Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Could Be Released in Keys This Spring

Categories: Environmental

Courtesy of Oxitec
Scientists hope to wipe out dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (left) using genetically modified bugs with green-and-red glowing larvae.
In the lab, the genetically modified mosquito larvae glow green and red to help researchers track them. The bugs' DNA has been tweaked with a killer gene that will wipe out the next generation of blood-suckers before they can latch onto humans. Millions of the scientifically created bugs are released into the wild, in theory putting a stop to wretched diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya.

That may sound like the premise of a Michael Crichton plot, but in fact the GMO mosquitoes have already been released en masse in Brazil and the Cayman Islands. Now, researchers hope to do the same in the Florida Keys as early as this spring.

See also: Can Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Keep Dengue Fever Away From Key West?

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Environmentalists Plan Protest Against Walmart, Theme Park Threatening Endangered Pine Rocklands

Categories: Environmental

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Via Rally for the Rocklands Facebook page
The fight over an endangered patch of native pine rocklands has sparked a planned rally at the site of the two highly controversial development projects -- a proposed Walmart and the theme park Miami Wilds.

"We'll do two for the price of one," says Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association, which is organizing the event.

See also: Developer to Submit Habitat Conservation Plan for Controversial Walmart Project

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Florida Paves the Way For Fracking As Miami Senator Files Bill to Ban Practice

Categories: Environmental

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Photo by Joshua Doubek via Wikimedia Commons
A fracking job in North Dakota
Across the country, strong resistance has cropped up against the oil extraction process known as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing. Even a single fracking job requires a staggering amount of water, as well as an abundance of toxic chemicals. Some evidence suggests the "fracking fluid" that has to be injected deep into the ground to release natural gas from shale deposits can leak into fragile environments.

But Florida public officials are cool with all that. Yesterday the Florida Public Service Commission, the board that regulates state utilities, voted by a four to one margin to approve Florida Power and Light's request to "explore" for fracking sites as a cheaper alternative to run its power plants -- and pass of the cost of the exploration onto customers.


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Developer to Submit Habitat Conservation Plan for Controversial Walmart Project

Categories: Environmental

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Photo via ramrealestate.com
A projection of Coral Reef Commons.
The developers aren't giving up yet.

Earlier this week, Ram Realty Services, the West Palm Beach-based developer behind the proposed Coral Reef Commons project -- highly controversial because it would develop critically endangered pine rockland habitat -- met with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) officials and agreed to submit a habitat conservation plan in conjunction with a special permit application. Both the permit and conservation plan need to be approved by the federal agency before the project can proceed.

"We intend to fully cooperate with the agencies involved, and we look forward to reaching an amicable agreement and showcasing how Ram balances its commitment to the environment with its dedication to creating high-quality communities," Peter Cummings, the company's chairman, said in a news release provided to Riptide.

See also: Thousands Sign Petitions Against Walmart Development on Endangered Pine Rockland

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Anthony Alfieri: Clean-Up Man

Categories: Environmental

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Photo by Stian Roenning
Anthony Alfieri's legacy in Miami is uncovering the mess of Old Smokey in the Grove and beyond.
In this week's Miami New Times, we profile 30 of the most interesting characters in town, with portraits of each from photographer Stian Roenning. See the entire Miami New Times People Issue here.

After 45 years of poisoning the mostly black residents of West Coconut Grove, the incinerator Old Smokey was finally shut down in 1970. But tons of toxic ash remained, buried in parks, swales, and open fields. It may well have caused an epidemic of pancreatic cancer that still afflicts the area.

The City of Miami discovered the problem several years ago but buried the information.
Who uncovered it? An environmental justice project that is the brainchild of Tony Alfieri, a full-time University of Miami professor and part-time rabble-rouser.


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Jeff Ransom: Ancient-History Preservationist

Categories: Environmental

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Photo by Stian Roenning
Jeff Ransom can be found around the county surveying the land, looking for Miami-Dade's archaeological past.
In this week's Miami New Times, we profile 30 of the most interesting characters in town, with portraits of each from photographer Stian Roenning. See the entire Miami New Times People Issue here.

When he was a 9-year-old Boy Scout, Jeff Ransom and his fellow troop members got lost in a Venezuelan cave. Flashlights were dying. Kids were crying. Even their adult Eagle Scout leader shed tears. Luckily, the future archaeologist of Miami-Dade County was there to save the day.

"I wasn't scared, and I remembered the way back out, so I got everybody out," Ransom, now 49, recalls as he sits in a 12th-floor conference room at the Stephen P. Clark Center. "I've always felt very comfortable in caves."

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The Seven Weirdest Ways We've Totally Screwed Up the Everglades

Categories: Environmental

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Oh, the Everglades. Our noble river of grass. Our beautiful, unique ecosystem. Oh, the ways in which we have totally screwed it over.

No, seriously. We've made our alligators the size of Kate Moss. We've turned some birds gay, and we keep releasing all sorts of stupid pets into it.

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The Everglades' Remaining Alligators Just Keep Getting Skinnier and Skinnier

Categories: Environmental

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Photo: Tom's Flickr | MNT Flickr Pool
The alligators of the Everglades are wasting away. Literally.

Scientists have noticed for decades that gators in South Florida have become increasingly smaller than those found in central and north Florida, and things haven't gotten better. CBS News reports that the habitat now supports about half the population scientists expect such an environment could support.

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Commissioner Sarnoff: Toxic Soil at Merrie Christmas Park Will Be Removed Soon

Categories: Environmental

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Courtesy of Ken Russell
After weeks of wrangling, a park protest, and the recent involvement of an attorney, the infamous Merrie Christmas Park toxic soil pile is finally on its way out thanks to funding promised by an anonymous donor.

"I'm pretty sure it'll happen in the next day or two," Commissioner Marc Sarnoff told Riptide Tuesday evening. "If not by the end of the week, then by the middle of next week."

Ken Russell, the resident who has been leading the effort to remove the soil, yelped in excitement when told by Riptide of the plans. "Yes! Wow!" he exclaimed. "If that's really going to be removed ... that is such a victory for what we're trying to accomplish."

See also: Residents Would Have to Pay to Remove Toxic Soil at Merrie Christmas Park, Commissioner Says

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Miami Deep Dredge: Environmentalists Win Court Battle but Not War as Blasting Continues

Categories: Environmental

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Call it a split decision. The latest legal skirmish over the Deep Dredge devolved into an all-day court battle over contracts and language yesterday.

Despite the dredge drudgery, however, environmentalists emerged from federal court claiming important concessions in their ongoing battle against the Army Corps of Engineers, including almost half a million dollars in additional coral conservation.

"We got all of their bad behavior out in court," said Rachel Silverstein of Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, one of the groups to sue the Corps. "The bottom line is that they finally have to clean up their act."

See also: Deep Dredge Critics File Emergency Demand to Stop "Destruction of Endangered Species"

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