“Something wrong is going on from the Earth up to the Sky”

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
April 2021

The above title is one of my favorite folk songs by Bob Rafkin.  It implies that our environment and, indeed, ourselves are at risk. Things are going wrong in Florida where we have a new era of red tide on the west coast, coral reefs are dying, over 432  manatees have perished in Florida from January 1st to March 5th of this year for lack of seagrass to eat, fish are dying in our Lagoon, and our aquifers are getting salty. We have an invasion of exotic plants and animals affecting our farms, wetlands, and cities. And, since 1970, 3.2 billion birds (30% of our birds) have been lost in North America. What is happening here to cause these problems?

I have been thinking of all the spray trucks, landscapers, grass cutters, businesses, parks, and homeowners spraying chemicals on our yards, ditches, canals, ponds, and lakes.  Mosquito Control sprays to keep us safe and free from bites by putting out pesticides by trucks and planes.  Some of this spraying prevents many diseases, such as malaria, filariasis, and a number of viruses like West Nile, and Eastern Encephalitis transmitted by a few mosquito species out of the 90 species in Florida and the 3,500 worldwide.  

What about all the many personal chemicals we are exposed to every day like shampoo and cosmetics. We may be harmed by the no-stick cooking pans, microwave popcorn, mercury in seafood, and lead in our drinking water. All have been found to cause disease, cancer, retardation and other health issues.  For example, azodicarbonamide is a chemical that bread companies use to make softer, more attractive-looking food, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has linked it to increased the risk of respiratory issues or skin irritation https://bestlifeonline.com/toxic-chemicals/

Lead is still coming into our environment especially from paints, lead shot, and old pipes.  We just gave an award to Bruce Sabol for letting FDEP know about the lead in old paint flaking off the St. Sebastian River railroad bridge.

We have so many chemicals that are suspect. But what about all the other chemicals we have in our environment?

Plastics pollution from small fragments to large pieces can harm and poison humans, animals and plants. Some plastics take thousands of years to break down so the environmental damage is long-lasting.  This pollution comes mainly from household waste, which is poorly recycled, dumped in landfills or abandoned in the landscape.  Plastic impacts all organisms  from single cell organisms to  whales. Reduce plastic use. Please recycle all plastic. https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&sxsrf=ALeKk00gRVzbVj0WT3Lpf1R3W7Gtf8w_8A:1616285792830&q=How+does+plastic+harm+the+environment%3F&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjmxaXkjcDvAhUPXM0KHa-2CbUQzmd6BAgKEA4&biw=879&bih=883.   

Herbicide/Plant Killer Pollution. Agriculture is making great progress in trying to feed and clothe us humans by using many chemicals.  However, a study finds glyphosate, the world’s most-used pesticide found in Roundup and other plant killers, is now also found in 55.8% of all sampled Florida manatees. (https://evergladestrust.salsalabs.org/EvergladesReview0_copy1?wvpId=e7c5425a-2c0d-4881-aafe-d5d727dfdb4e).  Some of this is coming from agricultural crops and is appearing in our food. Much of it is now coming from people’s yards. The World Health Organization has labeled glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen.”

We now know that spraying herbicides, glyphosate included, is not good for humans and all life on earth. According to Dr. Grant Gilmore, Senior Scientist with Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, and our best fish expert: “There is abundant scientific evidence that herbicides not only kill plankton and plants on which our indigenous aquatic animals depend for survival, but also they produce a nutrient load from decaying plant and animal bodies that increases the nutrient (nitrate/phosphate/ammonia) burden in the water column.” Dr. Gilmore explains:  “We tend to blame septic fields, crop and lawn fertilizer for most of this problem while millions of gallons of herbicides are purchased off the shelf at local stores, and also used by lawn care companies, or spread by municipal, county and regional governmental entities along with regional agricultural interests.”  

The bloom of the toxic green slime, Microcystis cyanobacteria, is promoted by herbicides such as Roundup. Recent studies show that exposure to cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) producing toxins like BMAA can cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s – diseases of the nervous systems (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanobacteria). Also see the documentary Toxic Puzzle by Bo Landin (https://www.toxicpuzzle.com).

President Richard Nixon said, in his 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 freer to contaminate than we are free to throw garbage into our neighbor’s yards.” 

A new study shows protecting nature has bigger economic benefit than exploiting it (https://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/protecting-nature-has-bigger-economic-benefit-exploiting-it?utm_source=BirdLife+International+News+Notifications&utm_campaign=61524a798d-Summary_news_notification&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4122f13b8a-61524a798d-133955733&mc_cid=61524a798d&mc_eid=0ae03fc0fb).

Shouldn’t we know what POISONS are being sprayed in our county and state? Many of these toxic plastics and chemicals need to be banned from our county, state, and world.  Let’s start at home in Indian River County and stop purchasing and using them.  Let’s protest the spraying of our canals and parks with these chemicals immediately.  Use cultural, biological and mechanical means and employ people, not chemicals.  Let’s work together to save our lovely county.

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