Our Environment And Lagoon Are In Trouble…What We Can Do!

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
March 2020

We are in trouble, but working together, we can make a difference and solve many of our local environmental problems. During the last week, I heard two outstanding local scientists give their concern about our Indian River Lagoon.  Dr. Grant Gilmore, Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc. spoke at our February Vero Beach meeting: Why are Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Species Disappearing, Including Wading Birds? – A 60-year perspective!  Dr. Gilmore warned us that the Indian River Lagoon is in grave peril—much worse than any other estuary in Florida.  The shallow, poorly flushed Lagoon is overwhelmed by all the human-made chemicals in fertilizers, herbicides, and human waste pouring into the lagoon from urban, agriculture, and commercial lands. Our human poop coming from application of reuse water and biosolids, and septic tanks needs serious solutions.

Dr. Randall ParkinsonResearch Associate Professor, Sea Level Solutions Center, Florida International University in Miami spoke at the Clean Water Coalition public meeting on “The Effects of Climate Change on Indian River Lagoon Water Quality.” He covered the five major climate consequences in southeastern U.S: warmer temperatures, changes in precipitation, increasing hurricanes, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise.  

A great new book that gives us hope for the future is Dr. Doug Tallamy’s Nature’s Best Hope- A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard. Dr. Tallamy, Professor of Entomology, University of Delaware, was our keynote speaker at our first conference, Transforming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future in 2018 where he discussed his first book – Bringing Nature Home. In this new book, he outlines in great detail what each of us in Indian River County can do to stop ecosystem collapse. 

In the lower 48 states there remains only 5% of the land that has not been logged, tilled, drained, grazed, paved, or otherwise developed. Tallamy, with a sense of humor even said, “…our rivers have been ‘Damned’ and some no longer reach the ocean.”  

His latest book supports the many current activities of Pelican Island Audubon.  It’s not too late to save our ecosystem’s sustaining insects and other animals by replacing the alien plants in our backyards and all landscapes with natives.  He advocates that all of us can do our part to help stop the 6th extinction crisis by planting a tree or shrub.  This is the goal of our major project, “Plant 100,000 Trees for Life.” To build our cities, farms, and now solar fields, we have cut thousands of trees that absorbed CO2.  Each of us can make a difference by planting native plants for our birds, butterflies, bees, fishes, and other animals. We have raised funds to give away some trees and native plants FREE. Please take advantage of this gift for your yard!  

Dr. Tallamy points out “…whether we like nature or not, none of us will be able to live for long in a world without it.” We will suffer if we do not preserve and keep healthy and sustainable our plants and animals and their ecosystems. We can no longer tolerate actions that degrade our local environment.  We need an Abraham Lincoln to lead our world to put our ecosystems back together. Tallamy notes that we are ignorant of nature, which has led to a dangerous indifference about it. Our 5th grade afterschool, Audubon Advocate and summer camp programs correct this.   

Another point he makes: gardening is like cooking, with the goal of achieving a great flavor without worrying about the effects of fats, sugars, and salt on our health. We garden only for beauty, without concern for the many ecological roles our landscapes must perform.  We have 630 homeowners associations (HOAs) in Indian River County and most have landscape rules that do not support birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. We are willing to collaborate with any HOA to make it a leading model for our community.  We have a state law that prohibits anyone from planting a Florida Friendly Plant! “(b) Homeowners’ association documents, including declaration of covenants, articles of incorporation, or bylaws, may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping, as defined in s. 373.185, on his or her land or create any requirement or limitation in conflict with any provision of part II of chapter 373 or a water shortage order, other order, consumptive use permit, or rule adopted or issued pursuant to part II of chapter 373.”

President Richard Nixon said, 1970 State of the Union address, “We can no longer afford to consider air and water common property, free to be abused by anyone without regard to the consequences.  Instead, we should begin now to treat them as scarce resources, which we are no more free to contaminate than we are free to throw garbage into our neighbor’s yards.”  We now are even lowering the standards of the great laws that Nixon and Congress passed in 1970 to protect our environment: the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Montreal Protocol, the Clean Water Act, and Reformation Plan No. 3.  Because of these laws, the health of Americans and the environment they inhabit have improved dramatically.We should not have invasive plants, turf grass, chemicals, or waste precious drinking water in our yards that destroy our diversity of plants, trees, and animals.  Our private lands are essential for everyone’s existence.  We must learn to live with nature.  Dr. Tallamy teaches us about what we, as individuals, can do to fix our world problems.  We do not have to depend on Tallahassee or Washington for action. He shows us how we personally can do ecological restoration.  Following his advice, more birds, butterflies, bees, fishes, and many more species of all kinds will inhabit our landscapes, improve our environment—and help us survive as a species.

%d bloggers like this: