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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Florida Everglades are in Terrible Shape

Photo: Everglades Foundation

Every day we seem to come across climate change and environmental debates. From what is a hoax, to what there isn't enough proof of to make conclusions about, to politicians favoring corporations and abolishing policies that protect the environment. What does one believe with all the confusing and contradicting information out there?

While everyone is arguing and trying to dismiss each other, the physical impact of our neglect and poor decisions are right there in our faces and hard to ignore. So, I wonder often, how can we actually BE ignoring these things?

Florida is having the worst tourist season EVER due to water pollution from ongoing discharges including poisonous fertilizers going into Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

Fingers for the pollution are being pointed at U.S. Sugar Corp. and its owner, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation because pollution from the sugar fields runs off into the local bodies of water. What is also interesting, is that the Mott Foundation is headquartered in Flint Michigan. Not sure if the company is also are connected to any of the issue in Flint, but if so, it is safe to say the Mott Foundation is not a responsible or eco-conscious. Other pollution that contributes to threatening the Everglades is mercury.

Tourism and economic decline is not the only problem Florida's Everglades face. In the Everglades, Alligators are starving to a point of skin and bones. In addition to being emaciated to 80% of their normal weight, they are also growing smaller and at slower rates. At age 10, the alligators are about two feet smaller than they should be at 4-5 feet instead of 6-7. This is alarming to ecologists as Alligators are an indicator species of the Everglades. This means their health is reflective of the health of the watershed's ecosystem. Human activity is largely blamed for altering the area's waterflow and contributing to limiting the alligators' food supply.

Healthier Alligator on the Left - Current Emaciated Situation on the Right

Alligators are just one of the many species in danger in the Everglades. It's poster-child and the symbol of this wild, vast ecosystem is the Florida panther. It is the most endangered species in the Everglades, with only about 100 remaining in the wild. It feeds on deer and mammals, but with food being disrupted, the number remaining in the wild will drastically drop. Looking at the following photo of the sagging skin Panther (taken by Mossy Oaks), I would say that their food supply is already in danger.

The Everglades are the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the lower 48 states, and are home to 56 endangered or threatened species which is dwindling or has vanished completely with human activity. The region also draws 1.6 million annual visitors, which has steadily been declining as previously mentioned due to pollution.

Human activity in the Everglades started as early as the 1800's when canals to drain water started to be dug. Activity continued into the future on a larger scale, and in the late 1940's The Central and Southern Florida Project went into effect. The Projects goal was to provide flood protection and fresh water to South Florida. The task was successful, allowing more people to live on the land and increasing the population from thousands to millions, but it caused the ecosystem a lot of damage in the process.

The canals that have been dug into the land vastly interrupted the Everglades natural sheet flow with fresh water being washed out to sea. With water crisis's popping up all over the world, it is important that we are in control of as much fresh water as possible. Not only does this lost water not benefit any humans, but it washes the food of local wild life out into the ocean to die. With at least 33% of Floridians relying on the watershed for drinking water, shouldn't more of it be available?

Today, the Everglades are about half of its original size, and that is cause for alarm. The Worlds Largest Environmental Restoration project has been happening in the Everglades, and is about to reach its midpoint. Expert opinion is that if the 30 year restoration project was effective, wildlife such as the starving Alligators would be in thriving and in better shape at its midpoint, but that is certainly not the case.

We are not useless humans who just need to witness these terrible things happening while we shrug our shoulders feeling helpless. When you feel you have nothing to contribute, philanthropy is a good way to help those who are already putting in the physical work it takes to make a difference. There are several foundations out there that are dedicated to helping the Everglades. One good one is The Everglades Foundation.

Signing petitions that benefit the Everglades are also simple somethings that can be done. Maybe some feel it is a stretch that a bunch of signatures can change anything, but when it takes such little effort to do, and the possible payoff is so much, isn't it worth a try?



Other Links of Interest:

Nature Conservatory - Protecting the Everglades
http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/florida/placesweprotect/everglades.xml

National Wildlife Federation - What We Do To Protect The Everglades
https://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Protect-Habitat/Waters/Everglades.aspx

Sierra Club - Big Sugar Summit
http://www.sierraclub.org/florida/big-sugar-summit-follow

Other Resources:

Earth Justice - South Floridas Tourist Season from Hell
http://earthjustice.org/blog/2016-february/south-florida-s-tourist-season-from-hell

Nature World News - Alligators Starve in the Everglades
http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/20131/20160222/alligators-starve-florida-everglades-indicating-ecosystem-poor-health.htm


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