Tom Palmer writes for The Ledger – “Environmentalists lobbied for legislation to ban fracking, but the bills died in committee… Florida Forever is Florida’s mostly sidelined environmental-land acquisition and management program… The program got some money this year, but far less than what environmentalists had sought… Legislators approved a measure that will allow utilities to pump treated sewage into the aquifer… The idea is to supplement declining aquifer levels so they can keep pumping water out of it. The problem with this approach is that there are a lot of chemicals in wastewater streams besides the ones removed through treatment. The health effects from chronic exposure to these chemicals are unknown… Another piece of water legislation that environmentalists unsuccessfully fought would shift oversight of dredge and fill permitting in Florida from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The opposition was based on what the environmental community claimed was FDEP’s highly politicized permitting policies, at least in recent years, that allowed permits to be issued… for development with less scrutiny than in the past… One bill supported by environmentalists that didn’t make it out of this year’s session would have mandated quicker appointments to the Environmental Regulation Commission, a seven-member panel that makes decisions on a variety of issues affecting air and water quality in Florida. The bill was prompted by an unfilled vacancy for the environmental seat on the board last year when a controversial case came before the commission that resulted in a very close vote.” Read Legislators weren’t good to environmentalists
Marc Peruzzi writes for Outside – “When that bright day arrives and we remember that public lands are for the public, conservationist voters need to reexamine the ways we fund open space, parks, and trails in this country, because the current system is a mess. On the federal level, funding depends on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a 1965 act that, in theory, sets aside $400 million annually in oil and gas royalties. In reality, at best $100 million of that money has ever been released and almost all those funds go to acquisitions by federal agencies like the National Park Service… But even if all those dollars were released, nothing would fundamentally change for conservation. The LCWF’s $400 million is a pittance when it comes to acquiring lands on a national scale. The real action is at the state and local level, where 70 to 80 percent of conservation funding is generated… The result of all these piecemeal strategies is a helter-skelter jumble that ebbs and flows with the health of the economy and the whims of the political parties in charge. If you agree with Tim Wohlgenant, chief operating officer of the Trust for Public Land, that conservation is a basic human right and that it must grow with the population as a hedge against rampant development, then conservationists need to rethink how they raise cash… Florida… might have the best framework for generating conservation revenue. Back in 1963, the Sunshine State placed a tax on real estate transactions so that, as the population grew, so too would public land acquisition…. And the Florida Forever program worked swimmingly until the real estate-fueled Great Recession of 2008, which also ushered in a regime change in the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.” Read How to Fund Conservation in the Age of Moneyball
Robert Knight writes for The Gainesville Sun – “All of us living in and visiting Florida have an “aquifer footprint.” Our aquifer footprint is measured by the amount of groundwater we use from the Floridan aquifer and our contribution to the nitrate-nitrogen pollutant load to the aquifer. It is an estimate of the personal detrimental impact we each place on Florida’s groundwater environment, especially the ecology of the state’s springs, rivers, lakes and estuaries supported by that groundwater. If you live where the aquifer is vulnerable to contamination due to a lack of impervious soils, and you apply fertilizer to your lawn, garden or pasture, you have an elevated nitrogen aquifer footprint. If your home’s wastewater is disposed of in a septic system and your lot is less than five acres, you have an elevated nitrogen footprint. If you water your yard and landscaping plants with groundwater or consume unusually large volumes of water in your house, you also have an elevated water use footprint. The Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute has completed the first phase of the “Blue Water Audit,” an assessment of the aquifer footprint of the 4.2 million Floridians living in the springs region of North and Central Florida… The net result of the choices we are making in Florida’s springs region is an average groundwater nitrate-nitrogen concentration 2,900 percent higher than natural background concentrations and an overall decline in average spring flows of about 32 percent. One goal of the audit is to continue making these estimates to determine how much the state’s roughly $100 million annual springs protection expenditures are, or are not, improving conditions in the aquifer and springs.” Read Reducing your aquifer footprint is essential
Sharon E. Rapone writes for the Ocala Star Banner – “[W]e are aware that Marion County has been under watering restrictions for most of the two decades we’ve lived here… Does anyone seriously believe water availability for Marion County (or Florida) will improve in coming decades? And yet, tens of thousands of homes have been approved for building. I’d like to float an idea that would appease those of us worried, and it may even help. What if developers and commissioners take action to decrease use of water? What if they develop and/or approve only communities that use xeriscaping? Basically, that is landscaping without grass or with very little of it incorporated into the design. It means using Florida-friendly plants… The designs can be stunning. And it saves water and decreases use of fertilizers. Developers might find more acceptance and save money fighting decisions against their developments. Commissioners might earn less ire. We might gain some security regarding water availability for our futures. Many, even most communities like the one where I live are run by rules forbidding anything but grass lawns. It seems against the public good to have rules like that, but we do and I believe such rules threaten the future of our county. Xeriscaping isn’t’ an earth-shaking change, but it might change our future.” Read Xeriscaping to save water
