All posts tagged: Florida

House Panel Considers Ban on Killing Dogs and Cats for Meals

  • Pet-slaughter prohibitions would be be extended nationwide
  • Dog-and-cat eating rare in U.S., angers animal-welfare groups

Making a meal out of a dog or a cat may soon land you in jail.

An amendment added Wednesday to a farm bill that was approved by the House Agriculture Committee would bar people from "knowingly slaughtering a dog or cat for human consumption," as well as transporting or participating in other commercial activity related to eating pet meat.

Dog and cat slaughter is extremely rare in the U.S. and already prohibited in commercial slaughterhouses. But consumption of animals commonly considered as pets and companions in American culture still takes place among some immigrant groups. Only a handful of states, including New York, New Jersey and California, ban such small-scale butchering.

Violators would be subject to up to a year of imprisonment, a fine, or both. The proposal would be part of a reauthorization of Agriculture Department programs.

Organizations including the Humane Society of the United States have been crusading against dog-and-cat slaughter worldwide, with acting President Kitty Block calling the farm bill an "ideal vehicle" for advancing the ban. The amendment by Republican Representative Jeff Denham of California is similar to a bill introduced by Democratic Representative Alcee Hastings of Florida that has 239 co-sponsors.

The $867 billion farm bill approved by the House Agriculture panel would reauthorize all U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, including farm subsidies and food stamps. A new law is due by Sept. 30, when existing programs begin to expire. The Senate Agriculture Committee has yet to consider a proposal.

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Students return to school after Parkland shooting with help from some therapy dogs

Two weeks have passed since a deadly mass shooting killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the resilient students and faculty are beginning to come back to their classrooms.

The return comes after several tough days spent organizing to fight for increased gun control and mourning the teenagers, football coach, and athletic director who lost their lives during the tragedy.

In wake of the traumatic event, the school’s principal, Ty Thompson, thought some therapy dogs would help provide extra comfort upon return, and the photographs are pretty precious.

Thompson’s been very active on Twitter sharing updates and encouragement in the days following the shooting. 

He was sure to post photos of the first days back in February, inculding several of faculty members cuddling the therapy dogs, and one of students smiling with a dog in class. He explained that the dogs have been “a major source of healing.”

Nine of the dogs are from Lutheran Church Charities in Illinois and have reportedly been a big hit with the students. Some students showed their love for the dogs on social media, sharing photographs and thanks.

In fact, the pups were such a big hit that Thompson invited them back, increasing the number so more students could benefit from the animals.

The official Instagram account for Humane Broward’s Animal Assisted Therapy also shared several photos of students smiling with the animals, explaining the dogs “participated in classes all day, made lots of new friends and provided unconditional love and comfort.”

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Paul Bocuse, French Chef Who Became Cultural Star, Dies at 91

Paul Bocuse, who became one of the 20th century’s most influential chefs by building on the traditions of French haute cuisine with a distinctive style that emphasized simplicity and freshness, has died. He was 91.

He died Saturday at Collonges-au-Mont-d’or, the Associated Press said, citing a statement from French President Emmanuel Macron. Bocuse had Parkinson’s disease.

In lending his name and advice to restaurants around the world, Bocuse fashioned a template followed by chefs such as Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon and Gordon Ramsay.
Bocuse “started things for this modern era of the chef as cultural star,” Michael Ruhlman wrote in “The Reach of a Chef,” his 2006 book. “Bocuse was really the first to play to the media and begin to elevate the chef’s standing toward what it is today.’

Yet he never lost touch with his roots, retaining three Michelin stars for more than four decades at his flagship establishment near his birthplace outside Lyon, France. Still on the menu is his most famous dish, Black Truffle Soup V.G.E.

He opened a chain of eateries, Les Brasseries Bocuse, across France. Not content with being a star at home, he traveled the world, lending his name to restaurants from Florida to Hong Kong, and acting as an ambassador for French cooking. He set up a scholarship with the Culinary Institute of America and founded the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest as well as an institute for culinary arts. He was also the author of several cookbooks, including La Cuisine du Marche, in 1980.

Bocuse said that he hadn’t revolutionized French cooking, only simplified it after a period marked by “the heavy meals and the rich sauces of the Escoffier school,” according to a 1972 article in the New York Times.

