WARNING: I swear alot in this post.
But when you see fish trying to flee toxic water by the thousands because they can’t take it anymore, harsh language is called for.
I am gonna sound a little preachy in this post too guys, sorry. That is not my intention, and I wrote this post weeks ago and have gone back and forth on whether to publish it because I did not want to sound so angry. Buuuut, I decided to just say what I have to say, in my way, anyway. So here we are. ✌️
I live by the Indian River lagoon on the east coast of Florida. This lagoon is a section of the intercoastal waterway and one of the most diverse ecosystems in the entire country. In the “river” as we call it, which is estuary, we have fish, dolphins, sharks, manatees and such. Then on the other side of the barrier islands, we have the ocean.
I love where I live. 💙
In my post for the Fresco Sofritas Tacos, I mentioned that were I live there was a major ecological event this spring. Well, what happened was a complete fish die-off. Fueled by sewage leaking from septic systems and nutrient-dense run-off from land because of all the fertilizer used on yards, an algae bloom proliferated to the point where it collapsed on itself. Bacteria and decay moved in quickly, sucking the oxygen from the water – overnight actually – and all the fish for 100 square miles suffocated and died.
In some places, there were so many floating, bloated bodies, it looked like you could walk across the water on them.
It was horrific. My heart broke over it. The lagoon has been getting sicker and sicker for years, with a layer of muck now up to 10 feet deep covering the bottom. It cannot take the abuse anymore.
What happened is very simple…
People want what they want. And in Florida, they get it.
Lush landscaping in Florida’s poor soil requires excessive water and fertilizer. An estimated 100,000 septic systems are leaking sewage directly into the lagoon. The state of Florida is run by politicians that are owned by agriculture, the sugar industry in particular, and this relationship and poor water management has led to a complete disruption of the natural flow of water here.
Pollution, expedience, affluence, and corruption. Florida excels at it.
I watched all five hours of the Brevard County Commission meeting debating the proposal to request that a state of emergency be declared by our governor, and after hearing 50-odd locals explain so perfectly and passionately the urgency of the situation, the commission caved to the tourism industry and politics and voted nay. The river died, but that was not a ‘state of emergency’. As my commissioner said, “We can’t cry wolf”.
He is an asshat.
We would not want someone to cancel their plans to travel here for vacation, would we??? The water is brown and all the fish died …but, you know, still.
At that meeting, a video was shown with someone spreading fertilizer on their lush green lawn feet from the river and hundreds of dead fish.
And then there are our state politicians, led by Governor Rick Scott who takes “asshat” to a whole new level. This article from the Miami New Times summarizes well Scott’s contribution, with US Sugar, to the demise of the environment in Florida, including this little nugget:
“After attending a secretive, off-the-books, all-expenses-paid hunting trip to King Ranch, a Texas hunting lodge run by U.S. Sugar, Scott appointed Mitchel A. “Mitch” Hutchcraft, who manages King Ranch’s Florida agriculture interests, to a seat on the SFWMD board.“
SFWMD is the south Florida water management division. This region includes Lake Okeechobee, the vast central lake that serves as the holding tank for fertilizer-rich and pesticide-laden run-off from the sugar fields. Following heavy rains, the very polluted water from this lake is discharged to the east and west coast to prevent overflow into the sugar fields south of the lake – meaning, Florida flushes its toilet to the delicate estuaries on the coasts to protect the sugar fields which are …wait for it …where the water used to flow through the cleansing “river of grass” to the Everglades before man dicked with the system.
Right now, there is a blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee, and that water is being pumped to the estuaries. I could cry.
But here is the thing, and the point I actually want to make – at the end of the day, WE are all to blame. We keep voting these douchebag people into office. We keep using and abusing – fertilizers, pesticides, plastics – like junkies. We keep consuming our sugar-rich diets. We are ignorant and apathetic, watching reality TV and concerning ourselves with the stupidest shit until we are directly affected and only THEN do we wonder “How could it have gotten this bad?”.
Because people want what they want.
We all have to make changes or nothing will ever heal. There is a floating island of trash in the ocean as big as Texas and we are all to blame. So, I am using my little corner of the internet here, to – vent, yes – but to hopefully help, even a little?
This post has 25 easy ways you can help to stop killing our planet. And by easy, I mean easy. Seriously. And almost all of these tips are money-savers too. But it matters because while there is the corrupt system and the bad politicians and the evil corporations, there is still each of us. Each contributing our own damage. And the bit of damage from each of us adds up to be a hell of a lot.