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “The neighborhood of 39 condominiums and six cottages along the Indian River Lagoon has ripped up more than 5,000 square feet of grass and replaced tropical plants – some of them invasives – with 3,600 and counting Florida native and Florida-friendly plants. The move will help save the lagoon from fertilizer runoff and grass clippings, both of which feed algae blooms. It also will save the residents money because the native plants require less water, less fertilizer and less maintenance… Using natives and Florida-friendly plants, Pelensky said, ‘is… going to cut down on the noise that comes with all that maintenance.’” Read Vero Beach neighborhood now Florida-friendly to save Indian River Lagoon
Kim Stanley Robinson writes for The Guardian – “There are nearly eight billion humans alive on the planet now, and that’s a big number: more than twice as many as were alive 50 years ago. It’s an accidental experiment with enormous stakes, as it isn’t clear that the Earth’s biosphere can supply that many people’s needs – or absorb that many wastes and poisons –… over the long haul. We’ll only find out by trying it. Right now we are not succeeding. The Global Footprint Network estimates that we use up our annual supply of renewable resources by August every year, after which we are cutting into non-renewable supplies – in effect stealing from future generations… At the same time we’re pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate that is changing the climate in dangerous ways and will certainly damage agriculture. This situation can’t endure for long – years, perhaps, but not decades… The tendency of people to move to cities… creates a great opportunity. It we managed urbanization properly, we could nearly remove ourselves from a considerable percentage of the planet’s surface. That would be good for many of the threatened species we share this planet with, which in turn would be good for us, because we are completely enmeshed in Earth’s web of life. Here I’m referring to the plan EO Wilson has named Half Earth.” Read Empty half the Earth of its humans. It’s the only way to save the planet
Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport report for the New York Times – “The fall of Rex W. Tillerson from the Trump administration -… Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, was tapped to replace him as secretary of state – removes one of the last remaining presidential advisers whose views on global warming are in line with the rest of the world. Mr. Pompeo has questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is changing the climate, and he has strongly opposed the Paris Agreement… Mr. Tillerson, despite his decades-long career in the oil industry… holds that rising global temperatures spurred by human activity pose significant risks… Mr. Tillerson’s departure follows the resignation announcement… of Gary Cohn, the president’s top economic adviser, and the departure last month of George David Banks, a senior adviser to the president on international energy issues. All three had argued to keep the United States in the Paris agreement. With the three departures, ‘the moderating forces on climate change within the administration are all but gone, the ones that matter,’ said Sarah Ladislaw, an energy analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies…” Read Pompeo, Trump’s Pick for Secretary of State, Is a ‘Great Climate Skeptic’
Chris Mooney reports for The Washington Post – “After three flat years that had hinted at a possible environmental breakthrough, carbon dioxide emissions from the use of energy rose again by 1.4 percent in 2017… Global coal demand increased 1 percent last year, following two years of declines… Demand for oil and gas surged even more, at 1.6 percent and 3 percent, respectively. All of this happened even though renewable energy also increased, affirming that the pace of change in the global energy sphere is not fast enough to reduce greenhouse gases, which have long been closely tied to economic and population growth… [C]oal is struggling, perhaps, but is not out of the picture. And whatever change is happening, it isn’t enough to put the planet on the course that world leaders have said they want – one that avoids the worst impacts of climate change.” Read Last year dashed hopes for a climate change turnaround
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
March 26 – April 17 – Solar United Neighbors is hosting several solar co-op information sessions around Florida throughout the next few months. Attendees will learn about solar equipment, financing, and the benefits of joining a solar co-op. For a complete list of sessions, click here.
March 26, 6:00 pm – Attend a talk by Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper, on The Green Amendment: Our Right to a Healthy Environment at the Working Food Community Center (219 NW 10th Avenue) in Gainesville. Doors open at 5:30 PM.
April 5, 6:30 pm – Attend the Sierra Club Adventure Coast Committee’s meeting at the Harvey Martin Democratic Center (3432 Deltona Boulevard) in Spring Hill. The meeting will feature the founder and national president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Lynn Ringenberg. Social begins at 6:30, followed by the meeting at 7. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (352) 277 – 3330.
April 14, 11:00 am – Attend the Last Straw Campaign Kickoff in Pensacola. Learn how you can modify your lifestyle to say no to straws and what you can do to get others on board. For more information, click here or contact Mary Gutierrez at email@example.com.
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