“First-rate raw materials are the very foundation of good cooking,” he said. “Give the greatest cook in the world second-rate materials and the best he can produce from them is second-rate food.”

Bocuse was born into a family of restaurateurs on Feb. 11, 1926, at Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, in eastern France, where the main food market is named after him. It was there that he shopped for produce from local characters such as the cheese maker Mere Richard and the pork butchers Colette Sibilia and Gast. His ancestors had been known for their cooking as far back as in 1765.

He went to work in 1942 in a restaurant in Lyon. In 1944, he enlisted in the First French Division and, in World War II combat, was shot in Alsace, where he received transfusions in an American field hospital. In later decades, especially as he became popular in the U.S., he enjoyed pointing out that he had American blood in him.

In 1948, he began work under chef Fernand Point, whose reliance on the freshest products available each day shaped Bocuse’s views.
In 1959, Bocuse saved the family restaurant from ruin and made L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges Restaurant Paul Bocuse a dining destination. It is there that you can still order Soupe aux Truffes Noires V.G.E., which Bocuse created in 1975 for then-President Valery Giscard d’Estaing at an Elysee Palace banquet.
In 1966, a year after winning his third Michelin star, Bocuse succeeded in buying back his great-grandparents’ old restaurant and placing it under the family wing. He named it the Abbaye de Collonges.
Bocuse was named a knight in the French Legion of Honor in 1975, and a commander in 2004.
He was married for more than 60 years to Raymonde, but unashamedly kept two long-term mistresses and enjoyed other liaisons, according to an interview in the Daily Telegraph.
“It would not be everyone’s idea of married life, but everyone gets on,” the newspaper quoted him as saying in 2005. “They are all happy, with me and with each other, and if I add up the time we have spent together as couples, it comes to 145 years.”
“These days I feel best surrounded by nature, beside my lake, with my dogs and friends,” Bocuse said in the interview at Collonges. “I regret nothing, save perhaps the pain I may have given the women of my life. I hope they will forgive me.”

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    The Archaeologists Saving Miami’s History From the Sea

    This story originally appeared on CityLab and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

    When Hurricane Irma sprinted toward Miami-Dade County, Jeff Ransom couldn’t sleep. He wasn’t just worried about gusts shattering windows, or sheets of rain drowning the highway—that’s far from unusual near his home in Broward County, where extreme weather verges on routine, and patches of U.S. 1 are regularly submerged.

    Ransom, the county archaeologist, was preoccupied with an oak tree and its 350-year-old roots. If the tree capsized with enough intensity, he worried, the flailing roots could dislodge human remains.

    On a blazing blue morning in early November, weeks after the storm, we trek to the site of the Tequesta Native American burial mound that kept Ransom awake.

    “All night long, I was just thinking about that oak tree flipping over,” he says. “The big roots are growing right into the burial mound. That would’ve just blown human bone everywhere.”

    Irma’s winds shaved canopies off the trees at the Deering Estate, a historic homestead that contains the burial mound and other fossil sites and is managed by the Miami-Dade County department of Parks, Recreation and Open Space. Under those bald branches, growth was rapid as vines and chutes—nourished by seaweed deposits—scrambled for sunlight. The result has been a second spring: bright, young leaves, greedy for purchase among the gumbo-limbo and strangler figs. Ransom knocks a path for us with a machete, which he carries slung in a holster. Two thwacks splinter the Brazilian pepper branches—but that’s only because the machete is dull, he tells me. Usually, a single smack is enough to slice straight through, like butter.

    Jeff Ransom, the county archaeologist, keeps close tabs on sites that could be susceptible to rising water.
    Jessica Leigh Hester/CityLab

    Ransom is 52, with a GI Joe jawbone and black aviator sunglasses. At one point, these vanish into the carpet of leaf litter, gone shaggier since the storm, and Ransom spends a few minutes poking around for them beneath the slashed fronds before remembering that he has a nearly identical backup pair.

    The burial ground was—is—fine. The oak’s trunk is sturdy and thick; the roots are sunk deep into the soil. We sit for a moment on benches nearby, guzzling water in the shade while Ransom uses his machete’s blunted edge to scrape burrs off his pants and shoes.

