Smart Stewardship: Preserving South Florida’s Landscape

Smart Stewardship: Preserving South Florida’s Landscape

South Florida is home to some of the most fragile and unusual ecosystems anywhere in the United States, particularly in the form of the Everglades. Unfortunately, many modern activities, including common agricultural practices, industrial pollution, and land development all actively contribute to its degradation – and without rapid change, it could disappear forever. 

The question, then, is what does preservation look like in the midst of today’s fast-paced world? 

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In many ways, the kind of sustainability efforts that will help protect the Everglades are the same things that will support a healthier environment as a whole. That includes, for example, a shift to more lab grown foods, since lab grown animal proteins are able to sidestep many of the ecological problems that are endemic to animal agriculture. 

Common issues with the industry include the need for huge amounts of grazing land or, more often, the use of substantial landmass to grow subsidized crops for animal feed, especially like corn and soy. 

Use Caution With Chemicals

Animal agriculture may have its issues, but other aspects of farming are rife with pollution problems as well, and the use of chemicals is at the top of the list. Runoff from farms contaminates the Everglades’ waterways, as evidenced by the fact that over 50% of manatees in Florida have glyphosate, an herbicide, in their bodies. This, however, is not necessarily an argument for avoiding agricultural chemicals altogether, but rather suggests that farmers need to take several steps.

First, in order to prevent waterway contamination, farmers need to think carefully about land stewardship, including where farms are located and how the land is maintained. One of the main reasons that waterways are contaminated by chemicals and other farm waste is that depleted soil is prone to erosion. That means chemical-laden soil is easily washed into neighboring waterways.

Another way that farmers can address concerns around chemical contamination is by choosing what types of products to use more carefully. By choosing the right land and water management chemicals and associated products, farmers and other environmental stewards can minimize the amount of product needed by maximizing their effectiveness.

Remove Waste Reservoirs

Any number of industries, including some manufacturing facilities and mining operations, use enormous, open waste reservoirs to store wastewater and related products. Unfortunately, these reservoirs are not secure or inert facilities. In fact, they can pose a significant environmental risk from the perspective of land and water management, as well as to neighboring human populations. This risk is made evident by the events surrounding the Piney Point reservoir outside of Tampa

When Piney Point threatened to overflow, residents from three different counties had to evacuate their homes, and ultimately large amounts of chemically-laden liquid from the reservoir had to be released into Tampa Bay to prevent flooding. Had the contributing industries established a more appropriate means of handling their waste prior to initiating operations, this issue could have been avoided.

Every area of the country – of the globe, really – could benefit from better land management and environmental stewardship practices, but if the Everglades are damaged further, there may be no going backwards. This extraordinary ecosystem is a distinctive environmental treasure and it needs to be protected.



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