Crazy New Jersey Beaches

by bicyclemark 6 Comments

Having been born and raised in New Jersey, I often take time to read through the Asbury Park Press feed, to have a look at what is goiong on in my homestate in the US.? And if you’re reading the Asbury Park Press, you’ll surely run into stories about the beaches of New Jersey, the subject of many a pop-culture reference, the “Jersey Shore”.

Among the things that fascinates me about the Jersey Shore in relation to the rest of the world, the issue of paying to use beaches – why should we and why shouldn’t we?

In some countries highways do not have tolls, they are paid for solely by your tax money, and that is how it is.? In many more countries, beaches are smiliar… kept clean and surpervised with the help of your tax dollars. Just as the street lights outside, the garbage collectors, the street sweepers, it is all publicly funded and accessible.

Asbury ParkYet the Jersey shore, being both a very free market American phenomenon, and also having strong roots in very extremist christian religious values (many beaches were founded by religious communities who wanted to create perfect little oasis communities following their interpretation of a book or a god), you either get communities that value free beaches and all the benefits they provide. Or you get those who believe strongly in the tradition of paying for using the beach, seeing beaches as an extra cost, a special circumstance, not to be compared with roads or garbage collection or other municipal services.? They also see beach fee’s as a way to raise money for cities and towns that are only able to make real profits a few months out of the year.

And so it goes that as you drive (and of course you have to drive in that culture) the Jersey coast, you will encounter all of this. Besides the free beaches, the cheap pay beaches and slightly more costly beaches. On all sides there are town leaders and citizens both complaining and praising.

Stepping back from that region of the world, you consider the other beaches of the US and the world. I’ve seen a decent number of places, well off and poor, and in either case you rarely hear talk of a beach as being somehow seperate from other public resources. Sure there could be private beaches belonging to hotels or clubs, I’ve seen some examples of that.? But otherwise it is a very interesting and perhaps concerning tradition in that part of the US – where people are raised to see a beach not as a public place, but as something more private or simply an extra that one must pay for.? While politicians and citizens look at access to the beach as something they can control and profit directly from.

And that is just one piece of the tattered and beloved Jersey shore puzzle.? I think I’ll go give it a visit next week.? My flight leaves in a few hours.

Questions About Soy

by bicyclemark 2 Comments

Among the more typical responses if I ever mention that I’m a vegetarian, is the inevitable question of why. Normally I entertain the question, though I’m usually thinking of how unfair it is to get this question since I never ask non vegetarians why they are what they are.

SoyFrequently I refer to how cattle are raised, the hormones, the odd practice of feeding dead animal parts to animals which eventually led to foot and mouth, and that sort of thing. The more combative people will respond with the “don’t you worry about how your plants are being raised, what goes into your vegetables?” To which I normally respond, “Yes. I worry.”

I’ve just begun to look more closely at the soy industry, as I’m a drinker of Soy Milk, and there is often soy in some of my meals as well as the soy pudding I enjoy eating every now and then. No doubt an astute smarty-pants reader of my blog will leave a long comment about the horrors of soy farming. Let me try to mention some of that to save him/her the trouble:

In places such as Paraguay, soy expansion has had a negative impact on water, the environment in general, and the way of life of many small farmers. In Brazil, in the state of Mato Grosso for example, the booming soy industry had led to the clearing of more and more rain forest.

I realize this might only be the tip of the iceberg. But at the same time, this does not summarize what soy means to the world, because I want to hear about the good it can do, and especially the realm of sustainable soy cultivation.

I recently found an organization based here in Amsterdam, “A Seed”, who specialize in reporting on this issue and can also explain how things work with sustainable soy. I’m in contact with them and an interview for the podcast will be coming soon. Lets see what I learn.

bmtv71 Canadian Military Show

by bicyclemark 2 Comments

Over the past 2 years, as part of the new cold war over who owns the arctic, the Canadian government has chosen to use its military to show how serious they are about defending their claim. Through a series of missions and exercises that involve land, sea, and air forces, not to mention determined statements from the Prime Minister, they obviously hope the international community will back off and they can reign freely as masters of the arctic.

One small but interesting task I undertook recently was to search for video produced by or about the Canadian military deployed in the arctic. This vlog entry features those images. And while there may be a somewhat humorous element to the idea that Canada would use violence to settle an international dispute, you will also notice that they really are armed and very much playing the new cold war game.

Video thumbnail. Click to play
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Culturally Inept

by bicyclemark 9 Comments

Whenever I come back to NJ, I expect to see changes. Not so much people, as of course there are always changes there, but I’m speaking more about changes to this place; suburban NJ, the suburbs of New York City and Newark.  I expect to see some new buildings, new construction projects, and generally speaking.. signs of a new era… new ideas… the future. Among those changes for the new era, I keep a close eye out for developments related to energy conservation, pollution, and sustainable living.

As is typical for much of the US, this region is especially a hub for car culture.  You can hardly do anything without an automobile, so while in Amsterdam it seems that everyone rides a bike, in New Jersey it seems that everyone drives a car.

Every year I return and end up, naturally, in a car on a highway.  This year it is no different, but considering the fact that global warming has finally reached the mass audience and seemingly has been accepted as a problem, I expected to see some changes.  Smaller cars perhaps.  More of those hybrids people talk about.  Less people driving or at the very least, less cars with only 1 person in them.  In each of these cases, besides the occasional hybrid, I’ve seen almost none of these things. Just like 7 years ago, back when I still lived here and global warming was a myth, there is nothing but cars  and traffic jams.  If anything they’ve gotten worse, more cars leading to traffic jams all over this state at any given time of day.

As I visit people’s houses and walk the streets, I look for signs of energy conservation.  Solar panels? I guess that was wishful thinking; there are none.  More people turning off lights and turning down the heat? No one seems to mention it or think about it.  Plenty of those little flourenscent bulbs, that is about the extent of the energy saving practices I see adopted.

At any shop you find lots of green labels and references to all-natural, clearly people want to feel better about their choices and actions.  But seeing the amount people here consume; whether its goods or energy, despite everything they know about their impact on the planet… none of it has slowed down. If anything, this state, like much of the world, seems to be marching even more quickly towards environmental holocaust.