    The storm didn’t bear down on the city with all its might: In general, Southeast Florida was spared the breadth of damage that forecasters had conjured. A half-mile of mangroves buffered the Cutler Midden, another archeological site on the Deering Estate, against damage wrought by crashing waves. Ancient shell tools and pottery fragments survived intact.

    Irma could have bitten harder. But in isolated pockets, the storm was ravenous. We pass fragments of a historic boardwalk, which the archaeologists had laboriously documented and annotated. The structure “had been chunked up” in the storm, explains Mallory Fenn, the public archaeology coordinator at the Southeast/Southwest Florida branch of the Florida Public Archaeology Network. The network is a project of the University of West Florida; the Southeast/Southwest division operates out of Florida Atlantic University.

    Fenn’s earrings are made from gator teeth, and the boardwalk looks masticated and spit out, its component parts hardly visible. An orange-and-white barrier marches across the crumpled walkway, as if it wasn’t patently clear that there’s trouble ahead.

    Before I fly down to Miami to trail her and Ransom through the swamp, Sara Ayers-Rigsby sends me a packing list. Ayers-Rigsby is the Southeast/Southwest regional director of FPAN, and the trunk of her car is stocked with supplies, from bug netting to single-serving bags of pretzels. She’ll have ample bug spray and sunscreen to share, she writes, but I’ll want to wear long sleeves on my arms and legs, and the most waterproof boots I’ve got. We’ll be wading into the height of the king tides; the water might rise up to our knees. Heat and mugginess can have a scrambling effect. Ayers-Rigsby later describes it as “brain-meltingly hot.”

    “The weather in south Florida is inhospitable,” she warns.

    Writ broadly, that’s precisely the problem. Numerous projections forecast a future of extreme weather and persistent flooding that is incompatible with many elements of life as it’s known on the peninsula. Of all of the U.S. states, Florida is the most vulnerable to sea-level rise, and Miami-Dade is at particular risk.

    As the plane drifts toward descent, water is everywhere: in green-blue pools that reach for the horizon, in mud-colored eddies, in staid intercoastals studded with white yachts. From the air, many of these basins look overfull, ready to spill with the slightest topoff.

    Sooner or later, the water will swallow the shoreline. When it comes to the magnitude, severity, and timetable, there are shades and gradations of apocalyptic hues. In 2015, a working group comprised of officials from across Southeast Florida set out to get on the same page about the threats and to strategize about mitigation efforts. Their projection draws from local tide measurements and is aligned with estimates from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). By 2030, they anticipate a sea-level rise of 6 to 10 inches from a 1992 baseline; they predict a rise of up to 26 inches by 2060, and 61 inches by 2100.

    Even if the water doesn’t crawl quite that high, damage could still be widespread and devastating. Twenty-five percent of land in Miami-Dade County sits less than three feet above current sea level, according to the World Resources Institute. Ten percent is less than a foot away from being flush with the sea.

    And if water does splash to the maximum level, the results could be cataclysmic. In a recent report, the real estate company Zillow estimated that, if the sea level were to rise by six feet, 24 percent of Miami’s housing stock would be drenched.

    “You can’t wrap an archeological site in bubble wrap and put it on a high shelf.”

    Troublingly for Ransom and Ayers-Rigsby, a sea-level rise of just half that height could destroy as many as 16,095 archaeological sites across the state. As the terrain goes soggier or washes away, how do you protect objects embedded in it?

    “You can’t wrap an archeological site in bubble wrap and put it on a high shelf,” Ayers-Rigsby told me via phone soon before Irma swept past. Some sites can be stabilized or buffered with mangroves or oyster beds, but when it comes to safeguarding them from pummeling rain or surging waves of a hurricane-strength storm, options are limited. “Other than building a massive construction around it,” Ayers-Rigsby said, “there’s not that much you can do.”

    Among officials in Miami-Dade, “there’s no sugar coating or backtracking” about the threat of climate change, Ransom tells me. Its consequences play out in real time, in flooded streets and waterlogged basements, and voters throw their weight behind mitigation efforts at the polls. After his landslide victory in this month’s elections, the incoming City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told the local ABC affiliate that “Miami should be and must be the most resilient city in the world.” That same day, voters approved a bond measure that directed $192 million to pumps, walls, drains, and other projects to keep the city drier. Meanwhile, Ransom, Ayers-Rigsby, and their colleagues work to keep thousands of years of history from being lost to the sea.

    If you wonder what archaeology Florida can boast of, you’d hardly be the first. In a carpool from the airport, I told two Australian businessmen what had brought me to the city. They cocked their heads. Miami, to them, evoked beaches, surgically altered bodies, and hefty Cuban sandwiches. What else was there?

    I recount this to Ayers-Rigsby while we sit on a choked concrete freeway, inching from Fort Lauderdale to Biscayne Bay. She groans and slumps her head toward the steering wheel. Ayers-Rigsby, 34, relocated to Florida from the Mid-Atlantic, and is now somewhat evangelical about the region’s overlooked merits. Around her neck, she wears a pendant with the state’s silhouette.

    Ayers-Rigsby measuring the water level at a midden.
    Jessica Leigh Hester/CityLab

    For as long as people and creatures have inhabited present-day Florida, they’ve been shedding traces of their lives. Fenn says the flitting snowbirds and rotating crop of transplants can be afflicted with a virulent case of historical amnesia. But the scattered sites testify to millennia before the shores were dotted with high-rises fashioned from glass and steel.

    The Cutler Fossil is a watering hole into which all manner of Pleistocene beasts toppled. Sandwiched between the limestone layers of the sinkhole, some 16 feet above the current sea level of the nearby Biscayne Bay, were bones of dire wolfs, mastodons, camels, llamas, saber-toothed tigers, and the American lion. Though the site is protected, the city has sprawled around it in the intervening 10,000 years. Looking down into the ancient pit from the ridge, you can hear the rumble of nearby cars. But the site is hidden and sheltered from the road and the water, protected by its isolation and its elevation.

    The south portion of the Deering Estate contains prehistoric fossil sites.
    Jessica Leigh Hester/CityLab

    Other sites sit more uneasily with the present. In the late 1990s, archaeologists discovered a circle of post holes cut into the limestone bedrock at the mouth of the Miami River. Carbon dating of wood fragments helped identify the site as the home of a structure built nearly 2,000 years ago by the Tequesta Indians. “People have been partying in Miami for thousands of years,” Fenn jokes, as she shows me around the site. Archaeologists, Native activists, and a galvanized public sparred with a developer, who had purchased the property as the future site of luxury condos. (A flurry of controversy swirled at the time, when some scholars wondered whether the pattern was, more simply, the drain site for a septic system. Archaeology magazine solicited input from other archaeologists, scholars, and a master septic tank contractor, the latter of whom summarily dismissed the possibility.)

    The Miami Circle was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2009. Today, the site is a grassy expanse shaded by towering condos and hotels that have sprung up around it, overlooking cruise ships and cargo freight lumbering in the distance. It’s a rare green space in a vertiginous corner of the city—and that means it sometimes becomes a place for dogs to lift their legs. A fluffy white dog squats nearby as Fenn describes working on an archaeological site just across the narrow river, where archaeologists unearthed additional Tequesta artifacts in 2014 in the prospective footprint of a massive mixed-use development. These excavations are a trippy mash-up of the ancient and the dizzyingly modern. “When you look down, you think it’s the 1850s, with a sifter and a trowel,” she says. “Then you look up and see skyscrapers, and the Metromover going by.”

    During Irma, water breached the walls just below the Miami Circle site. It rushed onto the grass, carrying palm fronds washed in from the river. Fenn, who lives nearby, “ran out pretty much the second we were allowed to be outside” to check in on it. The water soon receded, leaving no apparent damage. This particular spot, loaded with infill, has been shored up to withstand exactly this type of barrage.

    Other sites, which lack these preventive measures, are more vulnerable. But studying them can reveal important data about the rising sea—and how long scholars have to hatch a plan.

