Impressions From a Trip to the Everglades

11 things I learned on a environmental trip to South Florida in March 2017 week with Rachel’s Network:

1. Everglades: Unique birds everywhere. Birds eating apple snails and fish. Alligators everywhere. Alligators holding hands. Look at the pretty pictures. What comes next is not pretty:

2. South Florida’s cities, farms, and highways wouldn’t exist without a flood control system comprised of canals built across the huge region starting in the 1930s.

3. These canals/water diversions royally screwed the Everglades (droughts, damaged fisheries, algae blooms, depleted water supply, etc).

4. Florida can’t survive without the Everglades (25% of the state gets its drinking water there).

5. Now the state and feds are spending tens of billions to reverse the damage, removing many canals. 60+ projects are in the works. None yet completed.

 Left: Anhinga; Above: Aligator hole in Pa-Hay-Okee Left: Anhinga; Above: Aligator hole in Pa-Hay-Okee

6. Meanwhile, sea level rise is becoming increasingly urgent in places like Miami. Saltwater is seeping into the groundwater supply from below. “Sunny day flooding” is happening about once/month (1/week by 2050). They’re raising roads, pumping water, changing building codes, upgrading sewer systems. It’s only getting worse, and many of the current solutions are band aids.

7. Contrast all the work happening at the local level with the utter denial and incompetence coming from Florida Gov. Scott and the state legislature (and Congress, wah wah).

8. Speaking of the state legislature, everyone I talked to down there agreed it’s a mess. There’s only a six week legislative session and most the legislators are bought by the big, influential industries like sugar. I met several women who *should* be running for office, but are disgusted by the “cartel” control of the state government and the “old boy’s club” atmosphere.

9. Nevertheless, South Florida has a lot of vocal Republican climate leaders including Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, US Rep Carlos Curbelo, and Irela Bagué, who works with the business community on the issue.

10. South Florida continues to see a building boom along the coast (which will inevitably flood), and into the Everglades (which is already degraded). They’re also continuing to build highways all over the place even though transportation accounts for 50% of the state’s carbon emissions.

11. I met the county (and nonprofit) officials responsible for protecting Miami and Broward from climate impacts. They are unsung heros trying their damndest in the face of state-level corruption and rapidly rising waters. “We’re in a desperate situation,” said one.

If you want to support Florida heroes, Catalyst Miami and South Florida National Parks Trust deserve money. Also, call your reps (at all levels of government) to tell them to act on climate and support groups working on campaign finance reform in the state.

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