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From starting home gardens, to collecting rainwater, there are many small and big ways that people have been making changes in their life, in an effort to save money, live more environmentally friendly, and to supply themselves with their daily needs. Unfortunately, one judge in Florida has intervened with one woman’s lifestyle of living “off the grid,” by deeming it illegal.
Special Magistrate Harold S. Eskin ruled that the city’s codes allow the woman, Robin Speronis, to live without utility power, but she is still required to hook her home to the city’s water system. Her alternative source of power must be approved by the city as well, Eskin said.
Speronis has been fighting the city of Cape Coral since November, when a code enforcement officer tried to evict her from her home for living without utilities. She has her own solar panels, and collects rainwater. The city contends that Speronis violated the International Property Maintenance Code by relying on rain water instead of the city water system, and solar panels instead of the electric grid. Speronis said at the time that she didn’t have a refrigerator, oven, running water or electricity in her home. She also does most of her cooking on a propane camping stove, and her electronics run on solar-charged batteries.
“It was a mental fist fight,” Speronis’ attorney Todd Allen said of Eskin’s review of his clients’ case. “There’s an inherent conflict in the code.”
Part of the conflict: she is required to hook up to the central water system, although officials acknowledge she does not have to use it. Speronis has stated that she hopes to win her case and set a precedent for others in her situation. Even more recently, a judge declared her lifestyle to be in violation of city code as well as the International Property Maintenance Code, she is looking to appeal.
It looks like the city may have overstepped its authority and may have also violated due process procedures, Eskin noted. He felt that the city had not given Speronis proper notice of violations, and ruled that some of the charges against her were unfounded. Speronis disconnected all the utilities from her modest home in Cape Coral for an experiment in off-the-grid living some time ago, but city officials ignored her activities until she went public and discussed them with Liza Fernandez, a reporter for a local TV station.
A code enforcement officer designated Speronis’s home as “uninhabitable” and gave her an eviction notice a day after the piece aired. The widow and former real estate agent now has two choices: she can either restore her hookup to the water system by the end of March, or appeal Eskin’s ruling to the courts.
Forests cover a third of all land on Earth, providing vital organic infrastructure for some of the planets densest, most diverse collections of life. They support countless species as well as 1.6 billion human livelihoods, yet humans are also responsible for 32 million acres of deforestation every year.
The United Nations declared March 21 the International Day of Forests in late 2012, part of a global effort to publicize both the value and plight of woodlands around the world. It was first celebrated March 21, 2013, nestling in between the U.N.s International Day of Happiness on March 20 and World Water Day March 22. (Its also near tree-centric Tu Bishvat in February and Arbor Day in April).
In honor of this seasonal focus on trees and forests, heres a list of 21 reasons why theyre important:
1. They help us breathe.
Forests pump out the oxygen we need to live and absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale (or emit). Just one adult leafy tree can produce as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year. Plankton are more prolific, providing half of Earths oxygen, but forests are still a key source of breathable air.
2. Theyre more than just trees.
Nearly half of all known species live in forests, including 80 percent of biodiversity on land. That variety is especially rich in tropical rain forests, from rare parrots to endangered apes, but forests teem with life around the planet: Bugs and worms work nutrients into soil, bees and birds spread pollen and seeds, and keystone species like wolves and big cats keep hungry herbivores in check.
3. People live there, too.
Some 300 million people live in forests worldwide, including an estimated 60 million indigenous people whose survival depends almost entirely on native woods. Many millions more live along or near forest fringes, but even just a scattering of urban trees can raise property values and lower crime.
4. They keep us cool.
By growing a canopy to hog sunlight, trees also create vital oases of shade on the ground. Urban trees help buildings stay cool, reducing the need for electric fans or air conditioners, while large forests can tackle daunting tasks like curbing a citys heat island effect or regulating regional temperatures.
5. They keep Earth cool.
Trees also have another way to beat the heat: absorb CO2 that fuels global warming. Plants always need some CO2 for photosynthesis, but Earths air is now so thick with extra emissions that forests fight global warming just by breathing. CO2 is stored in wood, leaves and soil, often for centuries.