    Ransom and Ayers-Rigsby pick through a dense thicket and a floor carpeted with spiky bromeliads. They know what they’re looking for—orange-capped rebar that they sunk into the bank of the Oleta River—but Irma blew down the trees onto which they’d tied yellow ribbon to help them identify the sites at a distance. Those orange markers have been coated with dirt.

    This squishy portion of the riverbank is the site of a prehistoric midden, containing traces of shell tools, pottery, and other daily items that would have been used by Native American tribes who lived on the shore.

    “If any site is going to erode, it’s going to be this one,” Ransom says, sloshing through the muck.

    The midden, or ancient trash heap, is nearly flush with the water level, which makes this site an ideal candidate for tracking inundation and water rise before and after storm events and king tides. By obtaining a baseline measurement and a set of comparisons, the archaeologists can document both accumulation and erosion—noting which events seem to pile more sediment on the top of the site, and which strip it, ultimately threatening to haul the artifacts out to sea.

    The notion of using this area as a proxy for fluctuations in the water level dates back decades. In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, when he was working as the country archeologist, Robert Carr found evidence of ancient charcoal buried about two feet below the surface. Since a fire needs to be dry, Carr reasoned that that portion of the site was once above water. At the time, climate change “certainly wasn’t on anybody’s radar” in the archaeology community, he tells me via phone. There was “no particular movement or focus going on.” Carr advocated for using soil inundation, radiocarbon dating, and water levels as firm evidence for past and future variations. His work laid the foundation for what Ransom and Ayers-Rigby are doing.

    On a recent afternoon, the mangrove roots are flecked with odd pieces of very modern garbage: foggy glass bottles, a boogie board speckled with barnacles, a black DVD case, a wrinkled bag of Ruffles chips. These aren’t the signs of someone sneaking in to use the forest as a dump, Ayers-Rigsby says—the refuse has been carried in on waves.

    Distinctively modern trash is a hallmark of water inundating the shore.
    Jessica Leigh Hester/CityLab

    She and Ransom slog through the sucking mud, brushing biting ants from their backs and shoulders, to measure the distance from the rebar to the water line. They jot down the measurements in a yellow notebook, its pages warped by wetness. In some spots, the sediment is piled higher than it was the last time they measured, before Irma blew in. That accumulation suggests that the water level breached a good chunk of the shoreline during the storm, Ransom says.

    Carr explains that’s not unequivocally dangerous—there’s not yet sufficient clarity about whether inundation is an impediment to preserving sites in the same way that erosion is. Conceivably, he says, a site “could be better preserved underwater than it is above ground, if sea-level rise is gradual, not a result of pounding waves hitting shoreline and tearing up and removing soils.”

    Through her work at FPAN, Ayers-Rigsby has also helped recruit a team of citizen scientists to fan out across the state and conduct regular monitoring of at-risk sites. Inspired by a U.K. program, Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk, the Heritage Monitoring Scouts, a brigade more than 200 people strong, survey publicly accessible sites—not the more sensitive ones, like unmarked burial grounds—and upload their impressions onto a website form. They look out for signs of flooding, erosion, or wave action, or any artifacts that may have been dredged to the surface, and flag any places that need urgent attention.

    Sixty-two-year-old volunteer Paula Streeter surveys the shell midden on Calusa Island, a dot of land off the state’s southwest coast once inhabited by Calusa Indians. Streeter has a wide-ranging background—her resume includes “a zillion, million, trillion things,” she tells me via phone. Since retiring from the city clerk’s office, she’s begun assisting archaeologists. “I only started this,” she says via phone. “It was the most amazing thing in my life, and it only happened two years ago.”

    Already, the Calusa shoreline is being eaten by waves and wind action, Streeter says. Artifacts are surfacing in the midden, relics of the tribe’s use of shells for tools and weapons—but the average beachgoer might not notice them. “If you’ve been trained, you know that’s an ancient form of a hammer made from a whelk shell or a horse conch,” Streeter says.

