I enjoyed my first visit to the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Pisgah is comprised of over 500,000 acres and is the home to America’s first School of Forestry, a site I visited while there that includes a wonderful exhibit hall with a large section related to our climate crisis. While there I also enjoyed hiking on a part of the Appalachian Trail, a horseback ride through the mountains, a picnic along the South Mills River next to a rushing waterfall, and exploring the highest elevations of the Blue Ridge Parkway where the views of the surrounding mountains were nothing less than stunning. If you love the pink blooms of wild mountain laurel and endless mountain views in every direction, then the ridges along the top of the Pisgah are for you.


As I write this I am back home on my beloved No Name Key here in the Florida Keys. Like much of North America, the summer temperatures here are high (as are the high tides) but the water over the past week has been glass calm while the Royal Poinciana trees in our yard are in full bloom in a blaze of orange that fills their canopies. Now that I have returned to South Florida I am back to work on a range of important topics including research with my friends at Field School (, progressing my research for my Ph.D., working on the implementation of the energy rules that will allow Florida’s power system to transition to sustainable energy by 2050 and, of course, The Sink or Swim Project’s many initiatives. My studies in recent months, along with the Florida Petition of Rulemaking, kept my schedule full but with the school year behind me I am excited about a summer of work that’s filled with promise and progress including my hope to be able to post more often than was possible during the school year.

I’ve shared some of my early summer adventures with you in hopes that you, too, will get out and enjoy our incredible natural environment. Here’s to hoping you can spend a lazy day floating down a cool river, take a hike off into the woods on an adventurous trail, snorkel amongst a sea of fish friends, enjoy an evening filled with the “fireworks” that only fireflies can provide, or something equally amazing. Our natural environment is endlessly filled with wonder that soothes the soul and is most certainly worth enjoying and protecting forever more, so here’s to you having a fantastic summer and getting outdoors.

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