I get phone calls from strangers regularly who want my advice on a “safe” place to relocate in Florida. By safe they mean a place where the air and water are clean, there are no sinkholes and the fish are not contaminated. The tragic story from Washington state regarding the massive mudslide reminds me these calls and the big question that many people ask . . . “where can we feel safe?”

In Florida, our politicians don’t seem to worry about keeping people safe. They allow groundwater to be sucked up at alarming rates, leaving huge empty cavities below ground that eventually collapse and become sinkholes. They swallow homes, cars, people, and businesses. Yet, the political entities that make the yes or no decisions keep saying yes.

When developers want to clear cut and fill wetlands (cheap land) and cover it with homes that will eventually flood, our state and federal decision-makers will say yes. That is predictable based on history.

When big corporations – such as Koch Industries – want to dump toxic waste in our rivers in order to increase their profits, Florida politicians say “of course.” A prime example is the Georgia-Pacific papermill in Palatka which is now dumping 24 to 47 million gallons per day of toxic waste into the St Johns River. This fabulously wealthy private corporation does the same thing to the Fenholloway River/Gulf of Mexico in Perry and the Escambia River near Pensacola. Consequently the rivers are “impaired if not dead” and the fish are unsafe to eat.

The list goes on and on. But the point is that whether there is a catastrophic event such as we see unfolding in Washington or a chronic series of events (sinkholes, floods, fish kills, cancers, etc.) there are consequences to making politically expedient choices. People may be dispensable to the corporations (who now claim to have religions) that buy our politicians. But people are not expendable to their families, friends and loved ones. A sense of safety and security in our own homes is a basic need of all humans. We don’t all get to have it all of the time. But our politicians should not be disregarding our basic needs in favor of campaign contributions or other self-serving reasons.

About the Author

Linda Young has been the executive director of the Clean Water Network of Florida since 1994. From 1989 to 1997, she founded and published a monthly statewide environmental newspaper. Over the past twenty three years, she has co-founded some of the most long-lasting and effective environmental organizations in the Southeast, including the Gulf Restoration Network, Gulf Coast Environmental Defense and C.A.T.E. She holds a B.A. in Communications from Southern Oregon University and a M.A. in Political Science/Campaign Management from the University of West Florida.

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