Environmental groups are starting to wear out their welcome in local communities affected by last summer’s algae bloom. Activists wearing protective masks, gloves and a few in full-blown hazmat suits, are still trying to point the finger of blame in a desperate bid to raise more money for their cause. Playing it up for the camera – any camera they can find, as it turns out – Florida environmentalists have embraced last summer’s algae bloom as if it was manna from heaven. And indeed, it’s apparently been a boon to fundraising, judging from the content of fundraising letters and emails they send to their donors.
Admittedly, last summer’s algae blooms hurt a number of local companies, especially fishing charter boats and other businesses dependent on the area’s reputation for world-class beaches and pristine views. But not everyone was hit all that hard. It turns out a number of hoteliers and other hospitality businesses in the area saw record tourism numbers. And no matter whether a business was in the black or the red after last summer, no business owner wants this season’s tourists to associate algae blooms with their slice of the coastline.
Yet that’s exactly what’s starting to happen, and many of the locals are starting to suggest that its time for the environmental activists to give it a rest. Here are three signs environmentalists are overplaying their hands on the algae bloom angle:
1. Wearing protective clothing for dramatic effect, when it’s not really necessary. As evidenced in the main photo accompanying this story, and in photos below, environmental activists (with heavy emphasis on the “act”) are more than willing to cry wolf even when there’s no actual health threat. If scientists from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection aren’t wearing masks when they are taking samples of the algae, why do these activists need to wear masks at press conferences? Need more proof? How about photos of Senator Marco Rubio and well known political leaders walking in the middle of the algae with no masks? The bottom line here is that, as usual, the environmental activist lobby has abandoned their credibility in exchange for sensationalism and dramatic flair.
2. Local leaders are starting to suggest that the protests are more harmful to the local economy than the aglae bloom itself. In a recent column in the Treasure Coast Palm, Gil Smart points out that despite the algae bloom, it was still a big year for tourism. But things may not stay that way if environmentalists keep holding dramatic press conferences pretending there is a health crisis when none exists.
“There’s no question that blue green algae has an unwelcome impact on our community,” said Ted Astolfi, CEO of the Martin County Economic Council. “It’s important for people to have the facts, which is why as soon as the algae cleared, we worked hard to highlight the many other opportunities that visitors and residents could take advantage of. We wanted to limit the economic impacts by making sure people knew that they could still visit here and enjoy our restaurants, arts venues, parks, events and many other amenities that Martin County has to offer.”
In other words: Algae was the problem. But now, environmentalist scare tactics are the problem.
3. Waters NOT connected in any way to Florida agriculture can get algae blooms. Just today an algae bloom caused Port Saint Lucie officials to close a small lake that isn’t connected in any way whatsoever to drainage ditches or other waterways that environmentalists can blame on Florida farmers. Sometimes algae blooms just happen. They occur in north Florida, they bloom in the Great Lakes far to the north, and they even bloom right in South Florida for reasons that defy environmentalist “logic.” NOAA says they occur when wind and water conditions are just right, generally by unseasonably warm temperatures and slow moving water. A 2015 study cited by POLITICO also found that septic tanks in Orlando contributed significantly to the size of algae blooms:
Brian Lapointe, a research scientist at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, said a study he conducted in 2015 found that wastewater from septic tanks causes algae blooms to grow significantly on their way from Lake Okeechobee to the east and west coasts. –Source: POLITICO, July 16, 2016
Yet despite overwhelming evidence that directly contradicts such claims, these South Florida activist groups repeatedly blame Florida farmers and agriculture for causing algae blooms, when those blooms often first occur north of the Everglades Agricultural Area and then flow south into Lake Okeechobee before being discharged into the Indian River Lagoon. Clearly, the environmentalists are so fixated on farmers being the bad guys that they’ve lost sight of how ridiculous and even toxic their own brand of activism has become. Maybe they should keep wearing those masks after all.