Florida is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The state stretches 500 miles long and 160 miles wide at its most distant points, spanning vast ecosystems with exotic wildlife and beautiful waterways and beaches.
I grew up in South Florida, spent my childhood enjoying the beauty our nature has to offer and although my working-class family never had the resources to travel abroad for expensive vacations, we occasionally went to scenic beaches in places like Sarasota for getaway weekends.
Unfortunately, a slime is turning Florida’s rivers, lakes, and beaches fluorescent green. This slime is toxic to wildlife and humans. Symptoms include skin rashes, runny nose, sore throat, allergic reactions, severe gastroenteritis, liver or kidney toxicity and neurological problems. A parody tourism video created by filmmaker Billy Corben, which features the song that the Florida tourism board embarrassingly paid Pitbull $1 million dollars to perform, depicts the horrible scene unfolding across the state.
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) October 5, 2018
It pains me to see places like Sarasota invaded by this disgusting green slime, but I was shocked when I heard that red tide, a type of naturally occurring toxic algae bloom that has been made worse by climate change and pollution, had made its way to Miami beaches.
Where is this all coming from?
Most of it has to do with the out of control and unregulated agricultural industry in Florida. Fertilizers, inadequately treated sewage, and animal manure are polluting Florida’s waters. Phosphorous and nitrogen dumped into water bodies, are feeding the toxic algae and exacerbating the problem.
Governor Rick Scott is to blame for the current water crisis in the state.
Amid a heated Senate race, Scott is claiming that the saltwater red tides are a natural occurrence (they are but are currently being supercharged by pollutants) and that the freshwater toxic green algae are the fault of his opponent, incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, citing dubious reasons involving a dike located in Lake Okeechobee.
This is nonsense.
The state of Florida is responsible for its water quality and the buck stops with Scott. The fact that he is attempting to mislead voters while shifting responsibility should not surprise anyone who is familiar with his eight-year record of consistent deregulation and kowtowing to the sugar industry and other agricultural industries. Scott has such little regard for environmental issues that employees at the Department of Environmental Protection were ordered not to use the term climate change.
It breaks my heart to see Florida’s beautiful environment being destroyed before my eyes. Dead marine wildlife. Maggots festering in the carcasses of manatees and sea turtles. Children getting sick due to exposure to this toxic slime.
This is not the dystopian world of tomorrow. This is unfolding today right before our very eyes and it will continue to get worse if we don’t reverse course.
Luckily for Floridians, we have the chance to retire Scott from public office this November 6 by voting to retain Nelson in the U.S. Senate.
Even more exciting, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is running for Florida governor and has taken strong environmental stances, starting with actually acknowledging that the science behind climate change is real, while also promising to strengthen regulations banning the dumping of pollutants into our air and water and pledging to transition Florida into a clean energy economy as quickly as possible.
Florida is still one of the most beautiful places in the world. Let’s make sure it stays that way by voting out Rick Scott and all other public officials who refuse to protect our precious environment.
Thomas Kennedy is the Political Director for FLIC Votes and a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change Action. He tweets from @Tomaskenn.