Tag Archive: Change

Finding Common Ground on Climate Change

Finding Common Ground on Climate Change

This solar-powered bicycle rental facility provides a healthy alternative to driving around a large city. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

Climate change is one of those topics that most people don’t want to think much about. It can be overwhelming, it can be controversial, and it can be downright frightening. A year ago, Yale and George Mason University completed the most recent surveys in the “Six Americas” study, which determined levels of belief and concern in global warming. The “Six Americas” range from people who are alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful, or dismissive when asked about climate change. Interestingly enough, 34% of Americans consider themselves concerned while 23% were cautious. Ranking third were 11% who are doubtful about climate change.

When you start to drill down into the individual questions asked on the survey, you see more agreement. For example, when Escambia County citizens were asked whether global warming is caused by human activities, somewhere between 45%-50% said yes. However, when asked whether they think global warming is actually happening (regardless of cause), the percentage went up to 65%-70%. When asked if they support funding research into renewable energy sources, Escambia County residents jumped up to an 80%-85% agreement. That, to me, is nothing short of a miracle, having lived in Escambia County long enough to know there’s rarely that much agreement on anything!

The takeaway message from that survey, to me, is that regardless of where people stand on climate change/global warming, there are some starting points that can be common ground. If the majority of a community believe climate change is happening and that supporting renewable energy research is a good thing, then they can work towards those outcomes to the mutual benefit of all.

An example of one small but significant step towards sustainable energy use includes bicycle share/rental facilities. On a recent trip to Salt Lake City, solar-powered bike stations were strategically placed around the downtown area. For a small fee, the bicycles could be checked out (for 30 minutes at a time) up to 24 hours. This ensures there are plenty of bicycles available for other users, and stations are close enough to one another that it’s easy to check bikes in and out if you need more time. The benefits of encouraging bicycles are numerous; reduced traffic and burning of fossil fuels, reduced need for parking in high-value real estate, and health benefits for riders. The other investment necessary to make biking more prevalent and successful are bike lanes, which were plentiful in Salt Lake City to keep riders and drivers safe. Once safe bike lanes are in place, those who live in the area with their own bikes are more likely to use them on a regular basis, further decreasing vehicular traffic.

There are many great organizations and publications around the country dedicated to increasing bicycle use and safety. For more information, check out Trail Link, Momentum Magazine, or the Burlington Bikeway.


Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/14/finding-common-ground-on-climate-change/

Brussels Sprouts Can Change Gardening Minds,….and Taste Buds

Brussels Sprouts Can Change Gardening Minds,….and Taste Buds

Want to try something different in your winter garden this year? Well, when it comes to Brussels sprouts, you either love them or hate them. They’re not commonly grown in the Panhandle, but if you’re looking for something different, try growing this tiny cabbage. Predicted weather conditions for this season should lend a great crop.

brussels_sproutsBrussels sprouts are very popular in Europe, especially Great Britain, but not so much here in the U.S. However, they are grown commercially in California and New York. But, most states have a limited market and these crops are mostly seen in backyard vegetable gardens. The two varieties, Jade Cross and Long Island Improved, are the most commonly grown in the Panhandle.

Brussels sprouts are actually a type of cabbage. However, the plant does not form one large head in the center, but rather many small heads on lengthy branches. Each golf ball size sprout resembles a cabbage head. Brussels sprouts require extended cold, dry weather, just as many sources have predicted for this year in the Panhandle. Brussels Sprouts can also survive a heavy frost. They’ll need a temperature at least in the lower 60’s in order to maintain a solid sprout and not open up. If sprouts open, structural integrity is lost, and the sprout will turn to mush.

Finding Brussels sprout transplants for your garden may be a challenge. They’re just not that popular. The good news is, seed is readily available and germination is quick once planted in garden soil. Seeds should be planted between October-December in the Panhandle. When planting, space approximately 2 ½’ apart within the row at a seeding depth of a ½”. Rows should be 2’ apart. It’s a good idea to fertilize before you plant with a general all-purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 8-8-8. A good rule of thumb is to disperse 4 pounds of fertilizer per 100’ row. Once plants have grown a few inches, broadcast another application and apply a water afterwards. After a month, another application should be done. Plants should reach maturity at three months. First sprouts will develop on lower branches. Once sprouts are golf ball size, they’re ready to pick.

As far as pest management, the most common issues with Brussels sprouts are the same with any cabbage. Aphids, nematodes and cabbage worms pose the greatest threats. If these pests appear, it’s usually later in the season when the plant is closer to maturity. At that point, you should apply a common vegetable garden pesticide, one that can be used with any variety of produce. As always, be sure to follow the manufacture’s label directions when using chemicals.

