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Big Sugar Pollution Brings Blue-Green Algae Disaster to Florida Waters

COLLECTIVELY WE HAVE THE UPPER HAND TO CHANGE THIS NOW!!!!
The first thing Florida should be doing is banning what’s causing this; SUGAR PRODUCTION. But let’s be honest, the federal government is not going to do this.  Collectively, we need to stop placing the responsibility on others, especially the government that constantly fails us and we need to take the matters into our own hands.  There are many things we can do.   Over the past half century, the Everglades have been suffering from pollution, water problems, loss of habitat, and a tremendous loss of wildlife.  This is nothing new.  Now it’s just at a point where you can’t ignore the big green elephant in the room anymore!  
Water full of algae laps along the Sewell's Point shore on the St. Lucie River under an Ocean Boulevard bridge, Monday, June 27, 2016. The Martin County Commission decided at an emergency meeting Tuesday to ask state and federal authorities to declare a disaster where blue-green algae has closed beaches. County officials on Florida's Atlantic coast want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to close the locks between Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post via AP)

Water full of algae laps along the Sewell’s Point shore on the St. Lucie River under an Ocean Boulevard bridge, Monday, June 27, 2016. The Martin County Commission decided at an emergency meeting Tuesday to ask state and federal authorities to declare a disaster where blue-green algae has closed beaches. County officials on Florida’s Atlantic coast want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to close the locks between Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post via A

Sugarcane grows only in warmer climates, with Florida claiming the crown as the top domestic producer (runners-up include Hawaii, Louisiana, and Texas). Florida’s crop is concentrated in several counties around Lake Okeechobee, right at the northern tip of the magnificent wetland ecosystem of the Everglades. . A few billionaires are holding Florida hostage to profit schemes based on shifting their pollution onto the backs of taxpayers; in this case, wrecking billions of dollars of coastal real estate and tourism-based businesses to keep sugar fields dry.

The Everglades is a vast swath of shallow fresh water running south from Lake Okeechobee into the Gulf of Mexico. In most parts of the world, when water leaves a lake and runs toward the ocean, it flows in the form of a well-defined river. But because of Florida’s extremely flat geography, the “river of grass” that is the Everglades flows as a huge sheet of shallow water that is 50 miles wide in some places, though only inches deep in most. Dotted with a vast array of habitats, including sloughs, mangrove forests, coastal prairies, hardwood hammocks, and cypress stands, the Everglades is home to more than 350 species of birds, 40 species of mammals, and 15 endangered animals.
The habitats of the Everglades are dependent on a yearly water cycle. Rains start in May and don’t end until October. Lake Okeechobee, a large 730-square-mile lake near Palm Beach, fills and eventually overflows, sending water south. All animal reproduction is timed to the wet season. Birds lay their eggs and fish spawn as the water levels rise. As the dry season starts, water levels fall and animals begin to concentrate around pools that form. The young of animals that survive this long gorge themselves on the food that concentrates in those pools.

Diverting the water

Since the latter half of the 19th century, developers have been interested in draining the swamps of southern Florida for development purposes, but the draining of the Everglades didn’t really get under way until the federal government became involved in the 1940s.

In 1948, Congress approved the Central and South Florida Project, which authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to divert all of the water flowing south out of Lake Okeechobee. Over the next 20 years, a webwork of canals, levees, and roads constructed by the Corps diverted water to farms and populated areas. Some 1,800 miles of canals and levees, 200 water-control structures, and 16 major pumping stations were eventually constructed that drained 1.7 million acres of wetlands, almost half of the Everglades.

Plantations alternately hold or flood water according to the crop’s needs, not the Everglades’ needs. Deprived of the historical water flow from Lake Okeechobee, sometimes the wetlands bordering the agricultural area are unnaturally dry, and sometimes they’re too wet, which threatens biodiversity. You may have seen some of these issues in the news recently, as just last year Florida officials killed a deal to buy swathes of sugar company-owned land for Everglades conservation.

The effects on the Everglades were devastating. According to the National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/ever/historyculture/ developeverglades.htm),

The numbers of wading birds, such as egrets, herons, and ibises, have been reduced by 90%. Entire populations of animals, including the manatee, the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, the Miami black-headed snake, the wood stork, and the Florida panther, are at risk of disappearing. Exotic pest plants such as melaleuca, Brazilian pepper, and Australian pine have invaded natural areas, choking out native plants and altering habitats. Massive die-offs of seagrass beds in Florida Bay have been followed by the extensive losses of wading birds, fish, shrimp, sponges, and mangroves.