    Paula Streeter volunteers with the Heritage Monitoring Scouts, a program to keep tabs on Florida’s at-risk archaeological sites.
    Courtesy of Paula Streeter

    The Calusa Island site is only accessible via boat or kayak—“you can’t just zip out there,” Streeter says. Before the recent hurricanes and king tides, the team intended to survey once a month. (The site is also monitored by researchers from the University of Florida.) When toppled trees exposed these artifacts, the team upped the frequency to once per week—and instead of leaving all of the artifacts in situ, the volunteers diagram the original locations and bag some of them, so they’re not tugged out to sea. Heritage Monitoring Scouts use rebar installations to measure the distance from the midden edge to the beach. Even without their precise computations, it’s easy to see the effect of the waves and wind in exposed roots and a dramatically angled ledge of sand.

    Some of these sites contain clues to enriching or correcting the historical record. One example is the dwindling island of Egmont Key, off of the Tampa coast.

    A few years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reached out to the Seminole to ask about the dwindling island. It was eroding heavily—shrunk to 280 acres, half its size—and they were wondering whether to replenish it with sand. Was the tribe interested in preserving it?

    “This history is a hidden history—it’s not one that’s in any of the textbooks.”

    The imminent threat to the land mass was the impetus to uncover the site’s history. With his colleagues, Dr. Paul Backhouse, the director of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, pursued some research and learned that, during skirmishes with the U.S. Army in the mid-1800s, the island functioned as a detainment site for Seminoles who were caught evading the ships deployed to remove them out west. Judging by contemporary accounts, conditions were grim: There were no sources of fresh water, and the captives were trapped.

    The island sits no more than six feet above sea level. Did the tribe want to keep it above the waves? Among the Seminole community, “the overwhelming response was yes,” Backhouse says via phone. Archaeologically, there was much to learn from the site and the 19th-century artifacts that accumulated there—but it could also function as a place of catharsis and education. “Youth can come and remember the struggle their ancestors went through to remain in Florida,” Backhouse says. “This history is a hidden history—it’s not one that’s in any of the textbooks, because it’s an embarrassment to normal American history.”

    Egmont Key is on the front lines. With enough elevation or distance from foot traffic, many other sites will be safe for a relatively long time, by virtue of staying dry or hidden. But as the sea creeps higher, choices will have to be made.

    This fall has been an expensive one at the Deering Estate. Hurricane Irma and the October king tides packed a double-punch, explains Jennifer Tisthammer, the estate’s director.

    During that first king tide, storm surge swamped the service road with ankle-deep water and flooded the back lawn, where many of the estate’s special events take place. Irma’s gales ripped off 80 percent of the tree canopy; 6,000 cubic yards of seaweed washed ashore. Tisthammer’s long-term vision is to raise the back lawn—but in the meantime, the staff looked for prophylactic measures to mitigate the aesthetics and promote drainage. Sod is best, Tisthammer says, but white rock looks better than soggy, brown grass. When the staff spread out truckloads of drain rock and sand, the puddles that had been taking weeks to drain were siphoned off within a few days.

    Biscayne Bay often splashes up onto the land of the Deering Estate.
    Jessica Leigh Hester/CityLab

    Even if the fully-underwater-future is far off on the horizon, the king tides offer a regular reminder—and a kind of trial run. On a page devoted to king tides and climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency notes, “Sea level rise will make today’s king tides become the future’s everyday tides.”

    Places like the Deering Estate are already factoring preventative and adaptive strategies into line items on the budget. “You’re gonna have some loss,” Tisthammer says. “Do you put $3 million into something you know will eventually go under, or allocate it differently?”

    The kind of data that Ayers-Rigsby and Ransom are collecting can be used to inform broader city planning and budgeting—and this December, Miami-Dade and three surrounding counties are taking archeological sites into account, adding provisions to the updated action plan from the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact. The document isn’t binding, but it encourages local officials to work with historic preservation specialists to map and rank at-risk sites; to appeal to FEMA, local emergency management offices, and other agencies for financial resources; and to implement sustainable preservation tactics such as planting mangroves and cordgrass, or “hard armoring” sites with rocks or concrete. These strategies aren’t without drawbacks. “Hard methods may negatively impact sites by the weight and shifting of large rocks, not to mention the cost of acquiring and moving these to remote places,” Ransom says.

