Dr. Robert Knight has published an article in the Gainesville Sun today, November 30, 2014.
“Florida’s 2015 Legislature and governor have a new mandate to protect Florida’s fragile water environments from over-exploitation and pollution. Let next year be a true watershed moment in Florida’s history.”
You can read the article in its original form at this link, or continue reading for a reproduction here. Once again, OSFR thanks Nathan Crabbe and the Sun for permission to republish the entire article.
Robert Knight: A true watershed moment
By Robert Knight
Published: Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 27, 2014 at 11:15 p.m.
Florida is the nation’s “Water State.” Surrounded by estuaries and oceans on three sides, receiving an average of about 150 billion gallons each day from rainfall, and underlain by trillions of gallons of fresh groundwater, Florida’s image is synonymous with H2O.
Water in lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands and springs. Water reflecting the sunshine along endless sandy beaches. Water, clean and pure.
Amendment 1, proposed and promoted by the Florida Water and Land Legacy Initiative, received more than 700,000 citizen petitions to reach the November ballot and then won the approval of 75 percent of Florida’s voters. Environmental issues consistently achieve high public approval in the Water State. It is no surprise that Floridians know what is important for their futures — a healthy and protected environment is the bedrock of Florida’s economy and quality of life. Above all else, the most important ingredient for our state’s environmental health is a plentiful supply of pure water.
Unfortunately, within the past few decades, Florida’s image has become more like a mirage than reality. As a result of our mad rush for economic growth at any cost, Florida has significantly impaired its once pristine waters. Polluted and depleted by harmful human activities, Florida’s waters are fast losing their aesthetic and economic appeal.
Waterways choked by algae. Dying springs. Desiccated wetlands and dry lake beds. Depleted fisheries. Red tide. Sick manatees and porpoises. And a poisoned aquifer.
While Florida’s voters were clear on their support for environmental protection, their election of leaders sent a mixed message. With neither gubernatorial candidate receiving 50 percent of voter approval, it appears that Floridians are confused about who will best ensure a healthy environmental future.
The continuing degradation of Florida’s water resources more than the past 30 years, under both Democratic and Republican majorities, is a good indication that neither party has a lock on providing effective environmental protection. This observation proves that neither party has had the ability to stand up to the real decision makers in Tallahassee — the special interests. Under the guise of job creation, economic growth and creation of durable and consumable goods, a relatively small number of individuals and corporations are reaping big profits by polluting and depleting Florida’s waters. They include home builders, fertilizer and chemical companies, mining operations, industrial farms, and public and private utilities, to name a few.
These special interests and their lobbyists create the myth that environmental protection and economic prosperity are mutually exclusive. We know that this myth is not true. We know that polluting and degrading our waters and lands — in the name of job creation and continuing urban and agricultural development — is not our preferred future. That is why Floridians supported Amendment 1 with a super majority.
We are at a crucial point in Florida’s history. Our decisions now will determine if we turn our backs on a sustainable water future, or if we choose to consciously strike off on a new path where we no longer tolerate the depletion and pollution of the public’s surface and ground waters.
Our drinking waters. Our parks. Our springs, lakes and rivers. Our beaches. Our future.
Florida’s elected and appointed leaders need to be reminded that it is we, the people, who pay their salaries. We will not be fooled by rhetoric, by myths, by promises of elusive wealth. We see the nutrient-fueled algae growth in our rivers, lakes and estuaries; the springs turning from blue to green; and the red tides and dying fish — and that is not the future that we Floridians voted for this fall.
Florida’s 2015 Legislature and governor have a new mandate to protect Florida’s fragile water environments from over-exploitation and pollution. Let next year be a true watershed moment in Florida’s history.
Plug the loopholes that have been inserted by special interests and compliant politicians in Florida’s Water Resources Act of 1972. Accelerate schedules for water restoration actions. Stress the importance of statewide water conservation. Put new energy into finding ways to stop pollution at its source. And beef up enforcement and public oversight of our water protection laws. Use Amendment 1 funding to make significant strides towards a healthier environment. And make us proud of our status as the Water State!
Robert L. Knight is director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute in Gainesville.