October 31, 2012


How did an engineer get into Florida swamps ?
I am very often asked this curious question – and here is my little rumination on it - with a message.
It happened to me through two quite different pulls – as an old canoe paddler I have always been close to water, and I also think that the most exciting research challenges happen to be interdisciplinary – somewhere in between the conventional disciplines. And so I have always had interests, as an engineer, in different things “bio”. Through that combination gateway I have been pulled into the environmental issues and challenges, into water pollution control. Somehow, spanning over this all, is the power and challenge of mathematical modeling and computer simulation – of any and all “systems”. I like it.

In addition, being perhaps somewhat “thermophillic”, I had a tendency of trying to escape Montreal winter deep-freeze by following the sunshine – to Florida, to the point of some 20 years of seasonal residency there. And one just cannot escape noticing Florida Everglades – it is virtually everywhere and its challenges encompass pretty well all social and science disciplines. What a unique, wonderful and exciting (eco-) system ! One plumbing miracle, the most engineered eco-system, the biggest laboratory in the world.
I founded and edit an independent resource website www.EvergladesHUB.com that focuses on changes in the Everglades that now threaten not only the ecology of the entire Floridian peninsula but also and mainly the freshwater supply for some 8 million inhabitants of South Florida.
Everglades restoration
Further deterioration of this precarious situation can be reversed only by following a sophisticated, science-based, extensive, well conceived and well planned Everglades restoration program. Let’s face it, our forefathers made a grandiose and greed-driven (what would not be greed-driven ?) boo-boo in Florida. It also may be considered expensive now to fix our forefathers’ mistakes. They already cashed their benefits - in agriculture, tourism, urbanization - by populating Florida.
Clean up and re-establish the Southward flow
into and through the Everglades - protect
the population from flooding.
Simple enough ?? 
While already conceptually agreed upon, the financing of the Everglades restoration is still to be ironed out, subject to arguments, legal wrangling and turf wars. This is where politics, activism, judiciary, economic and budgetary aspects come together playing a unique role. While this is a fascinating stakeholder game, it is not engineering. Scientists and engineers already know what to do – just give them a go-ahead and sign the check – without changing your collective opinion every four years. We do it the way we flew us to the Moon. And by the way - one dollar invested yields 4 dollars in profit.
Dither any longer – and we may all just get flooded out.

October 5, 2012


Primeval reflex urges – they are hard to overcome. During its evolution, human species has probably become genetically hard-wired to hunt and fish – for survival.  This, likely since more than a million years ago, when our hunter/gatherer ancestors roamed the wilderness surrounding them.
And nowadays we are thrilled to grab a gun or a fishing rod and head out into the open – why ?  It must be to satisfy our primeval urges. Because we don’t need to fetch for ourselves this way. Our meat comes from our supermarkets around the corner and so does our fish.  Perversely enjoying the ‘catch’ adrenalin, more often we don’t even eat the poor fish that gets hooked -.
Either for its  mercury toxicity or for wildlife protection reasons.  It is definitely somewhat barbaric to go after animals and fish for actually no reason whatsoever. In fact, with our weaponry and so effective hunting tools, the animals and fish hardly even have a chance. And let’s face it, we don’t really need to fish and hunt.  Certainly not for ‘survival’.
The question is, could we suppress those evolutionary instincts ?  Sitting deep inside us - kill-kill-kill - -
Of course that we could – if we wanted to. 
And why not ?  Grab a camera instead of a gun and aim that ‘weapon’ well. It does take skills and - snap !  You have your shot, and you even have your ‘trophy’ ! 
And what about our fishing rods and nets and hooks and boats - and their engines ?  I don’t know, maybe start with discarding the latter ones and just paddle – for sport and recreation – as our kind of fishing is more properly labeled.  Yes, you can be more one with water and nature. Look around, enjoy – more challenging is to note the fish underneath you. You can even catch and eat them for survival on your trip but you don’t really need to – those days are thousands of years past - -
Really. There is more than you need to eat – in your coolbox.