Vote Now! EcoWatchers' Choice for 'Best of Summer' Photo Contest
Update, August 14: Voting is now closed. Michael Pizzi of Vibes and Horizons is the July EcoWatchers' Choice winner. EcoWatchers will vote on an August winner and again a third time to choose between July and August winners to get the EcoWatchers' Choice prize of a $100 Patagonia eGift card.
EcoWatch launched its "Best of Summer" Photo contest on June 26. Images are being submitted from around the world, showcasing EcoWatchers trekking through jungles, beaches and various other scenery, highlighting a shared love and appreciation for our planet.
The EcoWatch team looked at last month's submissions for our "Best of Summer" photo contest and chose five of our favorite photos for EcoWatchers to vote on. You have one week, beginning now, to vote for the EcoWatchers' Choice award for July.
Please upvote below on which photo you feel represents "Best of Summer" on EcoWatch by clicking on the green up arrow located above each photo. For the photos you feel are not the winners, please downvote. You can only submit one vote per photo.
EcoWatchers will vote once now for a July submissions winner, again for August submissions and a third vote to choose between July and August winners to get the EcoWatchers' Choice prize of a $100 Patagonia eGift card.
Ascending the Alps
A small herd of cows relax on a beach during a peaceful sunrise in Andhra Pradesh, India
Moraine Lake in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada
Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California
Michael Pizzi / Vibes and Horizons
Ominous clouds gather over a summer day in Zanzibar
We are still accepting submissions for the grand prize of a $250 Patagonia eGift card to be selected by our panel of judges. Submit your photo to email@example.com with the subject line "ECOWATCH SUMMER PHOTO CONTEST" by September 11 for a chance to win and to have your photo appear on EcoWatch.com. To be considered, submit your photo with the following information:
- Phone Number
- Photo Submission (.jpeg file format recommended)
- Facebook and Instagram profiles (if available)
Our judges will choose the winning photo and the winner will be announced September 23. The EcoWatchers' Choice award winner will also be announced September 23.
Gary and Sam Bencheghib
Brothers Gary and Sam Bencheghib are environmental activists and filmmakers. They founded Make a Change World, a media outlet that uncovers uplifting and inspirational stories on a mission to do good. They are passionate about creating social change through videos and giving a voice to the underrepresented. Together they have launched a series of expeditions from kayaking the world's dirtiest river on plastic bottles to stand-up paddling down New York's most toxic waterways. In the past three years, their work has been seen by more than 600 million people. This summer, while Gary bamboo bikes the Indonesian archipelago, Sam is set to become the first person to run across the American continent with recycled plastic shoes.
Anthony Bucci is a wildlife photographer who grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He has donated numerous prints and other products to various wildlife societies across Canada, silent auctions and other fundraisers to raise funds for wildlife conservation and well-being. Anthony is currently on the raptor pick-up list for O.W.L Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Delta BC, Canada. He feels it's important to give back to the wildlife conservation efforts and helping where Anthony can is a task he takes seriously. To Anthony, his wildlife photography is more than just taking pictures. Thinking about conservation and the well-being of all wildlife is always on his mind.
Amos has led great expeditions for individual adventurers and institutions like Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Discovery Channel, Armani, Disney and Columbia Pictures. For National Geographic, he was team leader for separate photo expeditions to document the Red Sea, great white sharks and killer whales. His photos and essays have appeared in hundreds of publications around the globe, including National Geographic, Time, Life, The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Le Figaro, Terra Sauvage, Airone, Mondo Somerso, Der Spiegel, Unterwasser and many more. His work has also been included in the books The Living Ocean, The World of Nature, and Oceans. He has appeared on National Geographic Explorer, Today, and Good Morning America and featured in People, Esquire and Money magazines. Amos's photography has won Nikon, Communication Arts, and BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards.
Margarita is a zoologist, sustainability activist, travel enthusiast and social media Influencer who uses the power of her social media to influence people to make more sustainable choices when traveling. After visiting more than 60 countries and seeing what actually happens to our planet, such as how plastic and food waste affects the environment, she decided to take a stand to speak about it and encourage people to care a little bit more about nature. Sustainability is the main focus of Margarita's social posts, and she speaks a lot about eco lifestyle, responsible traveling, ethical wildlife encounters, supporting locals and living in unity with nature.
More info can be found here.
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Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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