Category Archives: Florida Keys

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.

The Shameful Price of Saving Paradise

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As America ended last week by considering how to celebrate the 4th of July amidst the continued COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its initial plan to address one aspect of another crisis: rising sea levels from climate change that threatens Monroe County, home of what’s been called the American Caribbean, our precious and fragile Florida Keys. The Keys are at the very real risk of disappearing over the next few decades due to sea level rise principally caused by the world’s use of fossil fuels. The damage has already begun and local leaders are desperately looking for options to save the region.

You can read more about the it here but the Army Corp’s initial $5.5 billion plan includes:

  1. Raising and strengthening six areas of highway U.S. 1, the only road from the mainland to Key West.
  2. Raising the elevation of 7,300 existing homes.
  3. Flood-proofing 3,800 buildings.
  4. Using eminent domain laws to have the government take (purchase) and then destroy 300 homes.
  5. Retreating from certain areas where maintaining roads and other infrastructure is deemed too costly and thus allowing climate change induced sea rise to claim those properties.

The plan is both costly (initial estimates being $ 5.5 billion) and controversial. Local leaders have already expressed an unwillingness to invoke eminent domain laws to take people’s homes (the government would buy them for fair market value) and has asked for a waiver from this requirement to make it voluntary. Government officials and property owners alike are faced with what will surely be gut wrenching decisions over renovating or selling and destroying one’s home or business and being forced to abandon past memories, much less future dreams in the process. It’s all just tragic and it’s happening because of our society’s use of fossil fuels over the past 120 or so years.

And the worst part of all of this is that the insane costs like these initial estimates for Monroe County, costs that will borne all over our society, much less people’s pain, can largely be avoided if we become serious about quickly transitioning away from fossil fuel use by embracing sustainable energy everywhere. Not 50 or 100 years from now but today. This year. This decade. Now!

If we can, as a nation, decide to place men on the moon as happened in less than a decade in the 1960’s, then we can surely take the world by the hand by transitioning to sustainable energy today just like we did into outer space. If we truly want to avoid those costs and that pain, it is absolutely possible to avoid the worst of the sea level rise if only we were to be serious about solving this crisis. If only.

Those that fight that transition, the businesses that cause or protect fossil fuel consumption, or capitulate until it’s too late to save places we love and need will have that “blood” on their hands for not having had the foresight to foster and demand the necessary changes today. No, not mitigation measures such as raising roads and buildings, or destroying property the sea renders useless, but actually eliminating the core issue that’s causing the problem: fossil fuel use.

Allowing those that produce fossil fuel products (cars and gasoline) or use them as utilities (gas and coal) or protect them (fossil fuel oriented business leaders, lobbyists and politicians) to drag their feet and fight the required transition will only escalate the cost our society will bear and the pain and suffering people will be subjected to and that’s a solid shame.

Damage Versus Devastation: “Hurricane Irma Left My 82 Year Old Neighbor Homeless. You Can Help.”

Between her winds and the flooding from her storm surge Hurricane Irma did a lot of damage here in Miami but what happened in the lower Florida Keys is the difference between damage and devastation. That’s especially true between Mile Markers 10 and 40, an area spanning places like Cudjoe, Summerland, Ramrod, the Torches, Big Pine and No Name Key, where the devastation has cost many people their homes, businesses, treasured possessions hopes and dreams.

The Old Wooden Bridge Marina building, for example, that long sat on the edge of the bridge to No Name Key has simply disappeared. It’s gone. The land it sat on is empty today of everything but rocks and gravel not because of some post-storm clean-up but because Irma made it disappear. There was a two story building, bait tank, fuel tank and much more here but this is it looks like today after Irma’s visit.

IMG_5583Irma made a lot of things on and around No Name Key disappear or left them so horrifically destroyed that they will need to be completely replaced and rebuilt which  brings me to the reason for today’s blog.

Bruce Turkel is one of the world’s leading experts on business and branding but I know him as a long time neighbor and friend here on No Name Key. Bruce is a renowned public speaker and writes a popular blog ( and today he shared the story of another neighbor of ours, 82 year old retired firefighter Bob Eaken, that I want to share with you.

Mr. Eaken has lived on No Name longer than anyone.

