One of the most important issues — or, rather, what should be one of the most important issues — during the 2018 midterm elections is the environment and conservation efforts. According to a Gallup poll in 2008, the top issues for voters were the situation in Iraq and the economy. The environment placed nearly last.
In a similar survey conducted in 2012 by Pew Research Center, the economy and improving the job situation ranked among the top priority. The same study reported widening differences among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents over the environment. About 60 percent of Democrats, 27 percent of Republicans, and 40 percent of independents indicated that the environment was a top priority. Protecting the environment had gained some support, yet global warming placed dead last.
During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump, in contrast to other world leaders, often denied or rejected climate science and voters, unfortunately, ranked the issue among their lowest concerns. Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, his administration began removing references to climate change and nominating people who evade the issue or doubt human activity influences climate change.
As Trump and his administration withdraw from the Paris agreement, how should Florida respond? One University of South Florida poll found that the environment was the second most important issue to Floridians. South Florida activists and engaged residents mounted successful campaigns to raise public awareness and promote local governmental responses to many environmental issues.
Still, hundreds of thousands of tires and partially treated sewage dumped less than four miles offshore threaten our coral reefs. These corals provide shelter, feeding, and breeding sites for marine life and protect our coast, but the decontamination process leaves concentrations of phosphorous and nitrogen from human waste, which damage the coral colonies and hurt our economy.
One important study revealed that coral reefs protect millions of people against rising sea levels, hurricanes, and other natural disasters by reducing wave energy. These dying coral reefs are vital drivers of tourism and economic growth.
I ask concerned readers to contact your municipal and county representatives and ask that they study the effect and importance of climate change and various local stressors on coral reefs. Some stressors include coastal development, sewage flushing, sedimentation, and toxins. Call and write your legislators and ask them to promote ecological resilience and protect and prevent the destruction of Florida’s ecosystems.
Ryan Ross received his graduate degree in history from Florida Atlantic University, and is currently running for Broward County Commission, District 2.