More than 1,000 people are moving to Florida every day. That means more cars on the road, more natural areas paved over, traffic, congestion and seemingly endless development. It also means our growing human population is having an ever greater impact on Florida’s natural environmental.
For many years, environmental activist organizations – mainly led and funded by billionaire Paul Tudor Jones’ Everglades Foundation – have attempted to focus the blame for this impact on farmers. But finally, these folks are starting to let the truth slip out, recognizing the undeniable impact of all these people and the accompanying human pollution on our state and its resources.
While reflecting on his years of editorial commentary at the Miami Herald, former columnist and regular Everglades Foundation/Trust/Coalition speaker Carl Hiaasen put the blame squarely on overdevelopment for many of today’s environmental challenges.
In a January 2022 interview with the Key West Citizen, the reporter wrote: “(Hiaasen) recalls when he was younger there were cow pastures and potato fields around town, but as the ‘vast engine of greed’ began to churn, massive fields of concrete suburbs took their place.”
Hiaasen continued: “When I was a kid I saw it and then every time I came home from college it would be much worse and by that time I understood politically what’s happening. It was just, the wheels were getting greased and the whole political machine was designed to enable the plundering of Florida, the exploiting of the beauty of Florida and the natural resources.”
In another moment of truth, longtime Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani recently attributed the decline in water quality to Florida’s surging population. “Growth is driving as the main driver of water quality decline in the coastal areas of Florida right now,” Cassani told WINK News.
The facts and the science bear these statements out. According to the University of Florida Water Institute, on average, 70 percent of the water and the nutrients of the local basins between Lake Okeechobee and the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Oceans are responsible for coastal water issues. The remaining 30 percent comes from Lake Okeechobee. As for the lake itself, 95 percent of the water and nutrients in the lake come from the Kissimmee River basin (Orlando’s watershed) and not the south, where the vast majority of sugarcane and vegetable farms are located.
The bad wrap these farmers get from environmentalists is not deserved. In the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee, they are legally required to clean every drop of water before it heads south from their farms. In 2022, they reached a 27-year milestone of reducing phosphorus in their water by 57 percent – more than twice than what is required by law.
Unless you are using artificial intelligence reading this, you are a human, and as a human, you can help do something about it. Write to your member of the Florida Legislature and Congress and tell them to support projects and funding directed at the source of the problem: eradicating septic tanks, improving wastewater treatment facilities, and building legacy restoration projects included in the Comprehensive Restoration Plan (CERP) passed by Congress.
While you are at it, buy American-grown food and support our local farmers, who regularly produce safe, affordable and sustainably grown food. It is way better than joining the environmental activists who raise money attacking American farmers and also better than buying food from our foreign competitors.