North of Gainesville, a church camp once attracted thousands of visitors because it was built around the gushing waters of Hornsby Springs. Then the spring stopped flowing and the camp had to spend m
From respected environmental reporter Craig Pittman comes this article. When will we learn? If we don’t protect our water, we won’t be able to survive.
BROOKSVILLE — All over Florida, clashes are erupting over how much water can be diverted from the state’s springs to keep development going. The latest battleground was Tuesday’s meeting of the South
During my tenure as a writer/editor/public relations director at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the agency took very seriously the threat of climate change to a state surrounded on three sides by water and subject to violent storm surges, eroding beaches, and disappearing habitat. The endangerment of 575 species of wildlife and 700 species of fish, both fresh- and saltwater, worried wildlife managers.
I took pride in the agency’s climate change initiatives and served as editor to the publication, Florida’s Wildlife: On the front line of climate change in 2009. The head of the climate change committee asked me personally to write a column on wildlife and climate change, which I did for two years. The Wildlife Forecast was published in newspapers, newsletters, and magazines around the state. Audubon Society and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reprinted the column on occasion.
Then in late 2010, I received word that my column was on hold until after the first Tuesday in November. That last column never made it into print.
What happened? Gov. Rick Scott happened. With his election in November 2010, state employees ran scared. The word went out that agencies, such as the FWC and Florida’s DEP, needed to tread carefully. Their budgets were on the line, and suddenly, despite scientific data and scientists’ assertions on the reality of climate change, the concept became verboten.
I left Florida soon after to move to Pennsylvania. Many of my colleagues, including any involved with climate change initiatives, moved onto the federal government. Many told me I’d certainly chosen my departure from the agency at an opportune time.
It’s interesting how things spiral together at one moment. I woke up this past Saturday morning with a thought running through my head: Publish The Wildlife Forecast columns in a book. I pulled them out and put them together and remembered how the column ended. I’d forgotten. Then two days later, an article came across my Facebook news feed from the Miami Herald. The headline screamed:
(Click on headline for link to the full article.)
Here’s an excerpt:
“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”
Kristina Trotta, another former DEP employee who worked in Miami, said her supervisor told her not to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in a 2014 staff meeting. “We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact,” she said.
This unwritten policy went into effect after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011 and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as the DEP’s director, according to former DEP employees. Gov. Scott, who won a second term in November, has repeatedly said he is not convinced that climate change is caused by human activity, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
We journalists were advised a decade ago by news organizations to stop using the term “global warming” because it placed blame for climate changes on mankind’s actions. It was suggested we used the term “climate change” instead in all of our articles. I agreed because climate change is more accurate. The predictions are for wild and intense changes in all things dealing with climate. More frequent and intense storms, unpredictable weather catastrophes, and extreme variations in temperatures. Scientists point to Florida as one of the most vulnerable places in the world because of its shape and location. That’s too big of a concern to simply ignore.
However, even more concerning is the culture of a state government, in this case run by businessman Rick Scott, to forbid the use of any words by employees. I can tell you as I prepared to leave my job with the FWC, employees were running scared of losing jobs because of their beliefs. Is this ever a good thing?
The FWC’s website still offers the publication Florida’s Wildlife: On the front line of climate change in PDF form (Click here), which is good. They still have a special initiative for climate change, although it’s not listed in the main menu. Maybe things aren’t as dire as the article points out. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that open dialogue still exists in my beloved Florida, no matter what our beliefs.
Florida–surrounded on both sides by water–is vulnerable to the changes inherent in the world today. Sea level rises, beach erosion, and increased intensity of hurricanes leave the state open to natural disasters. Add to that the unmitigated sprawl of developers to the Sunshine State for its landscape and warm weather, and all the elements for disaster are in place.
I made Florida my home for thirty years. I hope to return there in a few years. The state is in my blood, which means I’ll be writing about the characters and environment for a long time. I’m working on the first draft of my third book of Florida Environmental Fiction, while my first two books, Trails in the Sand and Tortoise Stew, are available to read at any time.
Trails in the Sand –
***Love Triangles, Endangered Sea Turtles, and BP’s Oil Spill
***A Florida Novel by award-winning Florida author, P.C. Zick
When environmental writer Caroline Carlisle sets off to report on endangered sea turtles during the BP’s oil spill, the last thing she expects is to uncover secrets – secrets that threaten to destroy her family, unless she can heal the hurts from a lifetime of lies. To make matters worse, Caroline’s love for her late sister’s husband, Simon, creates an uproar in a southern family already set on a collision course with its past.