Brussels sprouts are high in nutritional value. According to the USDA, a sprout has approximately 10 calories, and is high in both dietary fiber and vitamin C. Here is a challenge for readers who are not fans of the tiny cabbage. Fair warning, this challenge is under the premise that additional calories are acceptable. Start by sauteing a dozen or so Brussels sprouts in equal parts olive oil & butter. Once the sprouts have become a bit tender, add a generous amount of Parmesan cheese and bacon bits. Plate and dig in. I’m confident that this will change some minds.

For more information, contact your local IFAS Extension office

Supporting information can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications, “Brussels Sprouts-Brassica oleracea L. (Gemmifera group)” by James M. Stephens, & “Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide by Sydney Park Brown, Danielle Treadwell, J.M. Stephens and Susan Webb.




Author: Ray Bodrey – rbodrey@ufl.edu

Gulf County Extension Director, Agent II Agriculture, Natural Resource & Community Development

Ray Bodrey

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/11/15/brussels-sprouts-can-change-gardening-minds-and-taste-buds/

Small Steps Are the Key to Healthy Change

drinking waterOliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said, “The greatest thing in the world is not so much where we are, but in which direction we are moving.” That saying holds true when it comes to our health and our finances.

Health and personal financial issues affect millions of Americans. We struggle with epidemic obesity rates, over 79 million Americans have “pre-diabetes”, debt and bankruptcy filings remain high and millions of Americans live on the “financial edge” with less than the recommended three months’ emergency fund set aside for the future. Problems that develop gradually soon become overwhelming.

Many of us, when faced with the need to change, see our problems as unbeatable and “freeze” instead of moving forward. It is true that there is no easy way to lose weight, gain wealth or become debt-free. Even drastic fixes like weight loss surgery or bankruptcy come with huge risks. So, what is the secret?

According to Former HHS Secretary Tommy G.Thompson, small steps are the key! Mr. Thompson stated, “Consumers don’t need to go to extremes – such as joining a gym or taking part in the latest diet plan – to make improvements to their health. But they do need to get active and eat healthier.” No step is too small to get started and you can never be too early or too late. Examples might include walking during your lunch break, cutting out 100 calories a day, saving the change you accumulate each day or tracking your spending for a month. Anything you do daily over a period of time will soon become a habit, or an “automated” behavior. When your healthy behaviors become automated – no matter how small – you’ve just taken a step toward physical and/or financial wellness.

In the end, your health is in your hands. Set realistic goals, take small steps to reach them, learn from the obstacles and believe that you can achieve. And remember, “In the end, the only people who fail are those who do not try.” – David Viscott


Adapted from Small Steps to Health and Wealth, B. O’Neill and K. Ensle, 2013.


Author: Ginny Hinton – ghinton@ufl.edu

Santa Rosa County Extension Agent with UF/IFAS. Focus areas include nutrition, food safety, injury prevention, and healthy families. Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from University of West Florida. Master’s degree in Public Health/Health Education from University of South Florida.

Ginny Hinton

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/01/small-steps-are-the-key-to-healthy-change/

National Estuaries Week! – Sea Level Rise and Climate Change

National Estuaries Week! – Sea Level Rise and Climate Change


This area along Florida's east coast is experiencing coastal flooding. Photo: University of Florida

This area along Florida’s east coast is experiencing coastal flooding.
Photo: University of Florida

As we come towards the end of National Estuaries Week we will now look at some issues our estuaries are facing. Sea level rise is one that generates a variety of responses from the public. For some it is of concern, something we need to be planning for and need to spend more research dollars on to improve our models to understand it. For others, it is a problem for the back burner; yea, it is happening but the changes are over a long period of time and the serious impacts will not occur for a while – and we have more pressing issues to deal with. The old “it’s not a problem until it’s a problem” form of planning. Others still understand it but do not believe the models and do not believe the impacts will be very serious – thus warrants little or no planning. And there are those who do not believe climate change and sea level rise is actually occurring. They see no tangible evidence of any changes. Each year feels like the last – it just is not happening.
A couple of years ago I was part of a team that conducted a series of focus group meetings with residents and businesses who live and work on our barrier islands. The focus of the discussion was to determine what the coastal residents were most concerned about in terms of climate change, sea level rise, and coastal resiliency. The majority of the participants did not deny climate change but were not concerned about planning for it at this time; they had other issues were more pressing… like coastal flooding and the national flood insurance plan – which plans to increase rates for properties in flood prone areas. Ironically, this issue is tied to climate change and sea level rise. They were more concerned about it than they realized. And we did have a few who asked the question – “is there any science that supports the notion of climate change?” Let’s start there… is there any science to support this?


