Floridians don't seem to care that our environment is being fouled

·3 min read
A boat cruises past Palm Point on Newnans Lake during a cleanup of the lake in 2018.
A boat cruises past Palm Point on Newnans Lake during a cleanup of the lake in 2018.

The last time I was in Phoenix I noticed that the artificial lawn business was booming.

Apparently someone figured out that pouring water into desert ground just to have green lawns was the very definition of stupidity.

Maybe what we need in Florida is a drought of truly biblical proportions to make us face the consequences of our collective stupidity.

The last epic drought we had, in 2000, so lowered the water in Newnans Lake that more than 100 ancient canoes were uncovered. That was considered big news of the “gee whiz!” variety.

Of less note was the fact that the phosphate-laden muck that held those canoes hostage dried up and blew away under exposure to sun and wind.

And, for a little while, Newnans was a little cleaner.

But this February, a county press release alerted us to “the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Newnans Lake.”

As news goes that was rather like announcing that water is wet and grass is green. Newnans has often been listed as Florida’s most polluted lake.

Then, in March, another press release reported that toxic algae had also turned up in Orange Lake.

No news there. Orange is downstream from Newnans.

More from Ron Cunningham:

State leaders have normalized the kind of bigotry that Alan Trask once promoted

DeSantis and his acolytes mounting hostile takeover of Florida’s university system

Lessons learned from Gainesville's experiment with driverless buses

Listen, we know “real news” when we see it here in Florida.

“Don’t say gay” was real news. Outlawing diversity training that might make employees feel bad about themselves was news. Freeing oppressed Floridians from the tyranny of masks was epic news.

And learning that Florida led the nation in polluted lakes?

News for about five minutes.

Like announcing that water is wet and grass is green.

So now we are hand-feeding lettuce to manatees because the seagrass that kept them fat and happy for millennia is vanishing. Red tide and blue-green algae outbreaks, once summer events, now happen year-round.

We’ve turned Lake Okeechobee — the “liquid heart” of Florida — into a manure-and-fertilizer catch basin.

And when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finally decided to get serious about conserving water in the Everglades, the Florida Legislature passed a bill to protect poor little Big Sugar from the big bad feds.

All of this occurring half a century after the passage of the “landmark” Clean Water Act.

Ironically, too few of us Floridians seem to think it’s big news that we are poisoning the very natural resource that gives us life and feeds our economy. We are systematically fouling the rivers, lakes, springs and waterways that truly make Florida a paradise on earth.

And we even know how we are doing it.

The state wants agriculture to follow “best practice” management of its fertilizer and water use. But it won’t require it.

The right of homeowners to scatter endless bags of fertilizers and pesticides over their lawns must be tucked away in our state constitution somewhere. It is that sacrosanct.

“Septic tanks r us” might as well be Florida’s motto.

Environmental regulators can set total maximum daily load limits on phosphate discharges into our rivers and lakes until the cows come home. But cows are still gonna answer the call of nature. And we do precious little to oblige the dairy industry to responsibly manage its waste.

What’s wrong with us?

Listen, I hate mask tyranny as much as the next guy. But we Floridians are slowly stewing in our own toxic juices, and we don’t seem to care.

That seems the very definition of life in a fool’s paradise.

Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Read his blog at www.floridavelocipede.com. Email him at ron@freegnv.com

Gainesville Sun columnist Ron Cunningham
Gainesville Sun columnist Ron Cunningham

Join the conversation

Send a letter to the editor (up to 200 words) to letters@gainesville.com. Letters must include the writer's full name and city of residence. Additional guidelines for submitting letters and longer guest columns can be found at bit.ly/sunopinionguidelines.

Journalism matters. Your support matters.

Get a digital subscription to the Gainesville Sun. Includes must-see content on Gainesville.com and Gatorsports.com, breaking news and updates on all your devices, and access to the eEdition. Visit www.gainesville.com/subscribenow to sign up.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Ron Cunningham: Polluted water bodies are hardly news in Florida