A Conservative Case For Fighting Big Sugar In Florida
A few weeks ago, I went to visit my grandfather at his home as he recovers from surgery.
While visiting, he showed me a newspaper article about Governor Rick Scott’s reluctance to address the sugar industry’s practice of dumping produce runoff into various bodies of water along Treasure Coast, notably the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
This runoff has, according to the Miami Herald produced a toxic, blue-green algae that has closed beaches, killed fish and oysters, and produced hazards for civilians who rely on the water for drinking and recreation.
To quote Brian Mast, a candidate for the Republican primary in Florida’s 18th Congressional District who uploaded video footage of the green algae on his Facebook account:
“This is the water that we fish in. This is the water that our children play in, that we wade in. This is the water that touches our beaches. This is the water that we go boating in. This is our way of life here, and it’s literally…it’s being destroyed.”
That last sentence in Mast’s statement may perhaps be the most important of all, as there is more than one accurate context to state it in.
Of course, the locals’ way of life has been affected.
They can no longer be guaranteed access to safe drinking water, as Lake Okeechobee, the source of the runoff (its water is used to irrigate the sugar cane crops), provides drinking water to West Palm Beach, Fort Meyers, and the entire Lower East Coast metropolitan areas.
The Caloosahatchee River is also a source of drinking water for Fort Meyers.
With fish dying, it has become more difficult for fishermen to work their trade.
With the beaches closed, one of the defining features of the Treasure Coast will be altered.
However, another context must be taken into account when discussing how someone’s way of life could be changed: jobs.
On a local scale, businesses that either distribute water from the now-polluted sources or rely on fishing in order to function will be forced to either find an alternate source of water and fish or shut down, causing many people to lose their jobs.
This, in turn, will result in reduced tourism (which will already be facing reductions due to the closure of beaches) due the reduced number of businesses, which will only lead to further business closures and job losses.
On a state, national, and international scale, large corporations that rely on the Treasure Coast for part of their business will be forced to increase prices due to reduced supply.
This, in turn, will result in reduced incentives to purchase their products by consumers, and perhaps further job losses.
The cycle continues from there.
In addition, for Florida in particular, reduced tourism will result in reduced outside investment, further hindering economic growth.
Think about that for a moment.
When you hear reports about pollution and the environment, you probably have a reflex to associate it with liberalism and the Democratic Party.
But that is not always true, and in this case, it’s not.
Conservatives and Republicans do indeed have a legitimate reason to consider this case a problem from an ideological standpoint.
Because private enterprise of all sizes, be it a one-person lemonade stand that relies on the water to make its lemonade to a multi-national fishing corporation, is being negatively affected.
If the conservatives of the Republican Party truly cared about their own platform, they ought to demand that Governor Scott take action in order to prevent the actions of one local industry from damaging other industries not just across the state, but across the country and perhaps across the world.
The Republican Party is supposedly the party of businesses, and perhaps it is time it acted like it.
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Cover Photo Credit: Kathleen Conklin/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)