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Thread: Sugar industry, govt. team up to kill river

  1. #1
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Sugar industry, govt. team up to kill river

    How to kill a perfectly good Florida river
    By CARL HIAASEN

    The killing of the St. Lucie River is deplorable but hardly unique. Other Florida rivers are being destroyed, although the symptoms aren't so arresting.

    The St. Lucie is dying as a manmade slime trail, a huge vein of effluent streamed with blue-green algae. The remaining fish are increasingly sick and ulcerated, the birds have flown and residents of neighboring counties are being warned to keep their children away from the water.

    Unlike some of Florida's rivers -- poisoned slowly by mines and paper mills -- the St. Lucie is dying very publicly, and in a heavily populated region. Many thousands of people live on or near the waterway, and some are protesting loudly.

    It's uncomfortable for state authorities. Often a river can be killed off without much fuss; only a few stout souls in mill towns dare to protest, and the enviros downstream don't get much play in the local media.

    But the St. Lucie is different. Palm Beach County TV stations have been avidly covering the story, sending up helicopters -- helicopters! -- to take video of the churning crud.

    This is bad. This is ugly stuff.

    The source is Lake Okeechobee, a humongous latrine for ranches, farms, groves and, more recently, massive residential developments in Central Florida.

    For decades the state has tolerated the dumping of cattle manure, pesticides and fertilizers into the big lake. Tons of foul sediment were stirred up by last year's hurricanes, and water is now being pumped at up to 26,000 gallons per second into the St. Lucie River.

    Water managers blame the weather. Months of heavy rain have forced them to keep flushing Lake Okeechobee so it won't overflow, they say. The runoff can't be sent elsewhere because the high phosphorus levels exceed the limits imposed for the Everglades restoration project.

    So where does all that bad water go? Down the Caloosahatchee River to the Gulf of Mexico, and down the St. Lucie to the Atlantic.

    What the good people of Martin and St. Lucie counties see and smell on their river is the disastrous culmination of generations of lousy planning, worse management and slimy politics.

    Florida has a squalid record of letting special interests exploit and contaminate our public waterways, and the state remains an unfailingly enthusiastic partner in such pollution.

    Georgia-Pacific, which empties up to 36 million gallons of crap every day into a creek near Palatka, now has a permit to pipe its waste directly to the St. Johns River. Meanwhile, International Paper Co. in Pensacola has a green light to build an outfall pipe to wetlands along Perdido Bay.

    The most outrageous case is in Taylor County, up in Florida's Big Bend. There the Buckeye paper mill, which manufactures fluff for disposable diapers, has annihilated virtually all life in the once-teeming Fenholloway River.

    In a grievously belated attempt to restore the Fenholloway to a ''fishable-swimmable'' waterway, the state has brilliantly decided to let Buckeye pipe its toxins straight to the Gulf of Mexico, a swath of which has already been deadened by noxious dumping.

    For these upcoming atrocities you can thank pro-industry stooges at the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and also Florida's assiduously gutless Department of Environmental Protection (the former chief, David Struhs, left for a job at International Paper). The rivers will go black before any Bush brother notices.

    Rather than requiring big companies and governments to clean their waste, it's much easier (and cheaper) to pipe it somewhere less noticeable. Somebody would have already suggested that remedy for the St. Lucie River were it feasible to build a sewer pipe from Lake Okeechobee to the sea.

    With property values along the St. Lucie in jeopardy and much of the river unsafe for human recreation, plenty of folks in Martin and St. Lucie counties are angry.

    Officials of the South Florida Water Management District say that they're at the mercy of the rains and of the timetable for Everglades restoration.

    On the drawing board is the C-44 reservoir, which supposedly will cleanse about 13 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee poo before it reaches the St. Lucie.

    Unfortunately, the project isn't due for completion until 2010, and many fear it will be too late. The Martin County commission has discussed suing the water district for wrecking the St. Lucie, and similar action is being considered by a group called the Rivers Coalition.

    Meanwhile, the Stuart-Martin Chamber of Commerce has enlisted a bigtime lawyer, Willie Gary, to join the river battle. Gary lives along the St. Lucie and has offered his counsel for free, which is not happy news for the state.

    In what many residents perceive as a blunt threat, some water managers have suggested that litigation could result in the postponement of the C-44 reservoir construction. In other words: Shut up, be patient and trust us.

    It's not easy.

    The history of Florida waters is one of greedy abuse and neglect. Surely there must be a way to save the Everglades without killing the rivers that border it.

    The ruination of Lake Okeechobee took 70 years, but the St. Lucie is deteriorating much faster. Completion of the filtering reservoir is a minimum of five years away, which is an awfully long time to wait if you're a kid who wants to fish or go swimming.