From Caroline’s sister: “My sister is nothing more than a common whore,” Amy said when Simon told her he was leaving her. “You just have to face it and get over some childhood notion about her being your soul mate.”
On BP’s oil spill: “Two weeks after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, dead sea turtles began washing up on the beaches near Pass Christian, Mississippi. Beach walkers discovered the stranded animals on sand darkened by the blood seeping from the turtles’ nostrils and underbelly.”
Using BP oil spill timeline and facts as the backdrop, Trails in the Sand explores the fight to restore balance and peace, in nature and in a family, as both spiral toward disaster.
Florida Fiction filled with intrigue, corruption, twisted love, and outrageous Florida characters
A Florida Environmental Novel from Award-winning author, P.C. Zick
Small town politics at its best, worst, and wildest in this novel about the development of Florida at any cost.
“The bomb sat in a bag on Kelly Sands’ desk for an hour before she noticed it.” And so begins the raucous journey through small town Florida politics in Tortoise Stew.
Kelly Sands, a reporter, covers some of the more controversial and contentious issues in a small Florida town. Dead armadillos and gopher tortoise carcasses left as calling cards to those opposing the development of rural Florida show small town politics at its worst.
Commission meetings erupt into all-out warfare. With the murder of one commissioner and the suicide of his wife, Kelly begins an investigation that threatens to topple the carefully laid plans of the developers and politicians to bring a movie studio and landing strip within the city limits of the small town. When a semi-truck from Monster Mart runs over and kills a young girl, the environmentalists become even more vocal against the developers’ plans. All the while, Kelly struggles to overcome and escape her past, which catches up to her as she follows the antics of the politicians, developers, and environmentalists. With the help of her boss, Bart, and her best friend, Molly, she uncovers more than corruption in small town politics.
[This essay received the First Place Award in the 2001 Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Essay Contest. This award came one month after I left teaching to pursue writing full time. I saw it as a sign that I had made the right decision.]
My new world frightened me. I didn’t see the beauty of the live oak trees draped in moss or understand the lure of frogs singing on a summer night. The wildlife of northern Florida held threats to my safety and left me wondering why we had moved here from Michigan.
I saw danger lurking in the surrounding wilderness. One morning I looked in the mirror and saw a tick, fat with my blood, attached to the center of my forehead. The first time I saw a broadhead skink, I threatened to leave my new home and head back to a land of lizard-less landscapes.
After hearing that I wanted to leave, a neighbor suggested I read Cross Creek. I had never heard of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings even though The Yearling sounded familiar.
Not only was Ms. Rawlings a writer, something I aspired to be, but she had conquered her fears of a Florida wilderness and wrote with affection about an area much more rural than anything I had experienced. For the first time, I began to understand the rhythms of life in this land that was beginning to own me.
When I heard the call of my first “chuck will’s widow” heralding spring, I welcomed the songbird with pride because, thanks to Ms. Rawlings, I knew it was a cousin of the whip-poor-will. Now I listen for it every year.
I read about her trip to the Everglades with Ross Allen to hunt rattlesnakes. This woman became my hero as I fought to overcome my fear of snakes. When I welcomed a Black Racer into my garden last year, my appreciation for the nature of north Florida became complete. I had not made a mistake by moving here.
I devoured her novels. Jody Baxter’s struggles chronicled a rite of passage much purer than anything I’d read before. And South Moon Under allowed a glimpse into the people I had begun to call neighbors.
The picture of Ms. Rawlings, on her porch with the typewriter in front of her, remained a constant in my mind as I struggled to find the writer in me. That picture became reality when I began to put aside the distractions of my life as a teacher and started my own journey as a writer.
Recently one of my students struggled to find an American author to read. I suggested South Moon Under. When he finished, he said, “I never thought I’d like this book, but I want to thank you for suggesting it. It is the most interesting book I’ve ever read.”
No longer afraid of the world around me, I returned what had been given to me when my neighbor suggested I read Cross Creek. Ms. Rawlings lives on in those “human heirs” who sojourn here for only a short time while the creatures and landscapes around us continue their cycle of life and death and rebirth, completing the essential rhythms of a world filled with wonder.