|In 2016 US Senator Marco Rubio banked on Big Sugar and lost his bid to be the GOP presidential candidate|
It is fitting that sugar features this New Year's Eve, since sugar hangs over Florida like a permanent, immoveable cloud of sweet-smelling smog.
This post is about your health and diet, which routinely includes too much sugar according to nutritional experts. It is also about the year that public outrage sparked against sugar's vise-grip on Florida politics. Social media and like-minded groups have linked hundreds of thousands of citizens; Bullsugar.org, Captains for Clean Water, and the SWFL Clean Water Movement, for example.
Predictably, Big Sugar mobilized with a slick, multi-pronged marketing strategy to push back against coastal communities (Republicans, too!) fighting against rampant water pollution caused by water management practices the industry dominates.
Big Sugar's biggest fear in 2016 was that voters -- millions of them -- in Florida's cities would organize -- through strength in numbers -- to elect candidates to resist its control of state and federal politics. Big Sugar spins this point neatly. Spokesperson Judy Sanchez recently told the Treasure Coast Palm, "We will always oppose those intentionally pitting coastal interests against our farming communities and seeking to fix their problems at our expense." The reality of course is that Big Sugar is the true expert at pitting constituencies against each other, in order to further socialize costs to taxpayers and privatize benefits to some of America's wealthiest farmers.
In theory, demographics can reverse Big Sugar's domination of Florida. In practice, Big Sugar applies vast sums of money to campaigns, elections and legislation and media to ensure its profit motives are wrapped in patriotic flags. "Florida's sugar growers gave more than $11.5 million to campaigns and political committees since the end of 2014. Compare that with $561,000 from board members and top employees at the Everglades Foundation and Everglades Trust, the two main nonprofits pushing for a massive land buy to store excess lake water. Both sides invested heavily in Republican lawmakers, who make up the majority of Florida's elected officials, and conservative committees." ("Sugar industry outspent supporters of Lake Okeechobee plan 20-1 in 2016 elections", Dec. 26, 2016, Treasure Coast Palm)
In 2016 the bright promise of populist outrage against Big Sugar triggered an intense backlash by Big Sugar billionaires; principally the Fanjuls/ Florida Crystals dynasty and U.S. Sugar Corporation.
What can you do? Here are two ideas.
The first is for Democratic and Republican voters. Next week, reach out by telephone and email to contact your state senators. Urge their quick support of Senate President Joe Negron's key initiative to purchase more than 60,000 acres in sugarcane production (making the property owners even more wealthy in the process) to use as storage and treatment marshes.
This one action is viewed as critical by scientists to protect Florida's drinking water supply and environmental resources. It will also boost jobs and economic prospects in some of Florida's poorest areas as tourism-based, small businesses revive around fishing, hunting and recreational opportunities in landscapes Big Sugar turned to its monoculture, profit purposes.
The second idea: everyone should join in a personal and family-friendly initiative to reduce the consumption of added sugar. When you shop, pay attention to how much added sugar on products you buy. Make it a goal to avoid as much added sugar as possible. When you buy that cafecito, ask for only a little sugar or better yet, none at all.
Here is an excellent story by the NY Times on changing the foods you eat and minimizing added sugar.
Best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year without added sugar and its side effects!