    The solution is also not as simple as plucking artifacts from the ground and shuttling them to museum collections, where they might be preserved behind plexiglass vitrines. For the Seminole tribe, as for many other indigenous groups, Backhouse says the prevailing philosophy is that items discarded over the centuries should be left in place. He acknowledges that this mantra of noting objects, “working around them, planning around them, and not thinking of those objects as just research vehicles” might “go completely against the grain of what most people think archaeology is.” But Ayers-Rigsby and Ransom likewise consider excavation to be something of a last resort.

    In the Seminole culture, Backhouse says, there’s a difference between something being upturned by an earthquake, versus pulled to the surface by human hands. The underlying philosophy is seeking harmony and balance with nature, he says—and “indigenous cultures don’t have an idea that nature’s always nice.”

    Last spring, my colleague Linda Poon reported that the vast majority of states lacked any mention of historic resources in their disaster management plans. Up until this point, that’s been the case in Miami-Dade, says Ayers-Rigsby. “One of the reasons I was so happy we had some language put into the draft of the climate action fund was just to get it on people’s radar,” she adds. “Before, it was not even included at all at any level.” There’s momentum in this direction: Earlier this fall, the city of Annapolis, Maryland, hosted a conference called “Keeping History Above Water,” dedicated to solutions for historic preservation and cultural resources. In August, Backhouse and the Seminole tribe participated in the Tidally United Summit, co-sponsored with FPAN and the Florida International University Global Indigenous Forum, which focused on the relationship between climate science and historic resources.

    Meanwhile, Ayers-Rigsby is sensitive to the emergent, unfolding toll that storms and flooding can wreak on people and property. “You have to put the human aspect in the present first,” she says. “You have to prioritize people’s safety and people’s livelihoods. Archaeology and historic resources are obviously necessarily secondary to that, but they should still be discussed.”

    It’s painful enough to put a pricetag on property—homes, cars, neighborhoods—that we will lose in the reckoning with the waves. And it can be an uphill battle to nudge residents and officials toward the level of abstraction required to dwell in the realm of forecasts and best guesses. “A risk in the future feels a lot less scary than a risk that’s presented right now,” the risk-perception expert David Ropeik told my colleague Laura Bliss in 2015. Even in Florida, where volatile weather is undeniable, it requires a few metal acrobatics to tumble toward an understanding of the sites that are at stake—sometimes literally below the surface.

    But if the goal of archaeology is to preserve and interpret the past for the future, there’s plenty of work to be done—careful and quick, down in the muck and in legislative offices—before traces of that past slip away. In those strata are testaments to lives lived, forgotten, and remembered over the course of millennia: a record of what it has meant to be human.

    No matter what they do, Ayers-Rigsby says, the time capsule will be incomplete. “Some things will be lost forever.”

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    Survival Mode Defines Puerto Rico One Month After Maria

    A month after Hurricane Maria battered this mountainous stretch of central Puerto Rico, recovery remained elusive along Highway 152, where 82-year-old Carmen Diaz Lopez lives alone in a home that’s one landslide away from plummeting into the muddy creek below.

    Without electricity, and without family members to care for her, she’s become dependent on the companionship of a few neighbors who stop by periodically. But a collapsed bridge has made it challenging to even communicate with her friend across the creek, so she’s lived for the most part in solitude, passing the electricity-less days singing “Ave Maria” and classic Los Panchos songs to herself, lighting candles each night so she can find the bathroom.

    “I just ask the Lord to take care of me, because he’s the only one I have,” Diaz Lopez said Wednesday.

    Diaz Lopez and her neighbors along Kilometer 5 of this badly hit mountain road in Barranquitas municipality are among the hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans still at risk as the recovery effort heads into its fifth week. Pipe water returned here in a trickle a few days ago, and the collapsed earth that blocked the road and sent muck into homes has been half-way cleared. But a phone signal is still non-existent, and residents are far from any semblance of sustainable self-sufficiency.

    The situation threatens to undermine the economic and fiscal future of the island, and is already fueling a flood of Puerto Ricans leaving for the mainland. At this stage in the recovery from the Category 4 storm, many find the current state of the U.S. commonwealth — home to some 3.4 million American citizens — unthinkable.

    “I just haven’t seen a situation where people don’t have access to basic services for so long,” said Martha Thompson, the Puerto Rico response coordinator for the Boston-based charity Oxfam Americas who also worked on the response to Hurricane Katrina.

