Sunday, April 19, 2015

President Obama to visit Everglades on Wednesday, linking hopes for the River of Grass with climate change adaptation. But will he stir the Big Sugar pot?… by gimleteye

You may not be invited to be a guest when President Obama visits the Everglades on Wednesday, but this afternoon if you have time, at 1:30PM, come to the annual meeting of Friends of the Everglades at Pinecrest Gardens to listen to a few people who have spent most of their careers on these issues.

In fact, it was a former Friends of the Everglades director, Joe Podgor, who first stated the Everglades restoration theme that President Obama is likely to echo next Wednesday: "The Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to save the planet."

According to press releases, President Obama will be in the Everglades on Earth Day to draw attention to both the Everglades and the massive economic consequences of global warming and climate change.

In various forums and turns of phrase, Democrats have been deriding the GOP's years of climate change denial.

Obviously, that denial resonates with a big segment of American voters and in Miami where Air Force One will land. Here, $24 billion in new nuclear reactors is being planned by Florida Power and Light, the biggest subsidiary of NextEra Energy, at sea level. Paradoxically, new nuclear is a big piece of the climate change puzzle. Only the piece doesn't fit in a region likely to be inundated at severe cost to the FPL ratepayer base.

I recall more than twenty years ago as Everglades restoration was just gaining traction, at an annual meeting of the Everglades Coalition a booth was manned by one of our climate change activist leaders, Professor John Van Leer from the University of Miami. At the time, Everglades activists skipped by the global warming informational display as though it was a pariah: everyone was focused on getting a restoration plan moved forward through federal and state government. Climate change? A distraction.

In the two decades since that moment, science filled in the blanks. What science is telling us, simply, is that we have raised global warming gases in the atmosphere to a level that hasn't been experienced since the age of the dinosaurs. And we know how that worked out for the dinosaurs.

President Obama is not going to go there, although he may go so far to describe climate change and global warming as the UK Guardian is calling it: "the biggest story in the history of the world".

So what does this have to do with the Everglades?

For many years, scientists have proposed that the only way to guarantee that fresh drinking water is available and affordable for millions of South Floridians is by restoring water flow through the historic Everglades. The basic theory is that as salt water presses in from both coasts, the pressure created by massive volumes of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee through the center of the state will protect drinking water wells. (Some of those wells, near the Atlantic coast in Broward, have already been abandoned because of salt water intrusion.)

This is the direction that President Obama is likely to go: how Everglades restoration meshes with climate change adaptation.

But if he really wanted to provide insight, he would not stop there. He would go on to explain how right now, the Florida legislature is jamming the last, best chance we have for the Everglades and climate change adaptation.

The obstacle is Gov. Scott and the GOP led legislature's obstinate refusal to exercise the option for US Sugar lands, that could begin the process of land acquisition as Florida voters wanted, through a 75 percent majority vote last September, to protect our environment.

Florida's sugar cane industry dominates the land ownership pattern south of Lake Okeechobee. Big Sugar -- as I have written about extensively -- is the political third rail of Florida, and so it will be interesting to see if President Obama comments, directly, on the controversy enveloping Everglades and civic activists, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida legislature.

What President Obama could say, is that the big shadow hanging over the Everglades and the sustainability of the planet is the failure of political will. That failure is driven by crony capitalism. Sir Nicolas Stern, the British economist, has called global warming, "the biggest market failure in history".

Being a hope and change president, Mr. Obama is likely to put a more positive spin and thank the activists and citizens who have spent so many years in such difficult circumstances to protect and restore America's Everglades, talking about the Everglades as an example of what can be accomplished.

But I hope he doesn't gloss over the obstacle: in particular, how campaign finance law obstructs efforts to combat climate change. On Earth Day, he could use the Everglades as an example and call on political candidates to "take the no money from sugar pledge". If you are going to stir the pot, Mr. President, that would be a very good place to start.


Geniusofdespair said...

Speaking of a sugar pot---

My sugar scar....My sister was stirring sugar in a pot on the stove to make candy. She turned to me still holding the spoon. It dripped molten sugar on my finger. I had to crack it off. I still have that sugar scar on my finger. And the hand of fate was there at the time, it is my middle finger.

I have been burned by sugar as we all have... And the Everglades suffers from big sugar's toxic run-off.... That we pay to try to remove.

Anonymous said...

You wonder where the polluters live that each one thinks that he or she and their family are immune from the environment.

Go visit China.

Malagodi said...

The President will come and say the words that will make him the imaginary hero of many who fight for the salvaging of the Everglades ecosystem - restoration is not on the table.

But in this age of television politics, all that matters is the script, the acting and the scenery.

The President will say the right words, and in doing so will probably guarantee that the Republican Governor and Legislature will not buy the Sugerland property.

Behind the acting and the scenery - the retail advertising - we should understand that it's the President's and the Democratic Party's policy of "All of the Above" that is the foundation of official environmental behavior in the real world. That policy, not the rhetoric, is the driver of fossil fuel exploration and development in the Gulf, in the Atlantic, in the Arctic, in the Dakotas and Nebraska and in the fracking boom in the Virginias, Pennsylvania and almost everywhere else, including Florida.

What will the President's welcomed visit do? It will at least grant some legitimacy and validation to those stalwart Everglades activists like yourself who have been for so long dismissed and marginalized by the mainstream of the Florida Democratic Party.

That's at least something, but it isn't actually taking meaningful and effective measures to address the climate change, "biggest story in the history of the world", crisis.

Skip Van Cel said...

Unfortunately, his endorsement will only harden the asses in charge. I've said it a thousand times. They will let the option expire. Big sugar will get the property re zoned residential. The new appraisal will be 5 times what the current contract would be. Then those in charge (who have been elected through the largesse of big sugar) will rush in to save the glades, putting amendment 1 money where they believe it belongs, in their friend's pockets. This is the sad reality. Skip Van Cel

Anonymous said...

Any possibility this is a public speech we can come out and support?

Anonymous said...

enough with the ridiculous climate change nonsense.

cyndi said...

It's amazing to me that he's coming. What's so sad is that the same people who are holding us hostage hate him.

cyndi said...

A few weeks ago when he was up here Congressman Murphy gave him a bottle of dirty river water. When he left a whole bunch of River Kidz went to see him off. When was golfing there was a Flotilla off the golf course with big signs that said "save our river." Did we haunt him? Is this why he coming back?

Bucky said...

Anyone want to bet Obama is really in Florida to go golfing?