Floridians are experiencing extreme weather events and now they are starting to realize that they are not just affected economically. This has become a public health issue.

Rising global temperatures are causing catalytic weather events that are closely interrelated and influence each other, making the situation worse. To illustrate this, let’s talk about water quality. Increasing heavy rains can cause pollution run-off in waterways and retention ponds fueling algae bloom and red tides. These can also make septic systems fail because of over-saturated soil with water around them. All of these add more nutrients to the waters and, with warmer waters, we have the perfect conditions for these blooms.

We felt the economic impact of our water quality crisis throughout the state last year in fisheries and the tourism industry. To make the situation worse, recent studies link beta-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA)–which is a neurotoxin present on red tides and algal bloom–with neuro-degenerative diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, making this is a growing public health concern in communities with surrounding bodies of water, including retention ponds.

Whether we are preparing for a hurricane or experiencing extreme heat, rains and sea levels rising, Floridians are acknowledging that the price of doing nothing to address environmental pollution is more costly than enacting legislation that includes not just adaptation but also mitigation.

Luckily, a crisis can unite us and a new type of advocate is emerging from our profound environmental degradation problems. Citizens know that while we adapt to the new  “normal” extreme weather, we should also organize to address the problem before the emergency becomes impossible and causes irreparable damage.

Community leaders in Central Florida in conjunction with people across the United States are organizing and looking for political support from their politicians for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R 763) or EICDA. This legislation introduces a fair market for renewables and will reduce our carbon emission by 40 percent in 12 years while adding 2.1 million new jobs in 10 years. It will also prevent 60,000 premature deaths a year and will move us toward a clean energy economy. The best part of it is that every American will receive a carbon dividend check each month.

As more environmental issues continue to happen in our backyard, it is important that more people become engaged and continue to build political will to act on climate solutions. The EICDA has five cosponsors in the state of Florida and 63 in total in the United States.  Many economists believe the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is the most effective piece of legislation to address global rising temperatures, and many of them recommend that the public shift to renewables. By acting on climate through legislation, we can become a part of a sustainable environmental movement and address growing ecological disasters that impact everyone.


Russell Conn is the chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Environmental Caucus.


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