August 1, 2012
In Miami-Dade County — Florida’s most populous and politically influential county– a billion dollars is needed immediately to replace just the most deteriorated and vulnerable sections of the wastewater system, according to a five month internal study. It is scarcely news. Miami Dade County government has been concealing its infrastructure deficits for years. County commissioners kept the crisis away from the sight of voters.
The purpose of the concealment was to make the region attractive to cheap development. The billion dollar infrastructure bill is the tip of the iceberg, and it is only emerging because a federal agency, the US EPA, had the guts to insist that Miami-Dade do something to prevent a catastrophic sewage break. At the height of the housing boom, cheap development and jobs servicing more cheap development ferried more than a thousand people a day to live in Florida, a state that boasted one of the highest growth rates in the nation. In 2010, Florida was home to one-third of all homeless families who have no shelter at all — people living in their cars, under bridges, in parks.
It is more than trickery to claim — as Florida’s Growth Machine does– that the ad valorem tax base has to be increased to cover infrastructure needs. The claim was spurious twenty five years ago,when I learned how local power brokers in the Florida Keys set their sights on development at any cost, enlisting the political class to its service. On face value, encouraging more development in order to fill in funding for infrastructure, like roadways, schools, prisons, and water infrastructure, is institutionalized fraud. Read the rest of this entry »
February 11, 2012
(Counterpunch, Feb 10, 2012) The installation of wind turbines too close to houses and personal property is a major headache for the wind power industry, but headache scarcely begins to describe their impact to nearby property owners and neighbors. My property and home are scarcely three quarters of a mile from a three 1.5 megawatt turbine wind farm that went online in November 2009 with blades stretching nearly 400 feet into the air. Read the rest of this entry »
July 6, 2011
The conservative right deploys right-to-life as its battle cry, but when it comes to rallying against environmental pollution that is arguably a greater threat to fetuses than abortion, the right is silent. With a few exceptions, there is hardly a whisper from the pulpits about organizing to protect the unborn by rallying congregations to support tougher anti-pollution laws and candidates for public office who support them. Mercury exposure, for example, is known to cause deformities and developmental disorders. In Florida, mercury is as ubiquitous as sulfur thrown on sugar fields by billionaire farmers, flowing downstream to God knows where.
Southern Christians (I’m singling out Southern Christians, because this writer is from Florida) ought to recognize that the rights of fetuses are harmed by pollution. So why isn’t the conservative right deploying their message machinery to educate Southern Christians about the threats of environmental pollution to the unborn, especially since it is clear thatpollution is arguably a bigger threat to fetuses than abortion? Read the rest of this entry »
June 28, 2011
Drought, wildfires, floods. The first three minutes of network news is like a TV primer from the Book of Revelations. Al Gore, in Rolling Stone, was inventor of that line, but at some point in the not-so-distant future, destroyed drinking water wells in South Florida could be on Nightly News. And if Al Gore is still with us, the shot wells scattering chaos in the nation’s presidential bellweather state will not go unremarked. Florida’s threatened drinking water supply is a stark reminder of Gore’s 2000 loss in Florida. Fearing dissent in his own ranks on policies governing growth and the environment, Gore retreated. Today there is no doubt, none at all, that water management has put South Florida property owners into the path of fresh water at the price of gold or a modern Exodus. This is the dirtiest little secret in Florida and why the dying Everglades are a potent symbol of politics in America today.
For decades in Florida, elected officials supported more growth and development and agriculture than our aquifers could reasonably sustain. It is not conjecture. It is not smarmy, feel-good ethos. Within government agencies, scientists, policy makers and attorneys treaded on the subject like walking on egg shells. Early on, it was established that standing up to the destroyers on water supply or water quality issues was the fastest way to lose one’s job. Sugar billionaires, their lobbyists, builders and developers and trade associations like Miami’s Latin Builders Association had the inside track in the inside hallways of government: from the White House to the lowliest office of the county commission. It is still going on. Last week, Florida’s Jack-Ass-In-Chief Barney Bishop– the Associated Industries leader, a self-described “life-long Democrat” (who led the successful effort to dismantle Florida’s growth management agency), appeared on Fox News, calling out the U.S. EPA for “killing jobs faster than President Obama can create them”. Bishop, a carpetbagger if there ever was one, has prevailed on Florida Governor Rick Scott to push back against federal authority to regulate nutrient pollution where the state won’t: overwhelming Florida’s valuable rivers, estuaries and coastal real estate values. To round up the disaster, after so many decades, in a pithy “killing the goose that lays the golden egg” puts an unforgivable smiley face on abject corruption. Read the rest of this entry »
December 31, 2010
(Counterpunch) It is hard to face the close of 2010 with an admission. I was wrong. For more than twenty years as an environmentalist and writer, I harbored the expectation that progress would come. But I did not believe it would come because we had somehow persuaded decision-makers it was time, finally, to abandon the Chamber of Commerce values that crashed the economy into a ditch. I believed that once in the ditch—an inevitability, from witnessing so much bad policy and bad results the past two decades—that people would awake. Rise and Sing!