    Meeting at the White House with the commonwealth’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, President Donald Trump said Thursday that his administration’s response to Maria deserves a perfect “10” rating. He also drew attention to the fiscal mess in Puerto Rico that predated the hurricane, suggesting he wants repayment of any reconstruction loans to take precedence over the island’s existing $74 billion debt that pushed it into bankruptcy.

    For a QuickTake on the island’s economic and fiscal situation, click here.

    Only tenuous, provisional measures seem to be preventing a much greater humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. A government task force has restored electricity to many hospitals and healthcare facilities, but others are sustained by diesel generators that occasionally fail. (APR Energy Chairman John Campion, whose company rents the units for natural disasters, said in an interview that such generators typically have a life span of 500 hours, and the crisis has already lasted longer than that.)

    About 83 percent of residents and businesses — not just in the rural mountains, but across the island — are still without electricity. 

    As of Friday, one-in-three residents lacked running water, and only about half of cellular towers were operational. Meanwhile, the official death toll, currently at 49, keeps creeping higher, with 76 islanders still reported missing.

    Many blame an insufficiently robust federal response, while authorities note the myriad logistical challenges that make the high-poverty island distinct from storm-battered states such as Florida or Texas.

    Certainly, there have been improvements. In the days after the storm, the entire island appeared engulfed in pandemonium; the airport operated at a fraction of its normal capacity with leaky ceilings, no air conditioning or escalators; frantic islanders formed half-mile long lines for gas and diesel; and mayhem ensued on roads and highways, even in the capital, as people tried to dodge fallen trees and street lights.

    This week, by contrast, the airport was back in operation, with a blast of cool air greeting new arrivals at the end of the jet bridge and slot machines in the terminals blinking and jingling. The roads around the capital have been largely cleared, as have many major highways.

    But the reality remained very different in the mountains of central Puerto Rico. Back in Barranquitas, Erika Perez, 43, wondered how she would sustain her family. She lives just up the hill from Diaz Lopez with her husband, son and daughter, ages 52, 13 and 14, respectively. They have dogs, pigs and chickens, which supplied the eggs that kept the family fed during the early days after the storm, when the mudslides had completely boxed them in.

    Perez said they’d been basically cut off for some 10 days, and she had worried about what would happen if her daughter’s asthma got bad.

    Asked if she felt forgotten by the authorities, she gestured to a heap of trash that had been accumulating since even before the storm, insects circling. “We don’t ask for much, but at least give me that,” she said. “Help us out for sanitary purposes.”

    Her husband had invested much of his time and money in plantain fields up the road, but the storm had obliterated much of the crop, and what was left had been stolen by those desperate for food. The family also ran a bar next door — frequented by Diaz Lopez, who said she went for the live music — but the prospects looked grim there, too, with no cars passing through the area.

    The Puerto Rican economy was in a dire situation before the storm, and now it’s been reduced to a shadow of even that former self. Small business owners everywhere have been forced to trade their digital inventory systems and credit-card machines for old-fashioned paper and cash, and they’ve been grappling with how to keep tabs on employees.

    “Everyone is in survival mode," said Gustavo Velez, an economist who runs the Inteligencia Economica consulting firm in San Juan. "There’s no work, no earnings. People are buying what they need for the day."

    He said the situation will only snowball, fueling a massive exodus to the mainland, if the government can’t come up with resources and a viable plan. Governor Rossello has warned that millions could leave.

    As for Diaz Lopez, she said she’ll keep looking after herself. She’s found a new apartment connected to an auto body shop up the hill and out of the path of mudslides; she’s just waiting for the owner to clear the space out so she can move in at a cost of $250 a month.
    She was left alone on the island when her ex-husband died, her son was killed by a drug overdose and the last of her extended family moved to the mainland. She wondered why the authorities, local or federal, hadn’t done more for her. In the meantime, she said she knew how to do enough to stay healthy and safe during the long, dark nights.

    “You’d think they’d say, ‘Here’s a woman on her own, an elderly woman, let’s go help her’,” she said, standing in the doorway of her home with her dog. “But I’ll be okay. I take life as it comes.”

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