What can we do about Global Warming in Indian River County? Start by asking, what could county look like in 50 years?

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
May 2011

Global warming brings some dire predictions — sea level rising, frequent and stronger hurricanes and major beach erosion are just some of them.  Our ultimate human survival and all life on this planet as we know it today requires us in Indian River County use our ingenuity to immediately work together to solve our problems and achieve global sustainability.  There is much we can do in our county to reduce pollution from greenhouse gas emissions, find some new carbon neutral energy resources, and thus curb global warming. We must mitigate and adapt so we can create an environment where we all thrive.

Limpkin by Richard H. Baker.

If we have a vision for our future, we can see a path through the next 50 years in Indian River County. These 50 years may be the most important time period in the history of life on Earth.  What I envision seeing in 2061: 

  1. Water: All water is recycled so that everyone has sufficient water to survive well.  All houses and businesses have cisterns to capture the 50 inches of rain for drinking, bathing, and cooking. Native plants requiring no irrigation become standard landscaping. All buildings have composting and/or waterless toilets.
  2. Education: People are aware that they are an integral part of the living ecosystems and can affect the earth, air and water around them. Our planet is on the road to recovery as we’ve changed many factors humans did to induce climate change.  All students are educated to understand the world challenges and direct their talents for the benefit of all humanity. Students learn basic nutritious cooking, building energy efficient homes and temporary shelters with solar heated swimming pools, and basic nature and survival skills.  College students spend a year abroad as Global Citizens to get a greater appreciation of others’ concerns and situations.  Compassion trumps consumption, justice triumphs greed, community values prevail over narrower self-interest, and cooperation prevails over competition. Still everyone strives to achieve excellence and recognition utilizing their full potential. Since all the world’s women are educated, the population has stabilized and we’ve learned to have a thriving economy by better utilizing everyone’s talents and the world’s resources fairly.
  3. Energy producing & efficient homes:  Houses and vehicles are highly efficient, lightweight, and inexpensive with nanoengineered (the redesign of matter at the atomic level) solar panels collecting our sunlight that will store the energy in tiny, massively distributed nanoengineered fuel cells.  Windows have a transparent liquid to block heat when sunlight comes in avoiding the need for more air conditioning. Advanced battery storage systems save energy for rainy days. Efficient light bulbs that turn off without motion and turn on when one walks into a room or drives down a private or public road or street. Key breakthroughs in food production have just occurred where scientists have learned how to mimic the energy-chemistry of green plants, which converts carbon dioxide and water in the presence of sunlight to oxygen and sugar (energy).
  4. Transportation: All parking lots, public and private (Publix, Wal-Mart, Indian River mall, etc.) are covered with solar panels and have battery-charging outlets for vehicles.  On our coast we also harvest energy from waves and tides, unseen to us. Hybrid hydrogen/electric cars have greatly changed the energy consumption landscape. The concept of driving to work is past and thus there is less traffic on the roads.  Many folks work only 5 hours a day and much of it will be done at home.  Efficient public transportation takes us to restaurants, libraries, schools, shopping; a system based on the use of magnetic levitation tracks.  New housing built from recycled gas guzzling vehicles are clustered around existing schools eliminating most student busing.  Commuters and students use their cell phones to request a reroute of mass transportation to pick them up if needed.  School buses are relics of the past.
  5. Health: The genomes of most species of plants and animals including humans are known as well as their diseases and so we can preserve many extinct species and improve our food and fiber productions. Cloning our ancestors, and even ourselves, was originally popular, but they really will not be us, as even identical twins are not the same person.  It is more popular to be a unique person in terms of looks and personality.
  6. Agriculture: The larger agricultural areas are producing energy crops.  Unproductive lands have been returned to wetlands and woodlands for our wildlife, for water storage and for carbon storage or sequestration.  Farmers reduce water consumption by irrigating more efficiently and planting crops suited to our climate.  Computers provide more precise real-time data on rainfall and evapotranspiration and other factors in their management decisions. Scientific advances to increase organic crops and livestock farming keep our agriculture flourishing and our children healthy.  Many crops, even rice production, are engineered to grow under drought conditions.  Hydroponic gardening will be common on farms and households. Single crop farming of only one major crop like citrus is discouraged. Most of our meat comes from locally produced, humanely treated livestock.
  7. Community Gardens:  Our former citrus groves within our urban service areas are now private and public community gardens where citizens are now producing locally available, less expensive and more diverse fresh foods for our consumption just a walk or bicycle ride away. Much more fun than a treadmill.
  8. A Plan: Ecological economics provides the major accounting system to guide our progress towards sustainable development, to assess our progress in meeting environmental and energy challenges.  Satellite-based land-use studies provide an effective Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) protecting our beaches, lagoon and other key conservation areas. The HCP provides corridors for wildlife as well as agriculture lands. All backyards are interconnected and managed to insure corridors to our conservation areas for our wildlife, connecting the Indian River Lagoon out to Blue Cypress Lake area. It will be nice to be amongst nature, now found to be essential to our health and wellbeing. Our city and yards are green with carbon-absorbing trees, plants and grasses that can be turned into a biofuel to turn us into a true garden city reducing the temperature. All beach and lagoon homes took advantage of federal coastal insurance and have been set back from the water’s edge, thereby lessening the danger of raising sea levels and hurricanes to remaining dwellings. All “garbage” is recycled including past garbage dumps. 
  9. Environment: Our ocean is blue again and the lagoon clear. There is no trash on the beach as boaters and ships are recycling all garbage.  Folks can again swim and bathe in the lagoon and ocean. We have protected our fish nurseries in the Indian River Lagoon by greatly reducing dredge and fill projects and pollution from drainage canals, agriculture, residential, and roads and street runoff to the west all the way to the Blue Cypress Marsh.  In the lagoon, there is a come back of snook, spotted seatrout, red drum, tarpon, and other fish species both for sport fishing and food. Healthy fish, like tuna and swordfish, are easily caught and safe to eat.  Our manatees, dolphins, and turtles are disease free.  Eatable fish are also grown in our ponds.

Paradise maintained… a very rosy and hopeful vision.  We don’t have to wait for government or someone else. Change begins with each one of us. Let’s begin!

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