I was wrong. I had been right about the threats. I started looking in the early 1970s in Florida, through a watery lens of water only a few feet deep covering hundreds of square miles in Florida Bay, the tail end of the Everglades ecosystem. By the late 1980′s, the magnificent efflorescence of nature had been severely injured by repetitive algae blooms. Even then, scientists were chasing changes happening faster than baselines could be anchored with facts. My small layman’s window on marine life in two feet of water, hosting crustaceans and shrimp and sea grass billowing out in glorious creatures from rays to sharks and tarpon and the whole coral reef, encapsulate the whole realm: oceans and a warming planet. Read the rest of this entry »
June 28, 2010
(Counterpunch) Since the Gulf oil spill catastrophe, more than two months ago, I have dropped in regularly to the excellent online coverage by the Times-Picayunein New Orleans. Recently the web edition of the the newspaper has segregated the Gulf oil spill catastrophe into a special section, relieving readers and subscribers from a ceaseless tide of bad news. To be fair, the Times Picayune has an entire click-thru feature filled with news and information of the unfolding Gulf catastrophe, but I’m not imagining the necessity of sublimation. Americans are an “up” people. We are not weighted down by history. We are inventors, entrepreneurs and builders. The paper is responding to a phenomenon well-known to close observers: environmental catastrophe fatigue.
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May 19, 2010
(Counterpunch) Where is the Gulf oil? This morning googling the question produces 16,676 related articles. It is the spatter of zeitgeist, of Youtube clips, talk shows, nightly news, CSPAN and press conferences from sea to sea shining with petroleum. The hidden clouds of oil spilled by BP into the Gulf of Mexico may or may not be light, may or may not be dispersed into droplets or globs, may or may not coat beaches, wetlands and mangroves along the Gulf coast for decades to come: toxic as the day is long. According to AP, “At first we had a lot of concern about surface animals like turtles, whales and dolphins,” said Paul Montagna, a marine biologist at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi who studies Gulf reefs. “Now we’re concerned about everything.” (Deep sea oil plumes, chemical dispersants pose risks for the Gulf’s coral reefs, food chain”, May 17 2010)
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March 12, 2010
(Counterpunch) It is little more and a little less than a footnote to an investigation by theMiami Herald of Miami-Dade police who used funds collected from environmental fines to buy SUV’s, Direct TV receivers, high powered rifles, and Costa del Mar sunglasses among other purchases irrelevant to the fund’s intended purpose.
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December 21, 2009
In early December, on an unseasonably hot and humid Florida day, I sat under a large tent in a crowd of hundreds at the edge of a man-made canal draining the Everglades. On stage, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, deputy assistant secretary of the Army ‘Rock’ Salt who oversees the Corps of Engineers, Gary Guzy, deputy director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and assorted dignitaries to celebrate the decision by the Obama White House and Congress to invest in the elevation of the roadway—one mile of Tamiami Trail—allowing fresh water to flow and hopefully nourish parts of the Everglades that remain as a pale reminder of spectacular biodiversity. Make no mistake: among serial claims of historic accomplishments for restoring the Everglades, this was a big deal. The first hard dollars for a project to restore water flow into the Everglades.
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November 10, 2009
(Counterpunch) Florida is a good lens through which to view the dilemma of delay and inadequate response by government to the challenges of global warming. There has been plenty of talk about reforming energy conservation in order to limited carbon dioxide emissions. The inconsistencies are only a few feet above sea level. The foot-dragging makes marks in the sand. Meanwhile, downtown Miami and Miami Beach are beginning to flood like Venice at seasonal high tides. Read the rest of this entry »