My background on what follows includes:
five years work in the Fulton Fish Market, and some time on a fishing boat;
thorough study of coastal waters, such as Jamaica Bay, the Elbe mouth in Germany, seawaters of New Zealand;
production of methane gas from harvested seaweed, and even, freshwater plants;
six months running one of the busiest restaurants in the world, the cafeteria at O’Hare Airport (where I learned how to mobilize many workers);
a one-year residency with marine scientists at the University of Plymouth, UK;
rowing in the world-championship rowing site of New Zealand, and therein noticing big problems with water plants;
collaborating with the naval architect who invented the current curved-foil catamaran used in America’s Cup racing, Marc Lombard, La Rochelle, France.
The practical background is:
a collaborator’s view that sediments in seawater can be “dredged,” or removed, if they are absorbed into the tissue of seaweed, as attached to floating rope-rigs;
my work with this collaborator in the Tees River, UK, in what I now call “organic dredging;”
discovering that by rowing through plants and cutting them away, one can—with a fermentation setup—collect enough biomass to produce one’s monthly gas and electric needs, in about two hours of hard physical work;
alarm at the huge number of very-poor or homeless people, who need vigorous and healthful physical activity with dignity, i.e., service to the ecology and community;
alarm at obesity. People need to workout.
I am proposing:
that New York City and New York State set up a program of INDUSTRIAL ROWING with ORGANIC DREDGING. This would be a large-area growth of kelp seaweed, attached to rope rigs in large arrays, with collection by rowing sculls, usually in catamaran (twin-hull) form, that ram through the kelp fields and cut off fronds.
The proposal continues a line of research proposed by the NY State Sea Grant Institute in 1982, with report in 1983, with a conference of scientists and ocean-engineers from throughout the US and China. The conference proposed a $10 billion for the US. I’ve put together a budget of $2.4 billion for NY Bight, extending from Montauk to Cape May, and including the seawaters of NY Harbor extending up to Tappan Zee and into Raritan Bay. The overall effort is called “SEAWEED DEFENSE.” As it would absorb surges and incoming sediments, and as it yields a zero-emissions fuel, with no global-warming impact, the Seaweed Defense becomes a way by which NY Harbor and NY City can reduce the danger from climate change, and from storms. I’ve presented this scheme to the next set of NY politicians, and so far a strong positive response has come from the former Chief Architect for NY, now the Executive Director of the Center for Architecture (NY’s chapter of the AIA).
In the budget and scenario, I propose that anyone needing a bit of cash, or just wanting to work out instead of “work” at a desk, can put in, say, four hours of hard rowing work collecting as much seaweed as attached to rigs as is biologically sustainable, as is available offshore, and this can be done in rugged versions of rowing sculls, probably attached by superstructure to become catamarans. Cutting blades are mounted on the catamarans. Nets for hauling any catch are attached to the rear, possibly in a separate set of rowing catamarans.
Drawings have been made of all that I describe.
The youth of New York, or any person seeking a workout or some extra cash for that matter, could engage in such an activity.
Some work would be in the water, in deploying kelp nets, but most work would be done with rowing boats.
For the $2.4 billion budget, I calculated 10,000 rowers, working in short half-day sessions, and 1,000 catamaran boats. Some catamarans would be very sturdy, for work in Lower New York Harbor, by Ambrose Channel. Some catamarans would be lighter. And some would be for hauling.
This takes us to a scale like the $20 billion proposed by outgoing Mayor Bloomberg.
The chief difference lies in human action. Instead of one-off tasks of building seawalls or marshes, one is every day, at least during the spring-summer-fall months, growing vast arrays of seaweed. The present budget for dredging in NY Harbor runs into hundreds of millions of dollars. Why not dredge with manual harvest, mostly with rowing boats, of deployed seaweed?
As we all know, the level of poverty and homelessness reaches levels not seen since the Great Depression. This is wrong. It is inhumane. And it’s not necessary. The Labrador Current arrives from the Arctic with huge volumes of very clean seawater, and with huge amounts of sediment, every day 24/7. The Current’s flows end up spinning around Jamaica Bay, the East “River” (it’s actually a strait), the Hudson “River” (it’s actually a fjord), Raritan Bay and the Jersey meadows. In all these areas kelp industry could be built up, in tandem with oyster, mussel and fin fish growth, so that the sediments are collected, so that methane gas can be produced, and so that meaningful work can be secured for the now desperate.
Some people tell me that a revival of rowing could be demeaning, as if one is reviving ancient galley-slave rowing. I don’t agree. In this work, income would include a fixed hourly wage but also, very importantly, a reward for volume of harvest. Thus, teamwork and intelligence about the environment would be rewarded. Work would be limited to rather short spurts, e.g., four hours, and need not be everyday. But there’s a team that one must adhere to. Also, for many, the work can be seen more as a form of exercise necessary to weight loss and beauty, and not just as a job. I’ve worked like this for years in the Fulton Fish Market. Sure, it was manual labor. But it was outdoors, in the fresh air, with plenty of physical movement and adventure, plenty to talk about, and very good for bodily health and—let’s be frank—sexiness.
I’ve seen many a Rockaways resident who, no longer 20, could enjoy a return to youthful form and vigor.