WHY REPUBLICANS CAN’T HANDLE ALGAE BLOOM
By Don C. Reed
You have seen the pictures of the Florida algae crisis: dead animals on the beaches, seawater so thick with glop you could pick it up with your hands—except you would not want to, because some of it is toxic like liquid poison oak.
Getting rid of algae was once my job. From 1972-86, I worked as a professional scubadiver at Marine World Africa USA.
Using scrub brushes and a vacuum hose, I cleaned algae off the walls, floors and windows of the giant aquarium tanks. The sharks, dolphins, eels, seals and killer whales produced waste, fertilizing the microscopic plants. Add the heat of Summer, and you could almost see it grow.
Today, most aquariums have advanced filtration systems such as ozone gas towers, eliminating the need for my tank-scrubbing job.
But the principles remain. Heat plus waste makes algae grow—and that, on a somewhat larger scale, is what threatens Florida today.
It will cost money to fix, and require government regulations.
Unfortunately, Republicans don’t want to spend money (which might mean taxing the rich) and they hate government regulations for essentially the same reason. It is cheaper in the short run to just dump garbage in the ocean, and let somebody else worry about it—whereby we have the algae explosion.
When Republican Governor Rick Scott came to office in 2010, Florida had a $700 million program for the state’s seven water districts, to fight algae bloom.
With apparently zero thought for the future, Scott canceled the program’s funding. Since then he has been forced by public pressure to grudgingly restore a portion of the funds, but nowhere near what had been budgeted before.
The Republican governor also weakened anti-pollution laws regulating the amount of waste that could be dumped into the water.
He “got his Department of Environmental Protection to convince the (national) EPA that Florida should set up its own (more lenient) regulations for sewage, manure and fertilizer.”
Today, Florida’s once blue sea is clogged with vile foul-smelling algae.
It kills the fish—which threatens the fishing industry.
Local fisherman Capt. Bill D’Antuono said of the Republican governor:
“It’s almost like he has made a deliberate attack on the environment and my way of life by dismantling protections. I would never vote for him in a million years.”
And it can threaten the health of people who live near it. The EPA warns: “Harmful algal blooms can: produce extremely dangerous toxins that can sicken or kill people and animals…”
A recent survey by a Florida university shows a related drop in tourist attendance.
“The harmful algae bloom affecting some South Florida beaches has driven away half of people considering visiting the Sunshine State and could deter nearly three-fourths of those thinking of traveling to the affected counties…”
Visitors complain of rancid smells “like rotting eggs and flesh” and unswimmable water with a texture “like guacamole”.
The situation is so bad that lifeguards are paid to keep people OUT of the water, because of its toxicity.
Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, is fighting the problem the only way it can be fought: with funding and research.
(Senator Nelson) “introduced legislation last year that would allocate $110 million over five years to research the causes of large algae blooms and hypoxia, which essentially suffocates sealife. The Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent, but it was never taken up by the House.”
With dogged determination, Nelson continues the fight, recently writing a national bill to research algae bloom, co-authored by Republican Marco Rubio.
If Democrats gain control in the House, environment-friendly bills like Nelson’s have a chance. But if Scott takes Nelson’s place in the Senate?
Unfortunately, Scott is staggeringly wealthy, with his and his wife’s fortune estimated at roughly half a billion dollars. Already he is flooding the airways with ads, outspending Nelson 4-1, with essentially limitless spending ahead.
Money is his great advantage; but if he wins, Florida may pay a heavy price.
In the past, some Republicans were strongly pro-environment, like Teddy Roosevelt, who authorized the national parks.
But no more.
With rare exceptions like Rubio, Republicans are incapable of dealing with environmental problems.
Like their leader in Washington, “modern” Republicans are climate-change deniers: refusing to listen to experts, or even to accept the evidence of their own eyes. Global warming? A hoax, they say, ignoring the fact that it is hotter this year than last, and all the years before that. Earth’s temperature is rising—and heat increases algae bloom.
President Trump’s appointees are systematically gutting environmental programs, virtually guaranteeing more disasters like Florida’s explosion of green slime.
The choice is clear.
Should we send more anti-environment Republicans to Washington?
Or put a check and balance on President Trump– with science-respecting Democrats like Bill Nelson?
Don C. Reed is the author of “CALIFORNIA CURES: How the California Stem Cell Program is Fighting Your Incurable Disease!”, by World Scientific, publishers of the late Stephen Hawking.