Water World Science Cafe
Thanks to everyone who SHOWED UP and SPOKE OUT about OUR water issues in South Florida. An informative and quality discussion covered Red Tide, Bioplastics, Shark Finning policy, Nutrient Loading, Everglades Restoration, offshore drilling, and more. We have summarized some of the takeaways and action steps below, including links to more information and the organizations promoting these items. We also live-streamed some segments of the Science Cafe here; apologies that we couldn’t live-stream the entire night but plenty of follow up information is below.
Coastal Red Tide/Everglades Restoration
Nutrient loading is the major cause of prolonged red tides along the coast and blue-green algal blooms, but more studies are necessary to know exactly the causes of the current crisis. Approximately 90% of the “nutrients” come from big agri-business, while the remaining come from residential human sources, such as septic tank runoff, lawn fertilizers, domestic pesticides, etc. Once the bacteria have bloomed, it is prohibitively costly to kill or remove the blooms (one estimate for the current bloom is $100 billion for a single clean-up event).
The solution is to stop the nutrient loading and to restore the natural flow of the Everglades. The current plans to create a reservoir will only exacerbate the situation, and essentially create a mini-Lake Okeechobee. The watershed around Lake Okeechobee has been drained and completely altered, which included the trenching and canaling of the Caloosahatchee Watershed in order to connect it to Lake Okeechobee (which is why the blue-green algal blooms are more intense coming from and through the Caloosahatchee River and the coastal red tide is more intense near the mouth of the river). Future residential developments will only contribute to the current situation.
For more information and research on red tide, check our Dr. Brand’s publications here. To find out how Betty Osceola of the Miccosukee is protecting the Everglades, follow her here. Osceola is hosting a water ceremony for Lake Okeechobee on November 3 and will be doing a prayer walk around the circumference of Lake O in the New Year to spread her message on restoring the natural flow. Osceola also challenges us all to stop using processed sugar and salt for one week, beginning today, including those added to foods. Take the challenge!
Miami Waterkeeper has a Stop Beach Closures campaign to do more detailed water quality testing in Miami-Dade to determine information about the root of the frequent swim advisories and water quality issues in the county. At present, tests only determine if there is fecal bacteria in our waterways, however, the source (whether it's human, dog, bird, etc.) can not be determined by these tests, nor do current ones test for the bacteria that cause red tide. The campaign can be found here. With these recent swim advisories, and especially now as red tide creeps towards us, use Miami Waterkeeper’s "swim guide" app, which is an easy-to-use app used worldwide! They add all sample sites into this app and update Dept. of Health sites as well, so that the public has a one-stop shop for their beach closure questions. More information on this app can be found here. Lastly, join them for their "Bay Day" celebration, coming up on October 20th from 10-4 at Shake-a-Leg in Coconut Grove. There will be sailing, boat rides, arts and crafts, food and drink, kayaking, yoga, and more! The tickets for this event can be found here.
Although we understand the importance of some plastics for medical uses and other health concerns, bioplastics are not a viable solution to the problem of plastics in our environment and water. They still contain too much fossil-fuel based plastic to breakdown naturally and truly relieve us of “too much plastic.” We must wean ourselves from plastic use all together, for the health of our planet and to reduce the impacts of climate change. We do not need microbeads in our cosmetics or soaps. We do not need to use a single-use straw or cup for our drinks. Unfortunately, we already have too many plastics and micro-plastics floating around in our oceans. Beach clean-ups are a great way to solve this issue. Debris Free Oceans invites you to their next Keg and Clean October 13 so that cleaning up plastics doesn’t have to be a drag. Don’t forget to bring your own mug! You can rsvp here.
As everyone pointed out during the evening, public awareness and involvement are key to making progress and holding our politicians accountable for their decisions when it comes to our water. Several points were made about adding to Public Comment periods, writing or calling your representatives personally, attending local public meetings, spreading the “word” amongst your circles, and of course, voting. Oceana is dedicated to keeping our oceans healthy and is currently involved in grassroots opposition to offshore drilling (along with other avenues of searching for and releasing fossil fuels); more information can be found here. And they are circulating a petition to ban shark finning, an unusually cruel practice on a particularly sensitive species, and while shark finning is illegal in the U.S. fins are still bought and sold within the U.S. The petition can be found here.
Don’t forget to vote November 6
The Florida deadline to register to vote for the November midterms is tomorrow, October 9. You can make sure you are registered to vote by texting “check” to Resist-Bot 50409. If not, you can find out more information on voting and register here. Voting by mail has already begun, and if you vote by mail, make sure to put sufficient postage (two stamps to be safe) and that the signature matches your voter registration, or it won’t be counted.
If you run into someone running for office, and you want to bump up water issues in and around South Florida, ask them-
What do you think about the reservoir plan in Everglades restoration?
What do you think about offshore oil drilling and fracking?
What do you think about plastics?
What do you think About Shark finning?
How would you deal with the red tide?
If you did not get to sign in but attended the event and would like to be counted, sign-in here. We will add you also to our mailing list to keep you informed of our cafes and other actions.
If you just want to join our mailing list, where we send emails only when we have actions or information to convey, sign up on our homepage here. You won’t want to miss our follow-up Midterms Science Cafe, where we will discuss how to intersect with our elected officials to get evidence-based policies in effect.