Shared Sacrifice Needed to Preserve Environment–

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mike roth idep In: Shared Sacrifice Needed to Preserve Environment-- | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River

This is a message everyone needs to read and consider, but as Roth says, some more than others:

In the end, it comes down to political will. Someone has to tell people that some degree of sacrifice is necessary for the greater good. Since those that we elect to power are generally the ones who have benefited the most and, by extension, will need to sacrifice the most, we may just have to wait for nature to do the job for them.

Knowing our the State of Florida and human nature, we are confident that nature will eventually do the job and it won’t be a pretty sight.

But the  job will be done, since we currently are nowhere near being sustainable.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-

Shared Sacrifice Needed to Preserve Environment

Not long ago, I attended a meeting of environmental stakeholders including representatives of agriculture, the fertilizer industry, government agencies, water management districts and non-governmental organizations. This diverse group should be commended for taking on the seemingly insurmountable task of finding solutions to Florida’s water problems.

At one point, a gentleman from the agriculture industry stated that any solution must be “cost effective” to garner support. Which led me to question: What, exactly, does “cost effective” mean?

It occurred to me that “cost effective” has a time component — what is cost effective today may not be cost effective over a longer term. If I have to choose between hiring a waste disposal company to take my refuse or throwing it in the river behind my home, the latter is far and away the more cost effective measure — today. But over the longer term, as the river pollution gives way to tainted groundwater, the remediation costs to reclaim my healthy well may greatly outweigh my short-term savings.

Cost effective also has a different meaning for different groups. My choice of refuse disposal into the river may be cost effective to me, but my downstream neighbor may not see it as such. In the end, it becomes a question about the size of the population to which cost effectiveness applies.

After consideration, I have to agree with the agriculturalist — cost-effectiveness is important. But in determining what is cost effective, we get into a deep philosophical and sociopolitical question.

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We as a society have to determine where our focus should be — short or long term, and the benefit of the few versus the benefit of all. And unless we are willing to accede to the very short term and agree to benefit a small, defined group, we enter the realm of sacrifice. Somebody has to give something up for the greater good. Any volunteers?

We have done very well as a society — there is food on most tables, the stock market is soaring, scientific advances have allowed most people to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Plastics have given us sources of immediate gratification and portability, and the use of precious metals in communication breakthroughs has brought us levels of personal connectivity only dreamed about in years past. There seems to be no end to what we can accomplish … or is there?

We are starting to notice (a bit late, I would suggest) that the components of this progress that are given to us by natural systems are finite and waning. Nature has shown us its incredible ability to recover from harm and regenerate, but we’re finding that this happens at a pace slower than our consumption.

Until we can create water and filter and cleanse water at a rate faster than our wetlands, unless we agree to leave our wetlands alone so they can serve nature’s purpose and until we can find a process to dispose of our waste in a way that doesn’t impede nature’s ability to regenerate, we must curtail our progress.

Burning the furniture for heat is not a long-term solution. Curtailing progress is not a paradigm that mankind has ever recognized, but we need the political will to face that inevitability in a proactive manner.

For this paradigm shift we have to embrace sacrifice. If we agree that using resources at an unsustainable rate is not cost effective in the long run, we all have to give something up.

Just as economic benefits at the cost of natural decline were disproportionate, so must be the recovery. Some of those who benefited more than others in the overuse of natural systems may have to give up more than others. Industries and individuals that have over-utilized public resources in pursuit of success may have to pay for those inputs now.

Surely their costs will to some degree be passed on to the public, but that’s part of the shared sacrifice. We’ve all gotten used to more than we can “afford” by nature, and if we don’t get control over it now, nature will force that control on us.

In the end, it comes down to political will. Someone has to tell people that some degree of sacrifice is necessary for the greater good. Since those that we elect to power are generally the ones who have benefited the most and, by extension, will need to sacrifice the most, we may just have to wait for nature to do the job for them.

Michael Roth is president of Our Santa Fe River Inc.


  1. For sure, “You don’t miss the water ’til the well runs dry!” Mike is spot on about that, and likewise the ambiguity of the “cost effective” cliche. And personally observing so-called
    water managers for many years, I have not seen “conservation” to be much of a goal. I
    have, however, seen “policy” to be restrictive to the homeowner and family farmer while
    the urban developers and psuedo-agribusiness interests have their way and thus water.
    I don’t have an answer other than annexing Cuba and the Carribbean islands to entice
    everyone not having a three-generational birthright in Florida to get the Hell out–HA!

  2. Very good article, Mike. This situation reminds me of when Jimmy Carter warned us, in what was called his “gloom and doom” address to the nation, about our reliance on fossil fuels. Americans clearly didn’t want to hear this, and quickly elected Ronald “greed is good” Reagan. Asking people to sacrifice is a thankless task, but as you said, nature will eventually force our hand.

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