Ron Cunningham Examines Our Excesses and their Price

RonCunningham1Ron Cunningham, one of the protectors of our environment, explains to us, Nov. 1, 2015, in the Gainesville Sun how “Our Excesses are Destroying the Environment.”  He presents several interesting comments about our water.  Read the entire article here, or continue on this page for some excerpts:

According to a new Sunshine State Poll conducted by the University of South Florida, Floridians now consider water quality and quantity to be the state’s top environmental concern.

“For a second year, water has been the No. 1 issue, which I think will get a lot of legislators’ attention,” USF political science professor Susan MacManus, was quoted in the Sun Sentinel last week. “This may be one of those issues they can agree on.”

If we know anything about Florida’s political elite it is that they simply don’t care what Floridians think about the environment. This Legislature spit in the face of the voters who overwhelmingly approved the land and water conservation Amendment 1.

And why not? When was the last time a politician in the Sunshine State got thrown out of office for not being green?

Anyway, USF was asking the wrong questions.

Floridians, do you care enough about clean water to kill your green lawns?

Do you care enough to pay more for the water you are literally pouring on the ground?

Will you pay more for food if that’s what it takes to restrict Big Ag’s use of pesticides and fertilizers and force dairies and hog farms to deal more responsibly with animal wastes?

Truth is we are victims of our own excesses. It is a malady of mindless consumerism that was foreseen by one of the brightest minds ever to occupy lab space at the University of Florida.

The late Howard T. Odum was the father of the science of ecology — the notion that our natural environment is an interconnected life-support system. If the name sounds familiar it is because the Gainesville-based Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute continues to amass evidence that we are systematically killing Florida’s magical springs with our excesses.

“The present level of our urban civilization cannot be sustained indefinitely on the worldwide declining concentrations of resources,” Odum warned in “A Prosperous Way Down,” a little-noted book published in 2001 that he co-authored with his wife, Elizabeth Odum.

Odum was at heart an optimist who believed that people will ultimately do the right thing — consume more responsibly — if only they have the right information. “If everyone understands the necessity of the whole society adapting to less, then society can pull together with a common mission to select what is essential,” he wrote. “Presidents, governors and local leaders can explain the problem and lead society on a shared mission.”

Prescient he may have been, but obviously, Odum never foresaw the likes of Donald Trump, Rick Scott and Ed Braddy.

Still, maybe we can take baby steps toward Odum’s “Prosperous Way Down.”

Who knows, maybe we can even elect “presidents, governors and local leaders” who care as much about the environment as we say we do.

— Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun.

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