Pollution could be tamed. We could be taking steps to reverse the massive changes to the atmosphere by carbon dioxide. Natural resources and our quality of life could be protected. Civilization doesn't have to be on a collision course with the kinds of stark, bleak choices on the horizon. The problem is politics.
In particular, the overwhelming influence of elected officials for whom protecting the environment is on the scale from; doing nothing at all, to, the path of least resistance. In the first case, "doing nothing", accurately characterizes the Republican approach to environmental protection. In the second case, the path of least resistance describes the aversion of Democrats to taking hard positions on rules and regulations, for fear of further inflaming campaign contributors and ideologues on the radical right.
The GOP mantra is, in brief, there is nothing government can do that industry can't do better -- and even if this argument falls flat with its own middle -- the GOP shrugs that China and India are the problem. The Democrats can't summon the enthusiasm for the environment, or for federal regulations like those that might be imposed by the EPA, because the Beltway game fills its roles with lobbyists and the revolving door with regulators. William Butler Yeats described it well, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity."
This year, Floridians witnessed sinkholes swallowing a man asleep at home, a terrible deal struck between the state and EPA allowing nutrient pollution to plague the state's waters without standards sufficient to block the sources, an Everglades bill that pushes Big Sugar's prerogatives to the front of the line, and now according to a recent NY Times report; a water supply crisis in the Florida Panhandle.
The decline of Apalachicola Bay tracks the same miasmas afflicting other Florida water bodies, historic springs, rivers, and estuarine environments.
In "Thirst for Fresh Water Threatens Apalachicola Bay Fisheries", the New York Times documents an environmental disaster many decades in the making.
This slow motion dissolving is no different from what is happening on the Caloosahatchee River, the St. Lucie and its algae blooms, in Florida Bay affecting the entire Keys or Biscayne Bay. “Our message is that this is worth saving,” said Chris Millender, 38, of the Apalachicola and its historic oyster fishery. Millender is a lifelong oysterman. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Take a look at the 2012 presidential results in a few Florida counties bordering Apalachicola Bay whose economies depend on clean waters:
Bay County ... 71.2 percent for Mitt Romney
Gulf County ... 70 percent for Mitt Romney
Franklin County ... 65.2 percent for Mitt Romney
Then there are the 2012 election results from Georgia and five counties surrounding Lake Lanier, the largest source of freshwater to the estuary, its flows comprising about 80 percent of the river basin. Combined with the Chattahoochee River, Flint River, and Ochlockonee River they drain a watershed of over 20,000 square miles.
Hall County ... 77.5 percent for Mitt Romney
Forsyth County ... 80.7 percent for Mitt Romney
Dawson County ... 86.4 percent for Mitt Romney
Gwinnett County ... 54 percent for Mitt Romney
Lumpkin County ... 79.4 percent for Mitt Romney
The Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce trumpets, "Miles of pristine beaches, endless shallow bays and marshes, fresh water rivers provide great opportunities for fishing, boating, kayaking, birding or hiking."
The problem is that the Florida Chamber of Commerce is exactly on the opposite side of protecting natural resources. It fought a long, prolonged battle to eviscerate growth management that might have moderated the influence of sprawl in the Panhandle, and it fought against pollution standards in this session of Congress-- enlisting the Florida delegation to push back hard against EPA's efforts to reign in nutrient pollution.
What is there to say about the behavior of voters who continue to elect county commissioners, city commissioners, state legislators, members of Congress, and Presidents for whom protecting air and water falls so far on the list of priorities as though in inverse proportion to the severe deference given to polluters?
It is easier to know the facts of Apalachicola's 1,162 species of plants, including the largest natural stand of tupelo trees in the world, 308 species of birds, 186 species of fish, 57 species of mammals, and the highest species density of amphibians and reptiles in all of North America, than it is to know the minds of Florida voters who consistently vote against their own interests.
It is always someone else. 23 years ago, the state of Florida began a legal battle to protect water quantity flowing out of Georgia.
The Times: "In 2009, Florida thought it had won the long battle. A senior Federal District Court judge ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers could not draw more water from Lake Lanier. The decision would have freed up more water for Florida. But in 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, reversed the ruling. It decided that the corps had the authority to allocate additional water from the reservoir to supply Atlanta. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case."
Back in 2007, the Washington Post reported on the water crisis in Georgia, "States Compete for Water from Shrinking Lake Lanier": "This whole situation has been like Katrina in slow motion," said David Goldberg, a "smart growth" advocate and Atlanta-based writer on urban affairs. "It's the same confluence of factors. There's Mother Nature, the Army Corps of Engineers and the utter failure to plan for the growth of metro Atlanta."
Worth noting: that decision by the Karl Rove/ Bush 11th Circuit Court of Appeals located in Atlanta sealed the fate of fishermen in Apalachicola who mainly vote Republican.