So come over to the good side. The side that can see past its own little self to at least a bit of the larger picture. 💚
25 Ridiculously Simple Ways To Not Be An Asshat To The Planet
- Stop single-use plastic. Plasticware, coffee stirrers, water bottles, just stop. That one little spoon or coffee stirrer you use at work each morning? It. Adds. Up. To ALOT. So knock that shit off. Single-use plastic is the quintessential example of human desire for convenience at the expense of literally everything else. Because people suck.
- Stop using plastic bags or buying balloons. These things look like jelly fish floating in the ocean to sea turtles, so they eat them. Plastic bags are evil and should be banned. Instead, request paper bags (then use them for trash at home and save $$ 👏), reusable bags, or NO bag. Picture this …you are at the store buying an avocado. You are checking out. You see the clerk grab a plastic bag for your avocado. You STOP THEM and say “Oh that’s alright, I don’t need a bag“. And you carry that avocado out of the store. ….There. You just saved a turtle.
- Don’t always preheat your oven. …OK, sometimes you have to heat up the oven first to make the cooking happen correctly. I get that. Like with popovers or from-scratch pizza. But if you are just making your badself a tuna noodle casserole or something that just needs to heat through – YOU DO NOT NEED TO PREHEAT THE OVEN.
- Collect rainwater. Is it going to rain? Stick a pot outside to collect the water, then use that water for your indoor plants or fish tank or something. Rainwater is BETTER anyway. So do that. Or better yet, go full-on treehugger with a rainbarrel. Amazon.com has a great selection – ours arrived last week. And bonus, I just learned my town is giving out rebate incentives for rainbarrels. 😀
- Stop using chemical fertilizers. Stop excessively fertilizing. If you are spreading chemicals all over your yard because you have just got to have a lush green turf lawn, then please reconsider what your yard should look like where you live. This is a MAJOR contributor to the ecocide here. Knock it off. If you have a lawn service, ask what they use. I did, and I was not happy with the answer. Then they wanted to charge me double to switch to organic. So I fired them and hired another – all organic – for the SAME price. It just took a little internet search and two phone calls. You can do it.
- Compost. Don’t fear it. Try it. It is not hard guys! Just have more brown (dry leaves, shredded paper bag, etc) than green (kitchen scraps, fresh lawn clippings), and give it time. Eventually, you end up with the best thing ever for your yard. Use that, and you will not even need a lawn service or to buy fertilizer. And it is free. No fancy bins or equipment required. I had a fancy bin …and bees moved in and established a hive. Soooo, I started a new bin using a cheap rubber container from Wal-Mart with holes I drilled in the bottom for drainage. Boom. …The bees are still happy in my first composter, and I am happy they are happy. Compost honey anyone?
(Update: April showers and May flowers made my bee population explode and my neighbors got pissed. But I can report we had the hive safely relocated to a nursery. 😊)
- Don’t put anything down the drain. In times past, I was a sink disposal queen. I could get anything down there. And I did. But think about it …all those food scraps are nutrients. They feed algae blooms and such when they end up in waterways. We don’t want that – it kills wildlife. No, we want to get that in our composter (see item above) instead and use it. 😃 Or at least throw it in the trash and keep it out of the water.
- Flush every other time. …Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Kinda gross. And I do NOT mean to do this after a poop. Flush that. But if you get up in the middle of the night for a little tinkle – why not just leave it, then flush after you go again when you get up in the morning? You just saved how many gallons of water. Again, not to be done all the time, but there are times when you can skip a flush. It is these gazillion little things by all us billions of people that add up.
- Go vegan once a week, and vegetarian twice a week. Guys, I mean it. Have you watched “Food, Inc” yet? The whole “Meatless Monday” thing is not enough. We have to do better. A lot better. We have to educate too – eating mac & cheese because it’s “vegetarian” does nothing for your health or the environment. Besides, there’s cashew sauce. So we’re good. Try more vegan recipes. Like me, you will be amazed at how happy they make you.
- Buy local. No duh, right? BUT I want you to think outside the obvious “we want to know where our food comes from” stuff. Buying local saves the environment too – less gas because the food was not transported long distance. It helps your local economy and small businesses. And it will make you feel good. Promise. ❤️
- Eat seasonally. For the LOVE OF GOD stop buying cucumbers grown in Honduras in December. There is no recipe that you need to make THAT badly to justify buying that shit.
- Repurpose. Leftover red solo cups from a party? Cut holes in the bottom and use them to start seedlings. Empty butter container? Use it as a storage container. Paper bags (because you were good and did not get plastic bags when you went grocery shopping) have TONS of uses. How about, just for fun – cover a book with paper bag, then doodle the crap out of it like we did in the 80s. Rock on.
- Unplug. No, I do not mean turn off the smartphones and computer (although that is a good thing once in a while for sure). I mean literally unplug shit from the wall socket. If you are not making bread, does that bread maker really need to sit there plugged in drawing power? No. So unplug. This is another $$-saver tip too.
