Broken Systems

Magic lives at the intersection of vision, leadership, and science."

BROKEN WATER FROM BROKEN POLITICS

Historically, the Everglades used to cover most of South Florida, stretching from present-day Orlando all the way south to the Florida Keys. Water from the Kissimmee River would fill Lake Okeechobee and then flow south into the River of Grass. But sadly, this is no longer what the Everglades looks like.

A combination of a broken water management system, being kept broken to appease the two sugar companies, a corrupted political system, and 800 square miles of agriculture, primarily, sugarcane in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), have stalled progress on Everglades restoration. We’ve seen the tragic results of this broken system play out and the impact is tremendous.

When the human brain meets up with greed and what can we do about it.

The destructive influence of Big Sugar is deeply embedded in both political parties in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. 

Though Floridians have consistently supported legislation to regulate pollution and restore the flow of water south, the enduring political influence of Big Sugar has ensured the status quo remains by funding both parties and positioning their lobbyists to write the rules. 

How can we change this?

We’ve had the science, the plan, and the money to fix all of this mess for decades. The stranglehold the sugar industry has held on our waterways and political system can only come to an end when the public has had enough and will, though their voices and their votes, demand it.

But there is more to it. Understanding the nuances to this wretched game requires a deeper understanding of human nature, and how the sugar industry uses it against our appointed and elected officials.

As we say in the Everglades, a little sugar won’t hurt you – but Big Sugar will.

The brain is an imperfect organ, but it’s all we’ve got to understand the world around us. You can imagine, then, the challenge you face when you present someone with information about something they’ve never seen before that contradicts their current beliefs. They’re likely to discount or disbelieve it. Our brains can trick us into maintaining our past views or predictions at the cost of recognizing new information.

It gets even harder when there’s a full-court press by special interests involved. So, what happens when our decision makers’ inability to take in new information meets up with the formidable force of greed? Well, you get the destruction of America’s Everglades and natural resources all around you.

Here is a quick breakdown of five major ways Big Sugar always seems to win. Most folks think it’s the campaign contributions. They’re partly right, but those dollars are just part of their playbook.

Historically, the Everglades used to cover most of South Florida, stretching from present-day Orlando all the way south to the Florida Keys. Water from the Kissimmee River would fill Lake Okeechobee and then flow south into the River of Grass. But sadly, this is no longer what the Everglades looks like.

A combination of a broken water management system, being kept broken to appease the two sugar companies, a corrupted political system, and 800 square miles of agriculture, primarily, sugarcane in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), have stalled progress on Everglades restoration. We’ve seen the tragic results of this broken system play out and the impact is tremendous.

Broken water management system

Man has dammed, drained and ditched the lake over the last hundred years for the sake of agriculture and development and now the water can no longer flow south. 800 square miles of sugar cane in the EAA, blocking the flow of water south to the Everglades remains the biggest obstacle to fixing a profoundly broken water management system. 

To protect the EAA from annual flooding when Lake O fills up, the Army Corps of Engineers sends billions of gallons of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee through rivers that run east and west to Florida’s coasts, regardless of the damage it causes.

We’ve known what the repercussions of this broken water management system would be since the 50s, with plans to fix it since the 80s, laws on the books between the state and federal govt since 2000 – the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (or CERP) and the support of Florida taxpayers forever. 

The solutions are known and have already been agreed to, yet the foot dragging continues. And so do the discharges – year after year after year – to both coasts of Florida. Meanwhile, the Everglades is desperate for that freshwater to be cleaned and sent their way.

BIG SUGAR COSTS US DEARLY

For an industry that contributes only 0.042 percent to Florida’s $1.4 trillion economy and generates roughly 3.500 full and part time jobs, what Big Sugar has been allowed to take from all of us is mind-numbing and maddening.

The control they continue to hold over our water and politics needs to come to an end. Environmental degradation is only part of the price the public pays so two private companies can turn sugar into money. 

Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on a regional flood control system that keeps the cane fields from flooding during periods of heavy rain and irrigated during droughts – killing the Everglades and coastal estuaries in the process – and STAs, treatment areas to clean up the filth that comes off sugar’s land. 

It’s been a “heads, they win – tails, we lose” scenario for decades. We are now witnessing the more severe end of this sugar-motivated water management system.

THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION

The most important issue isn’t what we must do next. That question is already answered and is uncontroverted scientific fact: Send more clean water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

So, we are left with ballot box choices and two questions. Which leaders understand that the most important element of this multi-decade effort is a partnership? Do Floridians want a restored Everglades and thriving coastal estuary ecosystems or not?

The consequences of the harm being done to the Everglades ecosystem, and the resulting impacts on the economic and human health of Floridians cannot be overstated. The situation is dire, we can’t afford to wait to act. We’ve had the science, the money, and the plan. What we’ve lacked is the Political Will.