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OK, 2017. Here is one cliff we are headed toward in short order: the plan by the Trump administration to push to the states those policy issues it deems subsidiary to its core interests.
We know how this works out in Florida, because here we have had a two-term governor, Rick Scott, who believes what he has decided to be most important to "jobs" and shoved into a ditch those issues that are irritants to insiders, special interests, and his billionaire supporters.
Two examples: climate change and Everglades restoration.
97% of the world's legitimate climate scientists agree that global warming in man-made. Even skeptics in the science community now acknowledge big observable and alarming changes are happening right now.
200 wetlands scientists and Everglades experts have signed the Now or Neverglades Declaration; attesting to the need for adding significant cleansing and storage marshes south of Lake Okeechobee, as the top priority for protecting Florida's badly damaged waterways, Everglades, and Florida Bay.
But Florida Gov. Rick Scott, through his political appointments at the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District, not only contest facts, they are actively organizing and coordinating to sow enough misinformation to fold necessity into doubt.
The same tactics applied to Everglades priorities are being applied to climate change: when in doubt, hand responsibility to the states.
When President Trump and his administration finish the project of eviscerating federal environmental agencies, first and foremost those environmental rules that protect the nation's air and water and public health, they will dispense issues like climate change to the states.
We know from experience in Florida -- and now, in Wisconsin -- what happens next. Ban, prohibit and bar the lexicon of global warming in the public arena.
Climate change is an existential threat to the United States, but under the shift of priorities, expect White House strategy to sweep issues like climate change under the rug with the broom of the states -- at least those red states subservient to Trump and on the same page of denial.
A president is about to be inaugurated who -- alongside his top appointees -- appear wholly indifferent to fact and to science. Just like Florida's Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam are to facts surrounding the need to remove significant acreage from sugar production and restore to water cleansing and treatment marshes adequate to the scale of Florida's toxic water nightmare.
In the upcoming session of the Florida legislature, Florida Senate President Joe Negron -- whose district encompasses areas and properties severely devalued by the 2016 toxic pollution spewing out of Lake Okeechobee -- has both funding (through a citizen's referendum to allocate part of the real estate transfer tax to state purchase of environmentally sensitive lands) and a plan to negotiate with Big Sugar oligarchs who are behind the ongoing torture of Florida's environment and public policies related to water management.
It is a different group of oligarchs who are now establishing Trump's first 100 days, but the outcome will be the same: shift the locus of environmental regulatory enforcement to the states where it can be dismantled as it has been done in Florida: a chop shop benefiting special interests.
The Negron plan will require hundreds of millions of dollars in engineering contracts, so it should be palatable -- eventually -- to political processes that feed off privatization initiatives by government.
To save the climate for future generations (in fact, feeding 9 billion people requires stable seasons!), will also require collaboration with private industry. That's happening now, but nowhere near fast or with enough urgency. Observable changes in temperatures (especially at both poles) are blowing past even conservative predictions by climate scientists.
Science historian Naomi Oreskes wrote these important words in 2015:
... As climate change unfolds around the globe, climate disasters will give undemocratic forces the justification they seek to commandeer resources, declare martial law, interfere with the market economy and suspend democratic processes. This means that Americans who care about political freedom shouldn’t hold back when it comes to supporting climate scientists and acting to prevent the threats they have so clearly and fulsomely documented.The former director of Friends of the Everglades, Joe Podgor, opined in the 1990's; the Everglades is a test, if we pass we may get to keep the planet. Joe is right. The nature of the test is not about science, engineering, or even risk management. The test is about political will, and the stakes are incredibly high.
To do otherwise can only increase the chances that authoritarian forms of governance will come out ahead in a future in which our children and grandchildren, including those of the climate deniers, will all be the losers, as will our planet and so many of the other species on it. Recognizing and emphasizing this aspect of the climate equation may offer some hope of enabling more moderate Republicans to step back from the brinkmanship of denial.
If Democrats and Republicans can rally around Senator Negron's plan, Florida could show the nation that it is possible to push through the high, smooth walls of government protecting an obdurate status quo. If that would happen, it really would be a watershed moment.
(Read and watch this important report in the Washington Post, "With Enough Evidence, Even Skepticism Will Thaw", (Dec. 30, 2016). No time to lose.)