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Dispatches : Nature

Assessing Hurricane Sandy's Damage to the New Jersey Coast

Seasideheights1-njSeaside Heights. Photo: Google/NOAA

After Hurricane Gloria damaged the New Jersey coast in 1985, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asked the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to estimate the coastal effects of the storm. The state agency wasn’t sure, because they didn’t have an accurate baseline. “I mean, they had some Polaroid pictures, and that was it,” says coastal researcher Dr. Stewart Farrell. “They had no data, no surveys, no map, no nothing.”

Farrell put together a proposal to start surveying the coast, got the go ahead, and founded the Coastal Research Center at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in 1986. He has conducted coastal surveys every spring and fall since. By late October, he was nearing the end of the 2012 fall monitoring. “But Sandy hit,” he says. “Now we’re going back and seeing how much dune and beach are missing, because somebody’s gotta come up with a number for how many cubic yards of sand we’re going to need to fix things.”

Every morning since the hurricane struck, Farrell has driven and walked the coast to survey the damage. That includes weekends. So far, he’s captured Atlantic, Cape May, and Ocean counties. His groundwork will be combined with aerial surveys and computer models that offer a fuller sense of the damage, but even right now the effects of the storm are clear. “It’s the worst event in my career, which goes back to the 1960s,” he says.

We called up Farrell this past Friday afternoon, after he returned from surveying damage in the borough of Avalon, to find out more.

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A YouTube Plea to Clean Up a Santa Cruz Beach Is Answered

On Thursday, November 8, at 9:53 a.m., Dylan Grenier took a camera down to Collins Cove in Santa Cruz, California, and recorded discarded drug paraphenalia, a stash of supplies, trash, and a number of people hanging out and sleeping near that scene. Later in the day, he posted the video to YouTube and asked the city to do a massive clean-up before the big waves arrived and washed the debris onto nearby Cowell's Beach.

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Born to Be Wild

HellyHansen_LerwcikRainJacket_HRWildness is all around. Photo: Katie Arnold

Last week, I was hiking with a friend on a trail in town. We’ve been doing this once a week for two years, and in that time, we’ve developed a system: On the way up, we hike in silence and apart—each at our own pace. Halfway up there’s a granite ledge notched into the side of the mountain, where she sits and meditates while I hike higher before rejoining her for the hike down. The ritual itself is like a meditation. I know what is around every bend, so I’m free to let my nattering thoughts sail off into the air and focus on my breath, the crunch of my footsteps on dusty ground.

On this day, though, I’d been unable to settle into my usual rhythm. The trail seemed too beaten down, too wide and dry, too familiar. It was a dazzling day, the first of November, and freakishly warm. The pine needles were glittering in the sun. It could not have been a prettier, or luckier, day to be outside. But I was bored and restless, craving something less predictable, more remote. I sat down on a rock to try to calm my mind and ground myself in the day. That’s when I saw the fox.

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The Next Generation of Eco Warriors

6a00d83453140969e2017c3322fb44970bLast week, the Earth Island Institute feted six young activists at its annual Brower Youth Awards ceremony in San Francisco. Each year, the organization, founded by climber and firebrand David Brower, honors the country’s next generation of environmental leaders who are using creativity and community to launch grassroots campaigns in everything from water use to land conservation to environmental education.

As part of the non-profit’s New Leadership Initiative, which funds youth-led programs around the country, the BYA solicits hundreds of applicants. Then seven judges, including Energy Action Coalition founder and 2002 BYA awardee Billy Parrish, winnows them down to six. Winners receive $3,000 and get to participate in a week of environmental conferences and leadership training. This year’s recipients are an impressive lot, as always proving that age shouldn’t be a barrier for making positive change.

Jacob Glass, 21, backpacked through the remote Scotchman Peaks on the border on Montana and Idaho to shoot the documentary En Plein Air. The film shadows a pair of artists as they camp and paint their way through the rugged backcountry, one of the last and largest wild tracts in the northern Rockies. “Life’s simpler and harder out here,” says one of the painters. It’s that juxtaposition—and the juxtaposition of art and wilderness—that propelled the film to nationwide attention. It also highlights the efforts of local conservationists to secure federal wilderness protection for the Scotchman Peaks.

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Dr. Ralph Ternier Talks From Haiti About Sandy and Cholera

700805main_20121026_Sandy-NPP_fullSandy passing west of Hispaniola. Photo: NASA Goddard

Hurricane Sandy did not hit Haiti directly. It passed to the west, crossing over Cuba. Even so, it dropped roughly 20 inches of rain on the southern part of the island, where decades of deforestation and erosion led to increasingly swollen rivers and flooding that devastated low-lying communities, destroyed crops, and caused more than 50 deaths—the highest number of fatalities in the Caribbean.

The country is still reeling from the 2010 earthquake. More than 350,000 people live in refugee camps that are little more than tents. The leading causes of death are HIV, tuberculosis, and cholera—a disease that came into the country with relief workers and has infected more than 600,000 and killed more than 7,500 people. Even before the quake, the per capita income was less than $2 a day.

Sandy damaged 18,000 homes. The U.N. estimates that the hurricane's effects, combined with a drought that hit the country earlier in the year, could leave more than two million people hungry. As a result, the Haitian government and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. have asked for $74 million in aid. “Whatever was left of a potential harvest is gone,” said Johan Peleman, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs . “Even the banana harvests seem to be gone.”

In addition, people in the flooded refugee camps and southern villages have been left more vulnerable to cholera, a waterborne disease. To find out what is happening on the ground, we called Dr. Ralph Ternier.

Ternier grew up in Haiti, and always wanted to be a doctor. He graduated with a medical degree from the State University Medical School in 2002, became the director of an HIV, tuberculosis, and STD clinic in 2003, and helped hundreds of Haitians return to their homes after the 2010 earthquake. Now he works as the director of community care and support for the health care non-profit, Zanmi Lasante/Partners In Health in Haiti, a position he views as destiny. “I always wanted also to work in public health. I never thought I would work in private,” he says. “I would say that I am in the right place and the right time.”

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