Sunday, June 20, 2010

Killing Paradise

It's Father's Day and I wasn't intending to go off on an environmental rant today, but after an early afternoon walk down to the banks of my beloved Saint Johns River, I really have no choice in the matter.

The obvious devastation occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, despite it's enormity, is not the only man-made kill-shot aimed at Florida's fragile natural environment this spring. The Saint Johns is one sick river this year -- thanks to algal blooms facilitated by excess nutrients pumped into the river as fatally as BP is pumping oil into the gulf. In some cases, just as criminally, and for nothing but the motivation of pure greed.

The photo above shows the damage. In twenty-five years on the river, I have never witnessed blooms of this extent, nor so early in the year. The fish kills are hideous. I could only spend about three minutes on the bank of the water -- the smell of the dead fish combined with the rotting vegetation and deadly algae was nauseating -- though not as nauseating as the knowledge that this is all preventable. We bring this on ourselves.

I can't help but wonder at the damage blooms of this extent will cause not only to the fish and other river life, but to these grand old cypress trees being strangled at the roots. These blooms (this year's includes a previously unidentified type of toxic algae) are grown by the injection of "point source" and "non-point source" nutrient pollution (mostly nitrogen) into the river. Point source injection comes from industrial effluent -- companies such as Georgia-Pacific, located just north of Palatka, about 30 miles up river (south) of here. The non-point source pollution comes from the rest of use -- millions of Florida residents who live in the Saint Johns drainage plain. With our need to have manicured green landscapes that mimic the northern and English styles (that do not work naturally here), we cover our non-native grasses and plants with chemical fertilizer, waste our dwindling water reserves by watering the pollutants into the lawns, the excess of which is then sent down our storm drains and into the river with every tropical downpour.

I have never observed the above scene when the water in the river has been anything but pristine and clean. The crap afloat as far as one can see is the deadly algae. We are killing the environmental platform that sustains our own very lives by shear stupidity and greed. If you live in Florida -- stop committing time-release suicide. Learn how to use natural methods and native plant for your landscaping (we've just put in perennial peanut to replace the St. Augustine grass and over the years a large variety of attractive native plants that, once established, thrive in the local environment without much attention), encourage your legislators to create laws and enforce regulations that STOP corporate polluters.

It's time to take a stand before we have no viable land to stand on. Happy Father's day -- your mother (nature) is really pissed.


Renaissance Man said...

Wow, those are some really gruesome shots. Thanks for reminding me not to fertilize the weed patch formerly known as my front yard.

I am a lover of children's literature said...

What I find even more gruesome about these shots is that the whole gruesome affair was not only handled badly, but that it shouldn't have happened at all!

The arrogance of BP, and especially of its CEO, borders on being down right criminal. Their casual attitude is far uglier than the physical mess that they have dumped upon the millions of hapless sea and land creatures and, as well, the millions of citizens of the Gulf.

The Vital Muse said...

@Al -- don't fertilize your weeds -- or anything else for that matter. Remember, One man's weed is another one's wildflower...

@Don -- exactly. Corporate arrogance -- whether BP, GP or any other entity driven by blind self-interest -- the human, and natural interest is bound to be last.