The editorial in today’s (Aug.12, 2018) Gainesville Sun rightfully places the blame on our state leaders for the environmental and economic catastrophe now in Florida. Since taking office, Scott has done very little to help the environment and a great deal to harm it.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Editorial: State leaders culpable in algae crisis
By The Gainesville Sun editorial board
While focusing on job creation, Gov. Rick Scott forgot that Florida’s natural environment is essential to its economy. He is learning that lesson the hard way during the state’s ongoing algae crisis.
Red tide now spans more than 100 miles of Florida’s Gulf coast, killing marine life and sickening coastal residents and visitors. The toxic algae bloom is also harming businesses in the state, especially those that rely on tourists who visit beaches and take part in other outdoor activities.
At the same time, blue-green algae is causing similar devastation from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. As documented by Gainesville-based nature photographer John Moran in photos published today and last month in The Sun, the green slime coating waterways is nothing short of an environmental catastrophe.
The response by Gov. Scott, who is now running for the U.S. Senate, is to belatedly throw money at the problem and shift the blame. He wants voters to forget that during his two terms in office, the state has fought federal water protections and slashed funding for its own environmental and water-management agencies.
As the Tampa Bay Times recently reported, monitoring of water quality has plummeted and enforcement of environmental laws has been dramatically reduced during Scott’s tenure. In both the cases of algae in South Florida waterways and North Florida’s natural springs, the state has taken a hand-off approach to regulating the pollution from farms, fertilized home lawns and faulty septic tanks that are fueling the problem.
Red tide is a natural phenomenon in Florida, but the recent occurrence has lasted longer than usual as it has caused dead fish, sea turtles and manatees to wash up on shores. Scientists suspect that once red tide comes close to the coast, polluted runoff from land causes it to stay around longer and increases its intensity.
Climate change also contributes to the hotter temperatures and higher rainfalls that worsen algae blooms. Scott has refused to acknowledge that carbon emissions are causing the planet to warm, and his administration even put a gag order on its agencies using the terms “climate change” and “global warming.”
Creating the conditions for good-paying jobs to be created in and brought to Florida is an important part of the governor’s job. But those efforts are self-defeating when they come at the expense of the environment that draws so many tourists and transplants here.
To be sure, Scott isn’t solely responsible for worsening environmental problems in Florida. A state legislature controlled by his fellow Republicans has been complicit in preventing meaningful environmental regulations. Other state officials such as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — who continues to take big money from the sugar producers around Lake Okeechobee in his campaign for governor — have also played a role.
It is incumbent upon voters to educate themselves on the candidates’ environmental records before casting ballot in upcoming elections. Voters must elect officials who make environmental protection a priority long before devastating algae blooms force the issue