The Year the Canaries Came Home to Roost


For my final essay of 2013 I am going to (again) write about climate change. This seems to be the year of the canaries in the climate-change coal mine. “Seems”, because at the risk of repetition I have been on that metaphor from the moment I started on the environment.

Back in the late 1980’s I wrote about serial algae blooms in northern Florida Bay. Although the scientists were scratching each other’s eyes out at the time — on the facts and cause –, it was clear that nothing could stop amorphous, amoeba-like blobs from destroying a vast, extraordinary piece of the Everglades ecosystem.

Nothing but government action to reverse decades of water mis-management that accrued to the benefit and upstream profits of Big Sugar. But the deniers controlled the levers of government: it was the time of Ronald Reagan, James Watts and the Wise Use Movement mobilized through the precursor to the Tea Party, called then the Sagebrush Rebellion — against government and especially against environmental regulation — and its Florida Keys branch, the Conch Coalition.

Even the scientists have stopped arguing. Florida Bay is, for all intents and purposes, converted to a blighted remnant that mainly hosts scavenger species. There are still a few trophies left. They are bewildered stragglers. Just go to a few restaurants in the Keys to see the photos on the walls — like the Square Grouper on Summerland Key or Stouts on Marathon Key — to see what was only a generation ago.

As those early algae blooms were canaries in a coal mine to the fate of Florida Bay, so is the degradation of our coastal waters in Florida a canary in the coal mine for land-based natural resources. The state, recently claimed the third most populous in the United States, is awash in a sea of pollution — the toxic form of mercury flows in the middle of the Everglades in degrees that make it one of the world’s hot spots. In other words, the canaries in the coal mine are everywhere.

Superstorm Sandy. Ice storms, now, through much of the nation depriving millions of electricity while serial cold fronts sweep through. And in Miami? Just yesterday I had the AC repair out: the humidity busted my air conditioner. I asked the repair guy had his business ever been so good in December? He just shook his head. The other day I asked a motel owner in the Keys, have sea levels been rising? He confided, I’m a climate change denier until I sell my property.

Yesterday, the New York Times published an important story, “Spared Winter Freeze, Florida’s Wetlands Are Marching North“. “(Dr. Gruner) said that scientists needed to start considering changes beyond just average temperatures as they analyzed the environmental consequences of climate change. More surprises are likely in store, he said. “I don’t like to think about it, quite frankly,” he said. “It’s a little scary.”

“Patrick Gillespie, a spokesman for Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, offered no specific comment on the new paper. By email, he said the agency had indeed “seen an increase in mangrove habitats to the north and inward along the Atlantic coast. It’s difficult to determine whether this is good or bad for the ecosystem because it’s happened over a relatively short period of time and may be a result of many factors.” Tell that to the insurance industry, Mr. Gillespie, your boss, Gov. Rick Scott, and Senator Marco Rubio-who-still-refuses-meeting-with-climate change scientists.

So there you have it: 2013, the Year of the Canaries In The Climate-Change Coal Mine”. Unpersuaded? Watch Malcolm Gladwell’s “How much proof do we need”, beginning with the literal coal mine and the canary. That would be, us.

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades.

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria