Dear readers: I offer a brief, fun Florida History Quiz:
When Juan Ponce de León stepped ashore in 1513 as Florida’s first undocumented immigrant, he reportedly said:
A) “Damn! If I’d known this place was so horticulturally challenged, I’d have brought along the lawn sprinklers and fertilizer.”
B) “Wow! I’ve never seen a place so stunning and lush. Let’s call it La Florida—the Land of Flowers!”
The point being that with our natural abundance of rainfall, sunshine and atmospheric deposition of nitrogen, Florida could justifiably have “In God We Trust” stamped on our landscapes and lawns, and not just on our currency and license plates.
This is the truth our trusted institutions and political leaders dare not speak: Really, we’d do just fine without the lawn sprinklers and fertilizer. And Florida would be a better place.
But artificially maintained lawns look so pretty, you say. And they’re good for the economy! They provide jobs for irrigation installers and the turfgrass and fertilizer industry and university researchers. Why would we want to upend the established order?
In a word, sustainability. Those six syllables are more than a marketing buzzword. What it means is that the old ways are destroying our waters and diminishing our children’s future.
Let’s wade in for a closer look, shall we?
Florida’s waters are in terrible shape and if you’re wondering where to point a finger, groundwater overpumping and fertilizer pollution are high on the list of culprits.
All of this is underscored in the alarming new WATER 2070 report by the 1000 Friends of Florida planning advocacy group, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Agriculture and the University of Florida GeoPlan Center.
Here are the twin takeaways from the report: With a projected 15 million thirsty new residents due to arrive here in the next half century, we Floridians need to seriously reduce our water consumption or we’re screwed.
And this: "The single most effective strategy to reduce water demand in Florida is to significantly reduce the amount of water used for landscape irrigation.”
In plain English: The needs of tomorrow are more important than the lawns of today. And if we don’t change our ways, we can kiss our springs goodbye.
We knew—or we should have known—this moment of reckoning was coming. The world is running out of fresh water. And the reality of life on a finite planet demands a new way of thinking about water and Florida’s future.
Meanwhile, a 2014 IFAS survey shows that we Floridians are concerned about water and the environment and we’re willing to cut back—but only if it doesn’t affect our lawns.
How can this be, you may be wondering. Here’s a clue: When IFAS speaks, Florida listens.
Few institutions statewide rival the clout and credibility of the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences, or have done more for the common good. But when it comes to IFAS and water conservation, what’s the message we hear?
Let’s be clear; if you find it incomprehensible that so many Floridians are hooked on chemically-dependent, irrigation-intensive lawns despite the well- documented collateral damage they exact on our waters, know that IFAS didn’t create this problem.
But their solution, the “Florida-Friendly” landscaping program with its supposedly “responsible” use of fertilizer and lawn irrigation—has unintentionally enshrined the normalization of abuse.
Think about it. “Friendly” means “able to coexist without harm.” If someone you love got lung cancer, would you encourage them to smoke “only when needed”? Or would you suggest they give up their harmful habit altogether?
We can’t irrigate and fertilize our way to a better tomorrow. It ain’t gonna happen. But IFAS stubbornly resists promoting ZEROscaping as the truly friendly-to-Florida option. Yes, ZEROscaping, which is to say, managing our lawns with zero irrigation and zero chemical inputs. For the love of Florida, mow the yard a few times a year as you wish but otherwise, let it be.
We have coddled our lawns too long. Stripped of their resilience per IFAS guidelines too many Florida lawns now live in a state of learned dependency.
It is a dereliction of civic duty to deplete and poison our springs and aquifer for the sake of our lawns, no matter how pretty they are.
And then there’s the spiritual component. I can think of no finer way to honor the Creator, however known, than by living sustainably here in Creation.
We who say we care deeply about this place are called to grow our ethical imagination and social responsibility. For as Lyndon Johnson said, “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”
IFAS has led the way in creating beautiful lawns. Now comes the higher challenge: One authentically sustainable lawn at a time, we need IFAS to lead the way in creating a better Florida.
John Moran is a Gainesville-based nature photographer and water
In the latest string of incidents involving Southwest Florida law enforcement, a driver is accused of fighting with a Lee County Sheriff’s deputy after a Nov. 8, 2016 traffic stop. A man who fought with a deputy on Interstate 75 Exit 123 was shot by a passerby on Nov. 14, 2016. As well as man exchanging fire with deputies Nov. 16, 2016 in the Pine Manor neighborhood just south of Fort Myers.
On Sunday Nov. 20, 2016 at approximately 8 p.m. officer Jarred Ciccone was shot in his shoulder during a traffic stop. This is the fourth attack on a Southwest Florida police officer within the last two weeks.
Retired Sanibel police chief Bill Tomlinson, who worked the scene stated, “The suspect drove by and opened fire while the officer was working a traffic stop involving another driver near 2300 Periwinkle Way. The officer was in his vehicle when he was shot,” according to Tomlinson.
A SWAT team was called to the area, but then cleared once the suspect was taken into custody. The Sanibel suspect drove into The Dunes neighborhood, and exchanged gunfire with Sanibel and Lee County Sheriff’s Office deputies. After, he then went to his home barricaded himself until he was surrendered. The suspect was shot and taken into custody along the 1400 block of Sand Castle Road, according to police, who issued an all-clear for the neighborhood shortly before 10 p.m.
Jarred Ciccone, was treated and released from Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, sources said.
“What we do know is that he definitely suffered a wound, definitely something to be very concerned about,” Tomlinson said. “We at the Sanibel Police Department are very concerned for him and his family, and we hope that he’ll be fine.”
Tomlinson added, “This incident is the first officer-involved shooting ever on Sanibel,
. It was similar to an attack earlier Sunday on an officer in San Antonio, Texas”
Sanibel resident Jeanne Vaughn said she heard six rapid-fire gunshots. Another resident said she heard sirens starting around 8:20, along with several gunshots and a helicopter.
“I heard a police siren and then, minute later I heard a bunch of shots. Bang, bang, you know, bang, bang, bang,” said Vaughn, who lives near the causeway. “And then I heard more police sirens and I see police coming up and down the streets.
Steven Chance, a resident of The Dunes .......“It’s unprecedented because I’ve lived on this island my whole life and I’ve never seen this many police in one spot,” Chance said. “It’s a little scary it was in my neighborhood. My dad is home. He’s elderly. I feared for his safety and I still don’t know how he is.”
Ed. Note: Let us be thankful that we have some of the finest police and sherriff departments that keep us safe, are they all perfect, probably not, but the violence against them will only make them more cautious and anxious as they approach potentially dangerous situations.
This holiday season, lets all remember our fallen officers and their families who now have to move forward without them.
Some Southwest Florida “snowbirds” really are birds …… in this case, the American white pelicans.
Unlike the brown pelicans, which are year-round residents of Florida, white pelicans spend only a portion of the year here in Southwest Florida.
The American white pelicans only come here when the U.S. heartlands, plains and ranges around the Rockies are coated with the frigid white powder. In fact, it is estimated that over 1,500 white pelicans migrate to the area for a period of time ranging from October through March. These birds are known to travel from as far away as Idaho, Minnesota and Canada. The most northerly nesting colony can be found on islands in the rapids of the Slave River which is located between Fort Fitzgerald, Alberta, and Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.
American white pelicans winter on the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coasts from central California, Florida and south to Panama, also along the Mississippi River at least as far north as St. Louis and Missouri. In the winter season, they are rarely found on the open seashore, preferring estuaries and lakes. Large groups of these birds make the journey here to enjoy the warmer sunny winter weather.
The American white pelican, similar to, yet rivals the trumpeter swan, with a similar overall length. The American white pelican is the longest bird native to North America. (Being both very large and plump) A white pelican's weight is nearly double that of the brown pelican. The white pelican’s wingspan is 9 feet compared to that of the brown's 6½-foot wing span. Also, has the second largest average wingspan of any North American bird, after the California condor. This large wingspan allows the bird to use soaring flight with ease and grace.
Unlike the brown pelican, the American white pelican does not dive for its food. Instead it catches its prey while swimming. The brown pelicans are notorious skydivers and piling-perches year-round.
White pelicans search for food in large groups of a dozen or more birds to feed. Instead of diving for food the way brown pelicans do, white pelicans swim on the surface in a semicircle and herd the fish to shallower water near the shore.
Then using their pouches as fishnets, the white pelicans submerge their heads and necks in order to scoop up the fish. When this is not easily possible …. For example in deep water, where fish can escape by diving out of reach, they will then prefer to forage alone.
Wild American white pelicans live for an average of more than 16 years. In captivity, the record life span stands at over 34 years.
They are colonial breeders, with up to 5,000 pairs per site. Wild American white pelicans arrive on the breeding grounds in March or April (depending on spring weather conditions) with nesting starting between early April and early June.
This species is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. It has the California Department of Fish and Game protective status California species of special concern (CSC).
There was a pronounced decline in American white pelican numbers in the mid-20th century; this was attributable to the excessive spraying of DDT, endrin and other organochlorides in agriculture areas, also with the widespread draining and pollution of wetlands. After stricter environmental protection laws came into effect, the American white pelican populations have recovered well, and are stable or slightly increasing today.