In other words, utter environmental ruin. Even though there were stipulations in the Central and South Florida Project to provide water for the remaining Everglades and to protect the wildlife within, they could not have done a more thorough job of destroying the ecosystem if that had been their goal.

Central planning simply cannot replace the natural cycles that occur in nature. Just as in the pricing system, there is too much information involved for a central planner to process to get the result he is looking for.

As happens in so many places where agriculture butts up against nature, excess phosphorus in run-off contributes to algal blooms and otherwise mucks up the area’s ecological balance — in this case, feeding weedy plants like cattails and choking out native species like sawgrass. This kind of nutrient pollution can be traced back to several human sources, but a recent analysis by the nonprofit Everglades Foundation found that 76 percent of the phosphorus problem there comes from agriculture — and in that neck of the woods, that primarily means sugarcane.

The sugar industry

In addition to directly destroying the Everglades through drainage and interference with Everglades hydrology, the government also harms the Everglades through its trade policy.

The U.S. sugar industry is one of the most heavily subsidized sectors of the U.S. economy. Sugarcane growers are protected from international competition by quotas and aided domestically by nonrecourse loans. In 1994, it was estimated that the top 10 sugar producers in Florida received approximately $174 million in federal benefits.

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FIELDS OF CANE United States Sugar’s Clewiston sugar cane refinery. A $1.75 billion deal to sell land and assets to Florida was reduced to 72,800 acres, in separate parcels, for $536 million

Most people would be surprised to learn that, south of Orlando, a large portion of the country’s sugar is grown below Lake Okeechobee. The sugar industry is largely responsible for the deterioration of the Everglades.

Screenshot-2016-03-22-07.15.39

 

Of the 1.7 million acres created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through the Central and South Florida Project, 1.2 million are currently being used for the cultivation of sugar cane.

Sugar cane is highly destructive to the Everglades. As discussed above, the most detrimental effect of the sugar industry is the disruption of the water cycle to which the wildlife has adapted. The entire Florida sugar industry hugs the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee like a giant tick, directly blocking the water source for the remaining Everglades. All water flow is now controlled through levees and canals, with a large portion of it being used for irrigating sugar cane, with more being diverted to both of Florida’s coasts.

 

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The farming techniques that the sugar farms employ are not very Everglades-friendly. The largest pollutant of the Everglades is phosphorous, a primary component of fertilizer used to grow sugar cane. High levels of phosphorous cause algae blooms to multiply, which chokes off the oxygen supply in marine ecosystems, killing off vast quantities of wildlife. The primary source of phosphorous in the Everglades is fertilizer runoff from sugar-cane production. The soil of southern Florida is not ideal for sugar production, and the farms must use large doses fertilizer to get the results they are looking for.

As you suspect, sugarcane grown elsewhere is no lighter on the land. Globally, sugarcane production is linked to high water use, water and soil pollution, erosion, and biodiversity loss throughout the tropics, and pre-harvest burning of the fields accounts for sugar’s largest carbon footprint. And with imported sugar, we also have to consider the food miles we’re racking up.

Not even a 2014 constitutional amendment, approved by more than 75 percent of Florida voters, for land acquisition has swayed legislators to fixing the Lake Okeechobee disaster. Social media could do the job, showing graphic images how Big Sugar billionaires fertilize the Republican majority just like sulfates from its half million acres using drainage canals like sewage pipes.
The average American snarfs more than 126 grams of sugar per day, which translates to a rather alarming 30-plus teaspoons. Besides the obvious health implications of our constant nationwide sugar binge, we must also consider the environmental cost of producing those spoonfuls. It ain’t exactly healthy for the planet, either.
Let’s be honest, the one’s that are appointed  by us to protect our wildlife are bought by corporations.  We are the ones that must change this and we will!

These corporations are run because we buy their products.  If we stop and demand change, they will.

Really, this is a case where we need to do even more than vote with our dollars. We need to contact sugar brands directly and urge them to take more steps to protect the environment around their plantations and processing mills. And we can get involved with environmental groups fighting to do just that — such as that aforementioned Everglades Foundation locally, or the World Wildlife Fund internationally.  Campaigns to bring awareness of the overall destructive nature of sugar are popping up in Florida and in other parts of the world!  I think it’s time we evolve and get off this completely destructive and addictive manmade substance!  Use maple syrup, honey, stevia, brown rice syrup!
Let’s make this viral! Comment, like, share! Tell everyone you know!!!
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