Thursday, July 05, 2018

Patriots For Pollution ... by gimleteye

Evidence of a massive fish kill in 2016 as a result of toxic algae vomiting from Florida's Lake Okeechobee

You never heard "Patriots For Pollution" because the phrase is an oxymoron. A patriot is someone who loves and defends his nation. A polluter is someone or a corporation who erodes it.

In Florida we have plenty of polluters who wear the American flag pin on their lapels. They are well educated and well paid by profits from polluting. Take the sugar industry for example. Big Sugar enjoys massive corporate welfare embedded in the Farm Bill and other hidden subsidies. Two billionaire families -- the Fanjuls/ Flo Sun empire and the descents of Charles Stuart Mott through the Mott Foundation --  control the state's water management infrastructure through political campaign contributions. They routinely use fake arguments to advance the idea that they bear the fair share of cleaning up their pollution.

US Senator Marco Rubio, in his last campaign, asserted that protecting Florida sugar was a matter of national security. That, despite the fact that sugar poisons people, poisons democracy (through its influence in political campaign financing), and poisons our rivers, bays and Everglades.

Patriots defend our shared values as a democracy. By default -- because we share air we breathe and water we drink -- that includes the environment. In other words, it is patriotic to want to protect and to defend our parks, our natural heritage, our Everglades.

For that reason, environmentalists bear the brunt of attacks by polluting corporations. They are branded as "unreasonable" or "Radical" or "against jobs". Sometimes the attacks work. Judged by the Florida legislature and Gov. Rick Scott -- a fierce protector of Big Sugar's prerogatives -- they work very well.

These attacks are crafted and replayed in the right wing echo chamber where voters are often persuaded to vote against their best interests. Like air and water quality. If this were untrue, we wouldn't have an anti-environmental grifter like Scott Pruitt as chief of the federal agency charged with protecting the environment. Or a governor who ditched the one practical start to solve Florida's water emergency -- the acquisition of US Sugar lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

You cannot have patriots for pollution. You can have patriots against pollution. That would be Bullsugar.

Bullsugar is a relatively young conservation group in Stuart, Florida. It was established to call out the hypocrisy of Big Sugar mouthpieces. Bullsugar advocates for faster, real progress cleaning up the toxic waste caused by Florida's mismanagement of water resources in favor of nearly half a million acres of sugarcane on the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee. For example, Bullsugar supports the purchase at fair market value of sufficient marsh treatment areas to cleanse Big Sugar's pollution and stop pollution Lake Okeechobee and drainage into the connected rivers. Bullsugar wants public lands leased by Big Sugar to be turned back storage treatment areas.

The lake is Florida's diseased heart. It is used as a sump pump for big agriculture and has been spewing huge volumes of harmful algae into arterial waterways that are used to flush the lake when water levels rise too high.

Big Sugar is expert at pitting communities and constituencies against each other while wrapping its supporters in the American flag. It hires or otherwise supports local community "advocates" to claim that massive burning on sugarcane fields doesn't harm anyone's clean air. One way it does that: brand groups like Bullsugar as "radical". It is no surprise. In Miami, lobbyists for the sugar industry have long used local community institutions to push back against environmentalists. The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. The universities. The hospitals. Even the newspaper.

Big Sugar and its allies also conduct whisper campaigns that suppress what should be outright public anger at the the polluters and flip it back onto the patriots. The polluters minimize the damage to the rivers. They point to peoples' septic tanks not their own massive fertilizer run-off. They use arcane legislative port-holes for fake remedies the push solutions further and further into the distance and deeper into the wallets of taxpayers.

All people should have the right to clean air and clean water. You shouldn't be forced to pay for it, because corporations have commandeered government and force you to pay for their pollution.

Remember that and trust your instincts: if it sounds like bullsugar, it is bullsugar.

(Disclosure: I am a volunteer board member of the Bullsugar Alliance.)

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