As a lifelong Florida scientist and environmentalist, I am horrified that the Governor bragged in his inaugural address that he ushered in a “new era of stewardship of Florida’s natural resources” when we have so many serious unresolved problems that Floridians and our economy. .
In 2022, Florida topped the list of the most polluted lakes (900,00 acres) in the US according to a study conducted by the Environmental Integrity Project using data from the Environmental Protection Agency. We rank second in the number of acres of polluted estuaries. In 2019, Florida ranked second nationally in the number of people affected by violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Manatees are starving in the Indian River Lagoon because the state has not seriously addressed water quality issues, which were highlighted by the Governor’s own Blue-Green Algae Task Force of Scientists in 2019. The discharge of charged water of nitrogen is killing the seagrass that manatees depend on. for food.
Florida’s spring flows are declining because we are drawing too much water. The withdrawals had to be bad, because six years ago, our conservative Florida Legislature passed a law requiring the Governor’s Department of Environmental Protection to revise its rules to prevent groundwater withdrawals that harm spring flows in overhanging waterways. from Florida. Withdrawals continue and no rule has been adopted yet.
The governor’s failed response to the climate crisis has been well noted. Florida is considered by many to be ground zero for climate change impacts from rising sea levels, extreme heat to monster storms. Yet it has done exactly nothing to address the root cause of these problems, our rising carbon emissions. In fact, he is supporting the rogue industry that is causing the climate crisis with his aggressive opposition to popular ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing. He is part of a nationally organized backlash on behalf of the fossil fuel industry to ESG investing. This is a more dangerous delay tactic by the fossil fuel industry to prevent us from solving the climate crisis.
Florida is one of the fastest growing states in the nation. Government Rick Scott eliminated the laws and programs to manage this growth and the governor. Ronr DeSantis hasn’t been able to replace them. Growth is depleting our resources and destroying natural areas. Your approval of $738 million to plan for 300 miles of unnecessary new toll roads, which would have promoted unsustainable expansion in important natural areas, makes me wonder if you care what happens to Florida’s natural resources. In response to fierce opposition, most plans were scrapped, but don’t be surprised if they come back.
Then there are the air quality emissions from burning sugarcane fields. It is well established science that fires are a source of small particulate matter (PM2.5) which is linked to lung and other cancers, cardiopulmonary disease, and premature death. Researchers from Florida State University recently published in a peer-reviewed journal that this seasonal burning is contributing to mortality rates in this region. Our governor signed a bill last year that limits laws related to the health impacts of air emissions from burning sugarcane.
Finally, there’s his bragging about his work to restore the Florida Everglades. Don’t even get me started. Working to restore the Everglades does not mean you are protecting Florida’s environment. It’s just a part of Florida and last time I checked, the restoration was largely focused on providing drinking water and cleaning up discharges from Lake Okeechobee that have been polluted by agriculture. Even so, I’m not sure he’s done much to reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing into Lake Okeechobee, which is a Class I drinking water body. Also, due to his and others’ failure to reduce carbon emissions, the Everglades will be inundated by rising sea levels.
There is more, but you understand the drift. It is not seriously addressing Florida’s many environmental problems. It should stop focusing on fooling us with “fashionable ideology” and get on with the business of shielding us from real world problems.
Governor, you need to “wake up” to Florida’s many environmental problems. If you want to brag about the first thing Florida is, unfortunately, it’s sprawl, the impacts of climate change, and poor water quality. Work on this and then maybe you can claim to have created a new environmental era.
Pam McVety is a retired climate activist and scientist living in Tallahassee.
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