6. They make it rain.
Large forests can influence regional weather patterns and even create their own microclimates. The Amazon, for example, generates atmospheric conditions that not only promote regular rainfall there and in nearby farmland, but potentially as far away as the Great Plains of North America.
7. They fight flooding.
Tree roots are key allies in heavy rain, especially for low-lying areas like river plains. They help the ground absorb more of a flash flood, reducing soil loss and property damage by slowing the flow.
8. They pay it forward.
On top of flood control, soaking up surface runoff also protects ecosystems downstream. Modern stormwater increasingly carries toxic chemicals, from gasoline and lawn fertilizer to pesticides and pig manure, that accumulate through watersheds and eventually create low-oxygen dead zones.
9. They refill aquifers.
Forests are like giant sponges, catching runoff rather than letting it roll across the surface, but they cant absorb all of it. Water that gets past their roots trickles down into aquifers, replenishing groundwater supplies that are important for drinking, sanitation and irrigation around the world.
10. They block wind.
Farming near a forest has lots of benefits, like bats and songbirds that eat insects or owls and foxes that eat rats. But groups of trees can also serve as a windbreak, providing a buffer for wind-sensitive crops. And beyond protecting those plants, less wind also makes it easier for bees to pollinate them.
11. They keep dirt in its place.
A forests root network stabilizes huge amounts of soil, bracing the entire ecosystems foundation against erosion by wind or water. Not only does deforestation disrupt all that, but the ensuing soil erosion can trigger new, life-threatening problems like landslides and dust storms.
12. They clean up dirty soil.
In addition to holding soil in place, forests may also use phytoremediation to clean out certain pollutants. Trees can either sequester the toxins away or degrade them to be less dangerous. This is a helpful skill, letting trees absorb sewage overflows, roadside spills or contaminated runoff.
13. They clean up dirty air.
We herald houseplants for purifying the air, but dont forget forests. They can clean up air pollution on a much larger scale, and not just the aforementioned CO2. Trees catch and soak in a wide range of airborne pollutants, including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.
14. They muffle noise pollution.
Sound fades in forests, making trees a popular natural noise barrier. The muffling effect is largely due to rustling leaves plus other woodland white noise, like bird songs and just a few well-placed trees can cut background sound by 5 to 10 decibels, or about 50 percent as heard by human ears.
15. They feed us.
Not only do trees provide fruits, nuts, seeds and sap, but they also enable a cornucopia near the forest floor, from edible mushrooms, berries and beetles to larger game like deer, turkeys, rabbits and fish.
16. They give us medicine.
Forests provide a wealth of natural medicines and increasingly inspire synthetic spin-offs. The asthma drug theophylline comes from cacao trees, for example, while a compound in eastern red cedar needles has been found to fight MRSA, a type of staph infection that resists many antibiotic drugs. About 70 percent of all known plants with cancer-fighting properties occur only in rain forests.
17. They help us make things.
Where would humans be without timber and resin? Weve long used these renewable resources to make everything from paper and furniture to homes and clothing, but we also have a history of getting carried away, leading to overuse and deforestation. Thanks to the growth of tree farming and sustainable forestry, though, its becoming easier to find responsibly sourced tree products.
18. They create jobs.
More than 1.6 billion people rely on forests to some extent for their livelihoods, according to the U.N., and 10 million are directly employed in forest management or conservation. Forests contribute about 1 percent of the global gross domestic product through timber production and non-timber products, the latter of which alone support up to 80 percent of the population in many developing countries.
19. They create majesty.
Natural beauty may be the most obvious and yet least tangible benefit a forest offers. The abstract blend of shade, greenery, activity and tranquility can yield concrete advantages for people, however, like convincing us to appreciate and preserve old-growth forests for future generations.
20. They help us explore and relax.
Our innate attraction to forests, part of a phenomenon known as biophilia, is still in the relatively early stages of scientific explanation. We know biophilia draws humans to water, woods and other natural scenery, though, and exposure to forests has been shown to boost creativity, suppress ADHD, speed up recovery, and encourage meditation and mindfulness. It may even help us live longer.