Yes… this link to NASA (http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/) is a page developed to help the public better understand what the science says about this. Yes, there is evidence that the carbon is increasing in our atmosphere, that global temperatures are rising, as are sea levels. Many are experiencing some of the changes that were discussed in the 1980’s. Some areas are seeing more rain, others more drought. Gardeners in parts of the country are noticing that things they use to do in April, they now do in March. More tropical plants and animals are migrating north – there are at least three records of red and black mangroves growing the Florida panhandle and a snook was caught a couple of years ago at Dauphin Island, Alabama. These subtle changes have been noticed by some. Others, such as those in southeast Florida, have witnessed more direct evidence, such as portions of A1A going underwater during extreme high tides. But there is science to support this.

Islands in the south Pacific who are dealing with the impacts of sea level rise during storm events. Photo: Greenpeace

Islands in the south Pacific who are dealing with the impacts of sea level rise during storm events.
Photo: Greenpeace


What is causing sea level rise?

Well, according to a document published by Florida Sea Grant there are three general causes.

  • Temperature – as the atmosphere and oceans warm the water expands thus causing the sea level to rise. This thermal expansion has accounted for about 25% of the sea level rise we have witnessed; between 1993 and 2010 it accounted for 40% of it.
  • Ice melt – 60% of the current rise in sea level has been due to the melting of land based ice; such as glaciers.
  • Land fall – for a variety of reasons, some coastal land masses have actually dropped; thus forcing the sea level to rise.

What do the current models predict for future sea level rise?

Most of the models are predicting an increase between 1.5 and 4.5 feet, depending on where you are, by 2100.


So what?

Again some coastal communities are experiencing impacts now. South Florida Water Management District is currently replacing all of their gravity flow drains due to the fact that sea level has risen enough that they only work at low tide. Monroe County (Florida Keys) is now replacing their vehicles at a faster rate due to constant driving through salty flood waters. Many Florida coastlines are now experiencing saltwater intrusion of their freshwater supply. This is partially due to the over consumption of that resource but it is also due to sea level rising introducing salt water to these systems. There has been increased flooding in many parts of the country, including the Florida Panhandle.

So what does this mean for our local estuaries?

As we have said, sea level rise has occurred before – will this be a problem for our estuarine habitats? Generally ecosystems adjust to environmental change over time but they cannot respond if these changes occur too fast. Scientists have determined that an increase of 0.13” of sea level/year will flood our coastal marshes and we may lose them; currently the rate is about 0.11”/year. It is believed that our barrier islands will “roll” landward but science is not sure how fast this will happen. There may be changes in species composition within our estuaries – which could be good or bad – and there is certainly room for the expansion of invasive species.

A graphic indicating the potential flooding of Florida. Graphic: Green Policy 360

A graphic indicating the potential flooding of Florida.
Graphic: Green Policy 360

How has government responded?

Federal and county governments have responded – the state… not so much. According to Thomas Ruppert (Florida Sea Grant) the local governments have done the best job planning for these future changes. Many areas in the state now require some form of sea level rise planning in all new development projects. At the very least coastal communities should look at future development plans and think long term as to where flooding may become a bigger issue.


“The times they are a changing…”


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/09/23/national-estuaries-week-sea-level-rise-and-climate-change/

Plants change with the season

Plants change with the season

As the season changes, plants change as well. This is true in evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs as well as our lawn grasses.

The cooler night temperatures and the shorter day length of fall result in changes in the physiology of many of our landscape plants and lawn grasses.

It’s common for azaleas to lose a few leaves now. These are the older leaves on the stem near the center of the plant. They turn reddish or yellow and drop from the plant. This is normal from now until spring. However, if the younger leaves, those nearest the tip of the shoot, turn yellow or brown there is cause for concern. Poor drainage, lack of water or alkaline soils may cause this condition.

Yellow leaves may appear on camellias, gardenias, cherry laurel and oleanders. Again, as with azaleas, these are the older leaves on the stem near the center of the plant. It’s normal for these leaves to drop from the plants now until spring. However, do not confuse scale damage on camellias for normal aging of leaves. Scale insects feed on the lower surface of camellia leaves causing them to become splotched with yellow.

Many of the leaves on sycamore trees have changed from green to brown. Although this phenomenon occurs every year, it’s not caused by a change in day length or temperature. This is not a true seasonal change. It’s the result of insects feeding on the leaves. By the time the damage is visible, there is little that can be done to correct the problem. However, the problem will take care of itself since sycamore trees will soon be dropping their leaves.

Lawn grasses also experience some seasonal changes. The growth rate of lawn grasses slows in the fall. Although this slowdown in growth means less mowing is required, it also means that lawns will not be as attractive as they were during spring and summer. Because of this reduced growth rate, grasses cannot produce enough new leaves to replace the leaves that are dying. The end result is a dull, yellow-green lawn.

