If you are just returning from your summer in cooler climes, welcome back.
There are a few things you should know as you return:
We’ve had massive amounts of seaweed wash up on our beaches most of the summer. No one is sure where it’s coming from, but some scientists suspect a changed ocean current is moving it into the Gulf Stream from Brazil.
Because of high water levels in Lake Okeechobee, the Army Corps of Engineers has been pumping water mixed with a toxic algae bloom into area canals. The worst of this is turning our East Coast waterways in Martin and St. Lucie counties into a smelly blue-green soup.
On top of the dark, murky outflow from Boynton Inlet that has kept the ocean water in the south part of Palm Beach County unattractive for swimming, in late September a rare outbreak of red tide blew ashore, causing rashes and respiratory problems for local beachgoers.
In the Gulf of Mexico the normal red tide bloom exploded this year, causing extensive deaths of fish and other wildlife, including manatees and sea turtles.
The king tides will arrive this October and November and once again challenge our efforts to keep rising water from our yards and streets.
And iguanas are everywhere. Love them or hate them, it appears they are here to stay.
Sound unattractive? Like something from a horror movie? It may just be. This summer brought out the worst of Florida nature (short of alligator attacks and hurricanes), and without some action it’s not likely to change anytime soon.
Florida is a unique ecosystem — that’s why we all love it here, right? The balmy evenings, salt spray on our skin, vast grassy horizons of the Everglades, sunrise over the Atlantic. It’s all balanced in a sort of scientific petri dish on a peninsula sandwiched between the Atlantic Gulf Stream and the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Ever since the government began its drainage projects in the 1920s, we’ve been stirring it up and adding elements, creating some new, untested compound that’s sloshing over the edges. That’s where we are today.
Nature is resilient, but more than 20 million people are now in Florida, and each one has brought his or her own definition of paradise to the mix.
While it’s tempting to say “stop everything, give nature a chance to rebuild,” we know this will not happen. We have to believe — and invest — in scientific research and creative solutions to fix what’s overflowing Florida’s petri dish.
And we have to evaluate the records of political candidates and determine where they stand on this most fundamental issue. Then, we have to vote.
Voter registration deadline for the Nov. 6 general election is Oct. 9.
Every election is important. For Florida’s environmental future, this election may be critical.
— Mary Kate Leming, Editor