    An awfully long time to sit by and watch a river die.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    People forget the lessons of the past quickly. Until this generation has it's own flaming Cuyahoga River, we'll keep up the standard business of saying it's impossible to damage nature and that the economy is too fragile to not allow business to do whatever it wants.

    Only semi-serious: I subscribe to mega-extreme libertarianism when it comes to the environment... you can create as much noxious pollution as you want on your property, but as soon as it leaves your property and enters mine, you own me ten billion trillion dollars (my standard trespassing fee). Since the polluter did not enter into a mutally agreed upon contract before dumping waste into my property and airspace, I can charge whatever I want. And automobiles can generate as much pollution as the owner wants, as long as it is all piped into the interior of the car and not allowed to escape into airspace the driver does not own (or have a pollution allotment agreement with the owner of that airspace).
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  3. #3
    It just proves once again that the government is not the solution to pollution problems, and is in fact the cause of them!
    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle
    Only semi-serious: I subscribe to mega-extreme libertarianism when it comes to the environment... you can create as much noxious pollution as you want on your property, but as soon as it leaves your property and enters mine, you own me ten billion trillion dollars (my standard trespassing fee). Since the polluter did not enter into a mutally agreed upon contract before dumping waste into my property and airspace, I can charge whatever I want. And automobiles can generate as much pollution as the owner wants, as long as it is all piped into the interior of the car and not allowed to escape into airspace the driver does not own (or have a pollution allotment agreement with the owner of that airspace).
    That's not extreme. If someone built a driving range across the street from your house and your windows got pelted with golf balls all day long, you should have the right to make them stop. It's not different from any other kind of invasion of property.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    It just proves once again that the government is not the solution to pollution problems, and is in fact the cause of them!
    Govt. is the cause of them because its policies accomodate special interest polluters. It is corporate figures that are often appointed to run govt. agencies. Take a look at who runs the Federal Dept. of Interior, EPA, and Energy Dept some time. The end product is a system that sacrifices the public interest in a clean environment for private profit. When will you realize that govt. is a product of a plurality of interests and is not some monolithic body seeking to control every aspect of society?

  5. #5
    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    Govt. is the cause of them because its policies accomodate special interest polluters. It is corporate figures that are often appointed to run govt. agencies. Take a look at who runs the Federal Dept. of Interior, EPA, and Energy Dept some time. The end product is a system that sacrifices the public interest in a clean environment for private profit. When will you realize that govt. is a product of a plurality of interests and is not some monolithic body seeking to control every aspect of society?
    The government is always hijacked by the people with the most money. In China today the big industries bribe the party officials which are supposed to defend the small farmers and fishermen. The rivers become so polluted that the peasants can't work anymore and get starved to death. They can't complain to anyone about it, despite the fact that they are suffering from clearly illegal acts.

    At the begginning of the industrial revolution English farmers sued the factories that were dumping soot and ash on their fields. The cases were thrown out because the factories were needed for the "public good."

    It's always the same old story. Your river isn't the exception.

  6. #6

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    So, jaws, since "government" is not the solution, since government is always hijacked by the wealthy, you somehow beleive that concentrated capital andm private power will not be even MORE in control if the "government" disappeared? How will this occur? Name one socieyt like ours where a non-State system has allowed for any power for the lesser orders or the public good? There has never been a libertarian society outside frontier settlements and hunting and gathering societies (not too relevant to us.)

    Your solution, of course, is to have ma and pa mobile home owners sue the mutimillion dollar multinational corporations and big farmers. Of course, large corporations and concentrated private power willjust automatically obey this strange system of private courts? (I/m not sure what your court system would be with no government at all? Or, perhaps we need to go all out libertarian and have the residents and homeowners form armed gangs to assalut the plants themselves? Or, maybe you're foolish enough to depend on on the corporations themselves-maybe if we just give the corporations the rivers they will miraculously stop polluting them?

    Forgive me for not being too intersted in yet anohter "government is imperfect so we have to get rid of it all because the markets and private parties are absolutely moral and perfect and the solution to everything" thread. Your argument seems to be "governments are flawed-Get rid of them." Pretty facile-all human institutions are flawed. The fact is, the concentration of power is there. Getting rid of governments will not suddenly mean the average joe will have more influence over the behavior of conctrated private power. Plus, you seem to contradict yourself pretty dramatically. In this thread, governments are totally controlled by private corporations, so they don't regulate said corporations. In mutiple other threads, private business is powerless against the evil monopoly power of the state, and if it weren't for government suburban sprawl and modernist architecture would never exist. Ridiculous, of course.