Normal seasonal color change in centipedegrass lawn from green to reddish purple. Photo by Larry Williams, Okaloosa County Extension

Normal seasonal color change in centipedegrass lawn from green to reddish purple.
Photo by Larry Williams, Okaloosa County Extension

Normal seasonal color change on older 'Little Gem' Magnolia leaves. Photo by Larry Williams, Okaloosa County Extension

Normal seasonal color change on older ‘Little Gem’ Magnolia leaves. Photo by Larry Williams, Okaloosa County Extension


Numerous reddish-purple blades throughout the lawn may be visible now as well. Cooler temperatures, injury to the leaf blades from foot traffic, mowing equipment, vehicles, etc, can cause this. It also could be caused by lack of potassium or phosphorus but is more likely the result of cooler temperatures, especially if it did not show up until fall.


Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/11/11/plants-change-with-the-season/

Picnics: A Great Change of Pace Outdoors and Indoors

A picnic is a pleasure excursion for all ages, a delightful expedition away from the normal day. Whether at a park, at the beach, right outside under a tree, on the porch, or on the living room floor, picnics are a great way to slow down and enjoy.

Try some of these ideas for a little something different.

  • For a night time picnic, make a pizza and some popcorn inside and take them outside for movie night. Use a projector to shine your favorite movie on a white sheet that you’ve hung up on the side of the house or a shed.

    Enjoy a healthy and safe picnic this summer!

    Enjoy a healthy and safe picnic this summer!

  • Pack sandwiches cut in your favorite characters and shapes using cookie cutters.
  • Make Ka-bobs. Put veggies, fruits, bread cubes, and chilled cheeses and meats on purchased wooden sticks or skewers. Making them is as much fun as eating them.

For food safety:

Keep cold foods cold. Plan to use well insulated coolers with plenty of ice. Don’t let cold foods sit out for more than one hour outside or two hours inside. Leftovers should be put back in coolers right after serving. The longer foods stay at unsafe temperatures, the more bad bacteria can grow and cause a foodborne illness.

Keep hot foods hot. Don’t let hot foods sit out for more than one hour. Plan to eat prepared foods shortly after they are cooked.


When it’s a rainy day or you just want the cool of air conditioning (or even something a bit warmer if its winter), take the picnic inside.

  • Bring all the stuffed animals so everyone gets to come to the picnic. The more the merrier.
  • Build a fort with blankets and a coffee table or if you have room, put up a tent on the living room floor for your picnic.
  • Use chopsticks to eat peanut butter or other “sushi” rolls. To make this, smear peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla, put a banana in the middle, roll it up and sprinkle with cinnamon and raisins. Cut into slices. Ta da – Peanut Butter Sushi.
  • For a romantic date night, pack a loaf of crusty bread, some Brie cheese, strawberries, whipped cream, and a bottle of something bubbly. Take cloth napkins and a comfy blanket to sit on.


Inside or outside – have a great picnic season!



Author: ahinkle – ahinkle@ufl.edu

Angela Hinkle is the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) Agent in Escambia County.


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/07/01/picnics-a-great-change-of-pace-outdoors-and-indoors/

ALERT: Change in FHA Mortgage Insurance Program

Mortgage insurance is required if the down payment is less than 20 percent of the home's sale price.

Mortgage insurance is required if the down payment is less than 20 percent of the home’s sale price.

If you are shopping for a mortgage, be aware of changes to the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) mortgage insurance program.  Most lenders typically charge a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) if the borrower puts down less than 20 percent of the appraised value or sale price on a home.  Mortgage insurance protects the lender should the borrower default on the payments; the mortgage insurance pays off the loan.  Mortgage insurance may be underwritten by private corporations or the federal government through FHA. 

Once the borrower has paid down 20 percent of the loan (a loan-to-value ratio of 80 percent), they may discontinue paying the MIP.   Federal law requires lenders to tell the buyer at closing how many years and months it will take for them to reach that 80 percent level and cancel the mortgage insurance.  Lenders must automatically cancel mortgage insurance when the balance hits 78 percent.  Until recently, the mortgage insurance on FHA loans could be dropped at the 78 percent loan-to-value ratio or after five years, whichever was longer. 

Effective on FHA case numbers assigned on or after June 3, 2013, mortgages financed with less than a 10 percent down payment will be assessed the MIP until the end of the mortgage term or for the first 30 years of the term, whichever occurs first.  In other words, most borrowers will pay mortgage insurance premiums for the life of the loan; they will not be able to drop the MIP at 78 percent loan-to-value.  This will add to the overall cost of the loan.

If you are planning to purchase a home, do your homework.  Check out the various mortgage options available through different lenders and shop around for the best interest rate.  Remember, the larger your down payment, the smaller your mortgage and monthly payment.  If you can put 20 percent or more down, mortgage insurance will not be required.   

For more information, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Sources:  http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/housing/fhahistory





Author: Judy Corbus – jlcorbus@ufl.edu

Judy Corbus is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent in Washington and Holmes Counties.

Judy Corbus

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/06/07/alert-change-in-fha-mortgage-insurance-program/