- Avoid plastic in general. This is a little harder, I get it. But when shopping for something, if it is packaged in plastic, which is then packaged in more plastic – maybe choose something else? Make the packaging a factor and be mindful.
- Air conditioning and heat. Open ur dang windows! Let the fresh air in! It is my mission to use as little A/C or heat as possible – instead of keeping it at 75 like I used to, now it is at 78. And I shut it off and open the windows as much as possible. Little things matter guys. It all adds up.
- STRAWS. I effing hate straws. Do you know how many times I have read a story of a sea turtle rescued with a straw stuck up its nostril?? Straws serve NO purpose. Drink from the friggin glass already. And if you don’t want to put your mouth on the glass – besides the fact that your drink is already IN it – then you shouldn’t BE there. So, every time you use a straw, I want you to say to yourself “I. Am. an Asshole.”
- Turn off the dry cycle on your dishwasher. This saves $$ too. Just run the cycle then open the dishwasher door to let it all air dry.
- Plant native. If you are having to provide a lot of fertilizer then you are growing the wrong shit. THIS is a HUGE problem here and one of the contributors to the decline of our lagoon, because when you plant plants in our poor Florida soil that need a lot of water and fertilizer, then you are PART OF THE PROBLEM. All the rich mansions along the lagoon, part-time residences and their lush landscaping. All the frigging St. Augustine grass… Plant what belongs where you live.
- Buy all-natural cleaners or, even better, make your own. This one is also realllllllly easy and can save $$$. Example, I have not bought floor cleaner in years – I just take the small side of my sink, add a cup of white vinegar, couple drops of basil and grapefruit essential oils cuz they smell awesommme, and water. And I mop with that. Cleans the floor just as well as the chemicals, smells amazing, it is CHEAP and does no damage to my family’s health or the environment. I have also come to love Mrs. Meyer’s and Method products. DO THIS, even for your own health.
- Lighten up on the napkins. We have all done it. We are at Disney or any restaurant, and we have kids so we get our food then grab an ASS-TON of napkins. Stop that. Because let’s be honest… we never use all those napkins and they end up in the trash. So stop. Take a couple, then get more later if needed.
- Regulate your irrigation system. How many times have you seen someone with their sprinkler system on …while it’s raining. Knock that shit off. It’s stupid and wasting $$. There are systems available that can read the moisture level in your soil and adjust accordingly – we have that. Then again, if you plant native to begin with, your yard should not need much water supplementation if any.
- Get outside. I do not care where you live or what the weather is like, GET OUTSIDE. Especially if you have kids – it is our duty as parents to raise them with awareness that humans have to share this planet with a gazillion other forms of life. And because we rule the roost, we need to not shit all over it. If you get outside – go for a walk, a bike ride, garden, visit a garden, put bird feeders in your yard, something – do it with regularity and you will come to appreciate your environment more. You will not be able to help yourself. And you’ll probably drop a couple pounds in the process. 👍
- Get educated. Learn what the politicians, corporations, and big agriculture are doing to your state. I got educated. And guess what… I got pissed. Florida is a mess. Our estuaries are collapsing, and it is ALL because of our politicians, the sugar industry, corruption, poor water management, and fertilizer use. So find out for yourself, where you live.
- Get active. Alright, this one is not so simple and actually takes a bit more effort on your part. I am a member of the Sea Turtle Preservation Society and it is my hope that my involvement will grow more with time, particularly as my kids get older. My point is that I am passionate about this. Find something that you can be passionate about. Even if you just join a Facebook group to stay informed on environmental issues particular to your area. Or, better yet, volunteer. We have a program here called the Brevard Oyster Restoration Project (nothing can clean water like an oyster!) with workshops to make the mats used in the oyster beds. What an easy opportunity to make a difference! Find something like that. Do it. We all have to or nothing will change.
- Don’t be an asshat. Remember Patrick the sea turtle that I rescued last year? When my kids and I were waiting for his arrival at the beach for his release, we saw a lady get out of her car, toss her cigarette butt on the sand, and go off for a walk on the beach. THAT is an asshat. That is also a misdemeanor felony in Florida, but what evvs. Be an adult. Pick up after yourself. Don’t use plastic, or at least recycle when you do. At the location where I took the dead fish photos (a popular fishing stop) there was trash everywhere. That is from asshats. Don’t be an asshat. Guys we have to do this. We have to. Through our direct and indirect selfishness and short-sightness and just not giving a shit, we have completely hosed the system. The apathy is killing everything.
Everything you ever throw away or wash down a drain or spread on your yard will eventually end up in the ocean. 🌍