Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
I love Florida, but we must target source of water pollution
The Great Slime Outbreak of 2018 has befouled the Caloosahatchee, the river of my childhood growing up in Fort Myers. So I grabbed my cameras and headed south from Gainesville to see for myself. A heartbreaking sight awaited.
Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in seven counties to combat the toxic green algae bloom fed by water discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
The governor directed state health officials to warn Floridians and visitors of the dangers of toxic algal blooms. 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 Scott’s emergency declaration—and indeed from his entire tenure as governor — was a targeted response 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 our responses have 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.
Florida’s waters are the very foundation of our economy, our way of life, and our identity on the world stage.
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.
For the love of Florida, listen to the pictures and then listen to your heart.
John Moran is a Florida nature photographer.