Thursday, March 24, 2011

No Name Power

Originally published in November last year I am reproducing this essay today not only to fill a hole while I am recovering from my illness but also because the debate over powering up No Name Key is filling the letters page of the newspaper. On the one hand No Name is touted as a great solar powered low carbon footprint alternative to mainstream living, while others argue that running massive generators to maintain a bourgeois Keys lifestyle is counter productive. My own feeling tends to the corner of the debate not yet raised publicly which is: why isn't everyone encouraged on all islands to contribute to a lower carbon footprint? Modern solar panels are viable and we could all put them on our roofs and send electricity back into the grid, we could all use water cisterns whether permanent or simply rain barrels, we could all grow xeriscaped gardens and recycle everything. But none of that makes money for our corporate leaders and our environmental activists are afraid to rock the boat so we debate ad nauseam and each do our own little thing, in isolation. By the way I read yesterday that Tokyo tap water is unsafe to drink...collapse or convert! This business of feeding Key Deer is a big no-no, though why anyone would get it into their heads to attempt to feed these skittish wild animals I don't know. Nevertheless on the road to No Name Key through Big Pine Key, these signs are everywhere.They make a big deal also out of the complexity of finding No Name Key but it really isn't that hard, turn north at the traffic light on Big Pine, take the right hand street, Wilder Road not Key Deer Boulevard and follow the twists, turns and signs to the bridge that connects No Name to Big Pine. With any luck you'll get a better picture than I did of the bridge anglers as I flashed by in my dog laden car.These kids weren't fishing, perhaps they were discussing the life altering angst that accompanies the painful teenage years.Don't feed the Key Deer!The main road across No Name is called Watson Road and the reason I was out visiting the island last week was quite specific. Just before Thanksgiving Keys Energy announced in the paper they were going to plant two test power poles to see how easy it would be to bring electricity to this island. The $8,000 test was going to be paid by residents of the island according to the article.No Name key has been in the middle of a contentious discussion about the island's future. At stake is the proposal by some residents to bring power to the island, a proposal fought against by other residents who want to keep the island free of commercial power. To me the whole debate is rather specious: anyone who bought on No Name knew they had to create their own juice by any means they chose and I tend to side with the argument that speculators want power to increase the value of the land. I rather think that ship sailed with the financial crash of 2008, but it seems that even arguments in favor of preserving the Key Deer Sanctuary that covers most of the island will not stop power coming to No Name in 2011.The thing is that most of the homes on No Name were as expensive as anywhere when we were looking at houses in 2004 and when we saw the awful complexity of running and maintaining noisy generators as most of these homes do, we figured Keys Energy was a much sounder alternative. There are plenty of solar panels as well, but it takes a lot of juice to run air conditioning and these homes seem to boast all modern conveniences (except commercial electricity!) They even have buried phone and cable TV lines...And now they have two experimental power poles blighting the view.So far the side streets are still pristine.Keys Energy apparently wanted to test the level of difficulty of penetrating the rock and soil when planting poles. It seems they suffered no especial problems for they were long gone by the time I got there around lunch time, leaving their poles firmly embedded.I prefer the pole-free look of Watson Road.With all that kerfuffle viewed and considered Cheyenne and I had other business to attend to: a walk.People around here like to be left alone but luckily there is lots of public land for the rest of us power hungry slobs to enjoy when we come visiting.And there is a constant coming and going on the road this time of year as visitors come to see the famous Key Deer, which critics dismiss as being nothing more interesting than small size white tailed deer.Here's an irony, how d'you fancy living at this address?
As usual all roads around here end in a watery drop off. The trail was delightful and pristine and finally, after a long wet summer, completely dry at last. The airborne symbol of winter, the vultures were circling. For action shots like these i really miss not having a single lense reflex camera, as my pocket Canon SX100 has the dreaded built-in shutter delay. Most of the time it doesn't matter for my kind of picture taking but sometimes it falls short. The watering holes along the way looked too green and gross even for Cheyenne to taste. I kept acting like it was time to turn back to the car but she did not want to stop and kept plodding along the trail. Whatever my princess wants, she gets so we kept walking. We hadn't been all the way to the end of this two mile walk since last winter and we enjoyed the full walk with a pause in the grass at the end of the trail. Cheyenne plunked herself down next to me and while I read the paper she kept watch. She is a funny dog, she loves to follow smells wherever they lead her and she knows her own mind so she doesn't let me put her off. She also likes to sit and watch the world go by as part of her walks. I always like to indulge her as much as I can. As we ambled back to the car a cyclist came by, where he had come from I don't know but he was typical of the winter resident, massively over equipped and ready for anything.
He was friendly enough and we exchanged pleasantries, me feeling like a bumbling amateur in my pink Crocs and carrying my suburban newspaper, faced with this Teutonic paragon (he had a German accent) of wilderness preparation. Still even we bumbling amateurs, my dog and I made it safely back to the car to live and hike another day.