Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Sliming of Florida Politics ... by gimleteye

Again, Florida politicians are scurrying about, trying to camouflage their reputations and avoid being targeted in November by angry voters.

There's Rick Scott, trying to unseat Bill Nelson for US Senate: Scott, whose very first act as governor was to chainsaw the budget of the science agencies charged with protecting Florida waters. No funding, no science, no problem.

And Adam Putnam, whose loyalty to agricultural polluters in Florida led him to lobby Congress to WEAKEN federal laws protecting state waters. Putnam, currently the state agriculture secretary, wants to succeed Scott as governor. He will do anything to accommodate Big Sugar.

And Matt Caldwell, whose district is over-run by toxic algae including potent neurotoxins that can cause brain damage, spends his time bashing groups trying to get some -- any -- enforcement of pollution laws by government. Caldwell is running to be the next state agriculture secretary.

Scott, Putnam, Caldwell.

For context, read a recent article by John Moran, writer and photographer who captured the awful mess Florida politicians allowed to occur.

The Sliming of a Florida River
by John Moran, July 2018

The Great Toxic Slime Outbreak of 2018 has befouled the Caloosahatchee River, the river of my childhood. I needed to see for myself, so I grabbed my cameras and headed south to Fort Myers and Cape Coral. A heartbreaking sight awaited.

Gov. Scott has declared a state of emergency in seven counties to combat the noxious green algae fed by water discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

The governor directed state health officials to warn Floridians and visitors of the dangers of toxic algae. Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, will assist impacted businesses. And the governor once again blamed the Army Corps of Engineers for the slow pace of Everglades restoration projects.

Missing from Rick Scott’s emergency declaration—and indeed, missing from his entire tenure as governor—was a targeted response effectively dealing with the source of the pollution. Real leadership demands an acknowledgment that Florida’s water woes are a time-release disaster of our own making.

An epidemic of indifference has led to this riot of slime, and the response of officialdom has clearly been incommensurate with the severity of the ongoing crisis we face.

I believe we’re missing the big picture in part because our political leaders are reluctant to connect the dots and help us see that we are killing Florida’s waters with our lifestyle choices and business practices.

Nobody wanted this to happen, but that’s no excuse for the choices we’ve made. My message to our political leadership is clear: It is the Earth that lies at the very center of our existence and makes possible life itself, to say nothing of human endeavors like the economy.

That famous line about “the business of government is business” is shallow and shortsighted. We must aim higher: The business of government is wellbeing.

And to our business leaders, I say there can be no longterm wellbeing in Florida if we continue to use and abuse our waters like there’s no tomorrow.

Look in the mirror, Florida: Choices have consequences. Sustainability must be more than a marketing buzzword. Real sustainability must be at the foundation of our vision for Florida in the 21st century, for without it this will not be a place our children’s children will want to live or work or play.

Florida’s waters are the very foundation of our economy, our way of life, and our identity on the world stage.

This is the truth that must be said: Our waters are a mess. We are failing the test of responsible stewardship. With apologies to the great Caloosahatchee, Denial remains the mightiest river in Florida.

For the love of Florida, listen to the pictures and then listen to your heart.


John Moran is a Florida nature photographer based in Gainesville. The following photos taken recently of the Caloosahatchee River, courtesy of John Moran.

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