Paradise Lost Redux?

As this issue of SFBW was going to the printer, there were some alarming headlines about the environment that should be a wakeup call for businesses. The headlines largely had to do with red tide no longer being just a Gulf Coast problem, but rolling into South Florida.

The original “Paradise Lost” comes from a 1981 Time magazine article that told how South Florida was overrun by a hurricane of crime, drugs and refugees. This was an era when companies were fleeing Miami, which wasn’t such a trendy place.

The new headlines include:

* “State team deployed to investigate MacArthur Beach fish kill,” said the Palm Beach Post website. Most of the county’s beaches were closed and dead fish were washing up on some beaches. There were reports of respiratory issues.

* “Red tide confirmed in Miami-Dade, and some beaches have been closed,” read a headline on the Miami Herald website. Haulover Beach was closed to swimmers and monitoring was being done on beaches further south.

* “Red-Tide Sludge Could Flood Miami During King-Tide Season, City Warns,” was the headline on the New Times website. Residents were warned to avoid contact with the floodwater, and New Times told how police officers were filmed wearing “Mad Max”-type masks on Haulover Beach.

If you don’t know already, king tides are a seasonal event and have caused water to slosh over seawalls and up through storm drains during previous occasions.

As someone who lives on the tidal Middle River, I ordered a high-efficiency particulate air filter machine because a member of my household already has respiratory issues. I can only hope red tide doesn’t come up the river.

If you think this issue isn’t being noticed nationally, you are sadly mistaken. In the race for U.S. Senate, Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson sparred over who is to blame for the red tide and its cousin, green algae. (One could argue that inaction and indifference by both the state and federal government are factors, too.)

Then there is the race for governor between Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Gillum had a campaign stop on Siesta Key to highlight his environmental plan while DeSantis issued a statement that he would put together a task force on algae if elected.

One might ask why these types of task forces haven’t been put together years ago, given Florida’s history with red tide.

There seems to be plenty of speculation about what causes these algae blooms, including fertilizer runoff, septic tanks and red Saharan dust. Clearly, the state and federal government have done a poor job of figuring the problem out and determining what, if anything, can be done to mitigate the issue.

What’s clear is that dead fish and closed beaches aren’t the type of publicity the state needs as people are planning winter vacations. Let’s hope there isn’t an outgoing economic tide.

Kevin Gale
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