Carl Wernicke

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.

His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home in Downtown Pensacola, as well as watching baseball and college football, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and is a Master Gardener. 

Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.

I still remember standing at Casino Beach in the late spring of 2010 as the ugly sheets of oil washed ashore from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It seemed incomprehensible that a rig accident 100 miles from Pensacola could shut down our beaches, our tourism industry and our sense that the Gulf of Mexico was so large, so resilient that even our worst efforts couldn’t tarnish it.

We were wrong, and the evidence was washing ashore in the gentle swells.

Like many people with extra time on their hands, I’ve been reading a lot. That includes rereading favorite books, helped by my lousy memory. I can reread books I like every couple of years, and still be surprised at what happens.

One reward of good writing lies in finding ideas or passages that resonate with you. One favorite author is James Lee Burke, who penned a best-selling series about a police detective in New Iberia, Louisiana, Dave Robicheaux, who is tormented by an unending string of mental demons.

The pandemic has changed the way we do a lot of things, including how we communicate with each other.  Even though we're all working to practice social distancing, WUWF commentator Carl Wernicke recently discovered that a little person to person "face time" can be quite beneficial, as he explains in this weeks' essay. 

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. That’s an old saying the pandemic has brought home to all of us.

Years from now, when society looks back at everything that has happened in the year 2020, it will have to rely in large part on what is written about the times we're living through right now.  How we keep the records of current events will shape how the history of our time is written, as well as the lessons we learn, and those we don't, as WUWF commentator Carl Wernicke explains in this weeks' essay.

The corona virus has changed the way we do just about everything.  How we shop, or don't, how we socialize and even how we see other people.  Just the same, being people, we still tend to be judgemental of others, even in a pandemic - as WUWF commentator Carl Wernicke explains in this weeks essay.

Strange times make for strange happenings. Navigating a pandemic that makes each of us a threat to the other has us rethinking social norms. In a very short time, something called social distancing has become our new normal.

As we continue to adjust to the new normal of living with the corona virus, we're all finding new ways to get done the things we need to get done. But when you have nothing to do, go berry picking. That’s what WUWF commentator Carl Wernicke recommends in this week’s essay to keep you healthy, happy and eating cobbler.

The coronavirus has, without question, disrupted the patterns of our lives. But that doesn’t mean we have to surrender to it.

Like everyone else, my wife and I have been challenged by the stay at home coronavirus imperative. And, so far we are doing pretty well. We limit shopping trips almost exclusively to groceries and garden needs plus some takeout from local restaurants to help support the economy.

Since my wife and I moved downtown over a year ago we’ve come to love the ease of traveling on foot or bicycle. Flat paved streets and sidewalks make it easy to reach grocery stores, restaurants, the eye doctor or the YMCA.

Not to mention avoiding traffic for parades, Wahoos games or other events.

Downtown has also become friendlier to bike riders and walkers. Since the new bike lanes were painted up Palafox Street to North Hill I’ve it more on my bike than in a car. And I’m a biker wimp who usually avoids major streets.

As temperatures began inching up this spring, we once again noticed the birds in our backyard begin sparking and nesting behavior. Sitting on my porch one morning, watching all the commotion, I had a brainstorm.

Hey, I told my wife, we need to get some of those nesting boxes the wrens love and hang them under the eaves. As I was worrying that we were already too late for this spring, I got a lesson.

The birds were way ahead of us.


I have to issue a retraction. Recently in this radio spot I reported that I had cleverly solved a hummingbird fight over a feeder in my backyard by the brilliant solution of hanging a second feeder. 


Worries about the loss of honey bees have morphed into concern that insects in general are in decline. While we mostly see insects as a nuisance, they are crucial to Earth’s environment. Insects play a host of crucial ecological roles. From recycling nutrients to pollinating food crops to being food themselves, these bugs quietly support our own survival. Their sheer numbers indicate their importance. Calculations are difficult to quantify, but one estimate I found posits that insect populations worldwide outweigh humans 70 to 1.


I tend to be reserved around people I don’t know well. I was astounded to learn, as an adult, that people I had gone to school with thought I was stuck up because I was so quiet around them. In reality, I was just too timid to approach them.

This was also a hindrance as a journalist, which took years to overcome. But the rewards of opening yourself to other people are as numerous as there are people.

Carl Wernicke

What do you do about a hummingbird with a bad attitude? Now, that’s not as strange a problem as it sounds.

Hummingbirds are known as the bad boys of the bird world. They can be very aggressive with each other. I was told once by a ranger at a nature preserve that he had watched two hummingbirds fight until they fell, exhausted, into the dirt where they resumed the struggle.


At a recent event, I discovered that the usher went to high school with one of my brothers. That led to a discussion about living in your hometown, and my career with the Pensacola News Journal also came up.

That led to a name I hadn’t heard in years: Leon Odell Griffith. The usher said he had spent years under the friendship and tutelage of Griffith, and still reveres his memory. It brought back memories for me as well.


Those of us who grew up in Pensacola are accustomed to calling it a tourist town. That is, there are things intrinsic to this place that make people want to visit.

The beaches. The Naval Aviation Museum. Blackwater Forest. Deep sea fishing. Rivers and creeks perfect for canoeing. Pensacola Bay for sailing and fishing. The world’s longest fishing pier (or at least, it was). The lighthouse. Gulf Islands National Seashore. Increasingly, downtown Pensacola.