21. Theyre pillars of their communities.
Like the famous rug in The Big Lebowski, forests really tie everything together and we often dont appreciate them until theyre gone. Beyond all their specific ecological perks (which cant even fit in a list this long), theyve reigned for eons as Earths most successful setting for life on land. Our species probably couldnt live without them, but its up to us to make sure we never have to try. The more we enjoy and understand forests, the less likely we are to miss them for the trees.
The community of Westbury, NY has announced the creation of a new police task force to inspect people’s homes unannounced in search of “illegal tenants.” The town of 15,000 will hire two new police officers and recently held a town meeting about the new “zero tolerance policy” against renting rooms illegally. The task force – aptly named the Housing Enforcement Unit – is calling these tenants “unpermitted guests.”
A presentation at the meeting explained the dangers of property owners renting out rooms or parts of their homes without legal permission. The dangers presented were vague – mostly issues with overnight parking, and a complaint about a neighbor harboring a tenant in his garage. Nevertheless, Mayor Peter Cavallaro has made a statement that “landlords…are making money by victimizing people in the community and by victimizing the community as a whole.”
Supporters of the task force claim that it just “isn’t fair” that some people have tenants when everyone else is paying their $9,000 in yearly property taxes by themselves.
The HEU, as part of the Housing Enforcement Program, will conduct inspections without notice, increase housing violation fines, raise fees, and add new regulations for absentee landlords. A poster displayed at the town meeting stated menacingly, “Modify Search Warrant Law to Eliminate Prior Notice. Aggressively Use Warrants and Housing Sweeps on a Regular Basis — DONE!”
Thomas Liotti, the Village Justice, says this is about helping people find habitable housing. But he also adds that it is about “respecting property rights” – though it will punish those who choose to use their property in a particular way. And if someone chooses to live in another person’s garage, that’s their choice.
The town has begun distributing fliers about the HEU, including an email address and phone number for snitching on neighbors.
Via: Liberty Doll
With thousands of Illinois residents applying for licenses to carry concealed firearms, you might be wondering what the guy in the next car is packing in his waistband.
We visited Kenny Polhamus, owner and operator of Kapguns of Loves Park, to find out.
Polhamus says he doesn’t recommend anything smaller than a .380-caliber handgun and prefers the compact 9 mm pistols for concealed carry.
Smaller-caliber firearms, often called subcompacts, are lighter and more comfortable carrying concealed. But Polhamus says although the smaller guns are lethal, they are underpowered. And they have another major problem: Smaller guns are not that fun to shoot.
“Because they are so small, they are harder to handle,” Polhamus said. “If you are going to carry a gun, you want to be able to shoot it, take it to the range and stuff. You know, those smaller guns aren’t fun to shoot. It’s a good one for the summer when all you’ve got is a pocket. But in regular clothes, I would suggest moving into the 9 mm.”
Polhamus recommends beginners take a basic pistol class before committing to a concealed carry course.
Polhamus told us about his top concealed carry handguns. All are a 9 mm caliber — a measure of the ammunition size the weapon accommodates. Weight is when unloaded:
Smith & Wesson M&P SHIELD
Capacity: 8 rounds
Weight: 19 ounces
Size: 6.1 inches by 4.6 inches
Polhamus says: When we asked for a recommendation on a concealed carry weapon, this is the one Polhamus reached for in the display case. Slim, reliable and has a grip angle that a lot of shooters prefer.
Springfield Armory USA XDS 3.3
Capacity: 8 rounds
Size: 6.3 inches by 4.4 inches
Weight: 23 ounces
Polhamus says: A little too small for everyday target practice, but a balanced choice for concealed carry. It has a trigger safety and another safety built into the top of the grip.
STI International 1911 LT 3.0
Capacity: 9 rounds
Weight: 25.5 ounces
Length: 6.5 inches
Polhamus says: Chosen typically for competition, STI is a higher-end model and costs more because it is custom made: “I have sold quite a few of them, but they are expensive and so it’s a limited crowd that is willing to spend that much on a carry gun.”
Capacity: 15 rounds
Weight: 23.65 ounces
Size: 7.4 inches by 4.9 inches
Polhamus says: Reliable, extremely popular and often a less expensive choice, the Glock is a larger concealed carry weapon. Most law enforcement officers carry Glocks. Some don’t like the grip angle, which forces the user to adjust the wrist to aim properly.
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