Mr. President, that alarm you hear is the climate clock running out

July 13, 2015

(Context Florida) On climate change adaptation, the hour is very late.

Only seven years ago the mainstream media began reporting the likelihood that warming temperatures at the arctic extremes could begin releasing vast quantities of methane gas into the atmosphere, with its potential to rapidly double the amount of global warming gases already overloading the atmosphere. With a summer that has produced astoundingly high temperatures and forest fires in arctic North, that hypothesis is coming to pass.

It is no surprise that climate scientists, as a result of data pouring in, are beginning to publicly express what they privately experience: despair.

So what is the single, effective step that President Barack Obama could take on climate change? Read the rest of this entry »

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Mr. President, use Everglades backdrop on Earth Day to shun Big Sugar money

April 21, 2015

(This OPED is available on the web through ContextFlorida.)  It makes sense for President Barack Obama to be in the Everglades on Earth Day. According to the White House, he will draw attention to both the Everglades and the massive economic consequences of global warming and climate change.

Obama is likely to echo what a former Friends of the Everglades director said over a decade ago: “The Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to save the planet.”

The difference between the time the phrase was first spoken and today is significant. Read the rest of this entry »


The GOP’s Ten Commandments on Climate Change

March 24, 2015

(printed in Counterpunch and Context Florida)  In public, GOP leaders are climate change deniers. In private, they understand climate change perfectly well. The difference is that disclosure doesn’t serve the party’s purposes. Climate change denial – against the backdrop of accumulating science and fact – is like an electrical charge stimulating the Republican base. Here are the GOP’s Ten Commandments of climate change.

1) Climate change is like the weather: there is nothing we can do about it.

2) We are top predator. Others must adapt to us or die.

3) It doesn’t matter if climate change is man-made: whatever happens is God’s will.

4) Since our God in the only God, we know what is best for you.

5) As the party of limited government, any effort to strengthen environmental regulations is cutting our own throats.

6) As the party of capitalism, we are against any climate-driven protectionism unless it serves our interests.

7) If climate change requires subsidies, existing subsidies will be protected, first. Any additional subsidies will have to adapt to ours.

8) Dissenters on climate change within the party are psychological deviants, to be dealt with and isolated from decision-making.

9) If there is a dispute on climate change between constituencies the GOP represents, the leadership will side with that person who concentrates our political power.

10) We will adapt our behavior to impacts of climate change as they happen, not before.

Alan Farago writes the daily blog, Eye On Miami, under the pen name, Gimleteye. He is president of Friends of the Everglades, a grass roots conservation organization based in Miami, FL. A long-time writer and advocate for Florida’s environment, his work is archived at alanfarago.wordpress.com Column courtesy of Context Florida.


Travels in India conjure memories of priceless Everglades

February 18, 2015

(Published at ContextFlorida) Although I am at the end of my third visit to India, this is still a nation that feels more remote from my experiences than any other. In the far south, it took nine hours to drive the hill country from Tamil Nadu on the east coast of India to the edge of Kerala on the west. The roads wind through villages, tea and rubber plantations, groves of spices – pepper, cardamon, cinnamon and nutmeg – once worth their weight in gold in European capitals.

The wealth that slipped through India was once so vast that only 100 years ago young princes and princesses played in chests loaded with sapphires, rubies, emeralds and precious metals. Today, the suffering of the disadvantaged is dire. The dirt and pollution are ubiquitous. None of the deficits can obscure the fact that the nation is moving, propelled by two cylinder engines, nuclear power plants and the global economy.

But with so many unique languages and 29 strong and independent states ruled by their own congresses, to an outsider India can seem more a state of mind than a sovereign state. When President Barack Obama on his visit to New Delhi stated that there is no fixing climate change without success in India, I wondered: “How? Who? Where?” Read the rest of this entry »


In the Climate Change Coal Mine: The Year the Canaries Came Home to Roost

January 1, 2014

In the Climate Change Coal Mine
The Year the Canaries Came Home to Roost

(Counterpunch) For my final essay of 2013 I am going to (again) write about climate change. This seems to be the year of the canaries in the climate-change coal mine. “Seems”, because at the risk of repetition I have been on that metaphor from the moment I started on the environment.

Back in the late 1980′s I wrote about serial algae blooms in northern Florida Bay. Although the scientists were scratching each other’s eyes out at the time — on the facts and cause –, it was clear that nothing could stop amorphous, amoeba-like blobs from destroying a vast, extraordinary piece of the Everglades ecosystem.

Nothing but government action to reverse decades of water mis-management that accrued to the benefit and upstream profits of Big Sugar. But the deniers controlled the levers of government: it was the time of Ronald Reagan, James Watts and the Wise Use Movement mobilized through the precursor to the Tea Party, called then the Sagebrush Rebellion — against government and especially against environmental regulation — and its Florida Keys branch, the Conch Coalition. Read the rest of this entry »


Notes from the Vomitorium: Carnage in the Magic City

April 19, 2013

Carnage in the Magic City
Notes From the Vomitorium

(Counterpunch) Economists use “digestion” to illustrate the difficulty of absorbing excess housing stock from the housing boom and bust. Years of slack, domestic growth are attributed to the economic alimentary canal stacked to Rabelaisian proportions with the appetites of ordinary citizens to own homes. No money down. No one saw it coming.

Digestion is the word of the day, now, in Florida’s most populous and politically influential county: Miami-Dade. Here, county bureaucrats are locked in “negotiations” with the US EPA, that determined gross violations of sewage treatment requirements for millions of residents and visitors. Through 1994 federal litigation by environmental groups, and once again nearly twenty years later, local government officials finally acknowledge that billions of taxpayer dollars are instantly required to safely digest sewage flowing from our toilets, sinks, dishwashers, top and front end washing machines, from our golf courses, street drains and collectors.

At the same time, Miami tops the list as the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. According to a recent report by RealtyTrac, “The greater Miami area posted the highest foreclosure activity of any large city in the nation in the first quarter, with one in every 79 residences receiving some type of foreclosure filing.”

The half-filled, filthy, abandoned swimming pool in a West Kendall foreclosure is another metaphor: reflecting the stagnant thinking of state government, the practice of elected officials to always shift the costs of growth to the next generation of taxpayers, and — yes– of EPA whose top bureaucrats are only as dedicated to resisting the states as the political appointees they serve. Read the rest of this entry »


Losing the Glades: Ghosts of the Bonefish

January 9, 2013

Losing the Glades
The Ghosts of the Bonefish

On visits to watery Biscayne National Park, I am reminded of the simple shock that one can still view signposts of the natural past despite a hundred years of pollution, the mangrove cutting and wetlands filling, and general disregard of elected officials for laws, regulations and lax enforcement.

On a quiet winter day in the shallows, while the light is low in the sky, it is still possible to find a baby manatee feeding at the shoreline, thrashing the bay bottom only five minutes from the boat ramp. At the right tide and time, close observers can still find dolphin and sharks, from small blacktip to massive bullsharks sunning in the shallows. There are heron, cormorants, and osprey. There are even a few bonefish left, though to see the solitary numbers is to be sadly reminded of the legions that once roamed the shallow water meadows like squadrons of grey ghosts, seeking out pockets of shrimp and crabs before disappearing to the safety of deeper water.

The Everglades ecosystem was once magnificent. At 19th century observer wrote that turtles were so plentiful, one could imagine walking on their backs from Miami to Key Biscayne. Among fishing guides during the time I knew these waters best, in the 1970′s, the southern part of Biscayne Bay was legendary for large bonefish. Who remembers, forty years later? Read the rest of this entry »