In fact, he helped develop the place by digging (dredging) the island’s canal system, as well as building several of the homes on No Name. He has lived on No Name for decades, raised his family there and has a long history of helping others on the island but today he very much needs us to help him because his home looks like this as a result of Hurricane Irma:

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So with the devastation that engulfs our region of the Lower Keys in mind, I am pleased to publish this guest blog from Bruce and hope that you will both consider making a donation and sharing Mr. Eaken’s story on your own social media so that we can quickly rebuild his home and life here on No Name Key.


Turkel Brands

Constructive Commentary on Building Brand Value

Hurricane Irma left my 82-year old

neighbor homeless. You can help.


My wife and I have a house on No Name Key in the Florida Keys. We live in a very small neighborhood of about eight houses, surrounded by acres of state and federal wildlife preserve land.

No Name Key is at MM 32, directly east of Big Pine Key. You might recognize that name. It was Ground Zero when Hurricane Irma made landfall and destroyed our community. No Name Key used to be a paradise. Now it looks like war zone. The extent of the destruction is hard to believe.

Help Bob Eaken Rebuild

Our good neighbor Bob Eaken lived at the end of our island. His home was perched on an incredible expanse of open bay and a view of the water and the small islands that dot the horizon. But that was before Hurricane Irma blew off Bob’s roof and his entire top floor. The possessions that Bob accumulated over 82 years are now spread in a giant debris field that fans out over a half mile into the “protected” mangroves behind what’s left of his house. Bob has nowhere to sleep, nowhere to live, and doesn’t even have a stairway to get up to the first floor that’s precariously perched on concrete stilts 12 feet above the wreckage-strewn ground.

Let’s Help Bob Eaken Rebuild

Imagine an 82-year old man climbing a ladder to even get into what little remains of his home. Funny thing is Bob knows all about ladders — he’s a retired firefighter who dedicated his life to saving others in danger.

Luckily Bob evacuated to Miami to weather the storm with us. When we were permitted back on the island and returned with him last Sunday, we gathered up his entire life (or what’s left of it) into five soggy garbage bags.

Why Bob’s story is so interesting is that he single handedly built our “Island’s End” community over 30 years ago. Bob was a Ft. Lauderdale firefighter at the time and would drive down on weekends to carve his dream out of the mangroves. Bob dredged the canal, cleared the roads, and built four or five of the houses in the neighborhood. Up until this disaster, Bob was still hoping on and off his boat, scampering up and down his stairs (now gone), and doing maintenance on his own house as well as all of his neighbors’ homes. You and I should be lucky enough to be in the shape Bob’s in when we’re his age.

Now Bob is hoping for some FEMA money and a trailer so he has a place to live while he tries to rebuild his home from the sad and soggy wreck it is post-Irma. But I’m convinced that Bob is the kind of guy that everyone will want to help. Besides FEMA, firefighter organizations, and a generous public would want to help Bob too if they just knew his story. I’m also convinced that Bob’s story is a great tale of American ingenuity, a can-do attitude, and the indomitable spirit that can inspire so many of us. Telling Bob’s story and rebuilding his house will go a long way to help ease some of the pain people are feeling.

Estimates are that it will take between $100,000 and $200,000 to rebuild Bob’s home. We already have a contractor who is working at below cost and scores of neighbors who are providing the labor to clear the wreckage from Bob’s life. Now we need money for supplies, heavy equipment, and skilled craftspeople. Our plan is to have use the funds you donate to reimburse the tradespeople and to pay for the materials we purchase to repair Bob’s home.

We’ve set up a Go Fund Me. At the time this article was published, we’ve raised $7,200 to help Bob. But we need more. If you’d like to help, please direct your browser HERE to see the site and donate. You can also help by sharing this story everywhere you can. Text and email it to your friends, post it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or anywhere else people can find it. Let your friends and family know that if they want to help a real person instead of simply donating to a nameless, faceless charity, this is a great opportunity to make a real difference.

Bob’s story really illustrates the damage the storm did to our lives and our psyches. I believe your generoisty will go a long way to helping a very deserving neighbor rebuild his home AND his life.

I hope you do, too. Please click HERE to help Bob rebuild.

Thank you.

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