    You see libertarian utopia. I see drug gangs and private warfare. Forgive me for not finding your vision, which is not based on anything in history or human nature, as very convincing.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    In this thread, governments are totally controlled by private corporations, so they don't regulate said corporations. In mutiple other threads, private business is powerless against the evil monopoly power of the state, and if it weren't for government suburban sprawl and modernist architecture would never exist. Ridiculous, of course.
    I think this is a problem of perception, not of interpretation. You believe that there exists some kind of homogeneous group called "the corporations" that operate in unison, follow the same goal and organize into "concentrated capital and private power." The corporations exist for one purpose alone, to screw the little guy. They follow this purpose as ruthlessly as they can.

    In reality though corporations are one of many types of economic agents, and different corporations have different goals. Thus corporations often come into conflict with one another, and other economic agents. To resolve this conflict, we need laws. For example, we need a law that says that we can't pollute other people's property. A fair law applies to everyone equally.

    The application and enforcement of this law is the monopoly of the state. As with any monopolies it is possible for an agent to corrupt it and use it for its own ends at the expense of everyone else. Thus the law no longer applies to everyone equally. This resolves what you claimed to be a contradiction. When one corporation hijacks the monopoly of power, it does at expense of everyone else including other corporations. Corporations are not a homogeneous force. All of these corruptions destroy economic wealth and vitality, and this is how we get sprawl.

    Obviously there's nothing I can say to convince you that corporations are not some dark monolithic force. It's all in your perception. You just have to see it for yourself.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    This is the only real solution- a flow way south to the Everglades Agricultural area.
    http://www.tcpalm.com/tcp/local_news...587415,00.html

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    I think this is a problem of perception, not of interpretation. You believe that there exists some kind of homogeneous group called "the corporations" that operate in unison, follow the same goal and organize into "concentrated capital and private power." The corporations exist for one purpose alone, to screw the little guy. They follow this purpose as ruthlessly as they can.

    In reality though corporations are one of many types of economic agents, and different corporations have different goals. Thus corporations often come into conflict with one another, and other economic agents. To resolve this conflict, we need laws. For example, we need a law that says that we can't pollute other people's property. A fair law applies to everyone equally.

    The application and enforcement of this law is the monopoly of the state. As with any monopolies it is possible for an agent to corrupt it and use it for its own ends at the expense of everyone else. Thus the law no longer applies to everyone equally. This resolves what you claimed to be a contradiction. When one corporation hijacks the monopoly of power, it does at expense of everyone else including other corporations. Corporations are not a homogeneous force. All of these corruptions destroy economic wealth and vitality, and this is how we get sprawl.

    Obviously there's nothing I can say to convince you that corporations are not some dark monolithic force. It's all in your perception. You just have to see it for yourself.
    This is actually a pretty good post, jaws. The only place I would disagree with you is that we are not talking only about impacts on someone else's property. I still beleive in a common good that cannot necessarily be reduced to private property and contract law. Otherwise...

    Of course, I don't believe "the corporations" are a monolithic force of evil. They are human institutions, subject to human failing and foibles. As are markets, which are imperfect systems that do not refelct everything. I would argue that economics alone works to encourage private business to foist as many of the negative externalities as possible on the public at large, competitotrs, future generations, etc. Hence, the need for government and environmental rules.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    This is actually a pretty good post, jaws. The only place I would disagree with you is that we are not talking only about impacts on someone else's property. I still beleive in a common good that cannot necessarily be reduced to private property and contract law. Otherwise...
    The problem with the common good is that everybody has a different subjective opinion of what the common good is, so it turns out to be not very common at all. We all have individual views of the common good.
    Of course, I don't believe "the corporations" are a monolithic force of evil. They are human institutions, subject to human failing and foibles. As are markets, which are imperfect systems that do not refelct everything. I would argue that economics alone works to encourage private business to foist as many of the negative externalities as possible on the public at large, competitotrs, future generations, etc. Hence, the need for government and environmental rules.
    Self-interest works to encourage people to dump negative externalities on the public, but you can't abolish self-interest. It's simply a fact of human nature. Economics tells you how you can avoid this and create a dynamic economy regardless. You can do this by simply outlawing negative externalities.

    The need for government and environmental rules are two vastly different concepts. Creating a legion of bureaucrats to use "regional planning" that controls every aspect of every business in order to reduce pollution is a project doomed to fail. They simply cannot have the knowledge necessary to make all the right decisions, and over time corruption and bribery will ensure that more pollution is generated than otherwise would have been.

    Environmental rules however come from private property owners. I can make a rule such as "don't dump toxic waste on my property" and if you do dump this toxic waste, then I should have the power to sue you and stop you. This creates a decentralized system of individuals protecting the environment.

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