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Friday, February 19, 2016

Making An Environmentalist

When I was living in central Florida I joined a largemouth bass fishing club that was part of a nationally organized fishing network. I ultimately ended up as the president of the club and we had monthly fishing tournaments. We would occasionally catch a bass that had a disproportionately large head  compared to its body. The head would indicate a 5 lb. fish when because of the small body it would only weigh 2-3 lbs.  We caught enough fish with this distortion that we were concerned.

I heard of a group forming that was also looking into these strange fish. I found the group and went to one of their meetings and soon became a member. Next thing I knew I was voted in as a director and speaking to large numbers of people about the St. Johns River with the state biologist. While all this was happening some specimen fish were sent off to Auburn University to determine what was causing this anomaly. The technical term escapes me this many years later, but we found out from the reports that it was caused by pesticide/herbicide and fertilizer run off by local farms. The chemicals being introduced into the river by creeks and run off caused the cells in the fishes body to turn to liquid and stunt growth.

As I read expert report after report and learned more and more about what was causing the problems in the river and heard and watched the culprits lie and distort their involvement it became clear to me that trying to save a valuable resource was not easy. It further went against my natural instinct of right and wrong. The culprits with large money resources could influence an unsuspecting and ill informed public that relied on others to tell them what was wrong. How important it was to be fact specific when I would speak at gatherings or we would be marginalized as nothing more than rable rousers. Educating the public who probably wasn't interested in the first place was going to be very important.

I went back to college to take environment biology courses to learn how to back up facts with scientific documentation. It was often difficult when speaking to large audiences and I can sympathize with those who are yelled at or interrupted when speaking. It did help however when I would appear with the State of Florida biologist who could speak with absolute authority. I learned that doing my research and understanding my subject fully went a long way. Our environmental group grew to well over 100,000 members and ultimately far more than that. It was recognized nationally for its efforts and was well known.

That was what instilled a sense of protecting our resources and preserving them (conservationist) for future generations. I also found out what it was like to be disparaged for doing what was good. When I left central Florida I took all those lessons with me and have been involved in various like organizations ever since. I still fear that one day we will wake up and find ourselves in a totally toxic world because conditions have not only become worse but accelerated in my opinion. That in substance is what makes an environmentalist and I expect I will continue to be one until my very last breath.

Anyone wanting to take on environmental causes must be willing to do endless research, not be offended when people verbally attack you with labels or personally because often they have an agenda that is not in the public interest. It is always an uphill challenge but we need those who are willing to take on that uphill climb.  

4 comments:

Isschade said...

We bought and moved to our property in 2003. 7 beautiful acres and above our place is 1200 acres of pecan orchards. In 2004 my hair began to fall out. Small spots to begin with but then it stopped growing. I did everything possible to stop the Alopecia process.. Dr., Dermatologist, every vitamin and Indian remedy that anyone suggested. I used beautician tonics, a strong prescription drug for a few months and even went gluten free for 3 months... what an awful experience.

Finally someone suggested the fungicides/pesticides that they were spraying on the pecan trees could be the culprit. I am down wind from any drift and even though the law in GA states that no spraying is legal over 6 mph winds, the farm continued to spray no matter how hard the wind is blowing and they even did aerial spraying when the winds were puffin at 22 mph. I had the Dept of Ag come twice and took samples and threw a holy fit with the owner but to no avail.

The Dept Ag's excuse as that the farmer was "within his rights" to spray what was approved even though the jerk was spraying EVERY DAY that it wasn't raining under all wind conditions. That's a lot of dry days in GA.

Anyway.. my hair continued to fall out. I thought it was cool that I didn't have to shave my legs HOWEVER it wasn't cool to lose my hair on my head. Three years ago after the April start up of spraying, the final strgglers of hair fell out including my eyebrows and eyelashes. This is now called Alopecia Universalis. The entire process had taken 10 years... not one single hair on my body.

I've had blood tests and everything is well within normal ranges and still NO HAIR. My friend moved into a house near me about 6 years ago and as of today her hair has stopped growing and is also falling out.

SO .. HOW do you get the Dept of Ag to DO SOMETHING ??? The "drift" as they call it, is within healthy limits however there are two fungicides that they can't even test yet because they say they can't find a lab that can test it...and the orchard owner is using it liberally.

ANY SUGGESTIONS???

Bruce said...

That sounds very much like a situation that occurred in our community a few years ago. They were liberally spraying 2,4,D Amine 4, which is highly carcinogenic. Causes many illnesses and is under current review as to whether it should be banned. It is a high potent herbicide that is like Roundup on steroids.
I reported them to the EPA who said they couldn't really do much. I went the the USDA and they confirmed my fears over the chemicals. They suggested I go to the Colorado Dept. of Ag as they had authority to levy fines and cease and desist. I went to the CDA and they basically told me they were to busy and only had two investigators in the entire state therefore they would do nothing.
Not to be trashed with a legitimate complaint I wrote a letter to the Gov. of the State advising of the public health hazard, what was being done and by who and advised that I had contacted the CDA and they told me tough, they were to busy to deal with it. A few days later I got a call from the very same man who earlier had told me to pound sand asking what I wanted them to do and when. A few days later one of their two investigators was at my house getting details and then he issued a cease and desist for violations. He spent half a day with me and left advising me if I saw any more violations to call him and how to take photos so he could prosecute.

Maybe a letter to the Gov. would stir things up and get some results. Your neighbor is creating a public health hazard and if the dept of Ag won't follow through they need to have a fire built under them. What usually happens is the Gov. office called the Director of Ag. and so the complaint comes down instead of up from you. The Gov. will also require the Dept. of Ag. to advise what was done and when, so the Dir. of Ag is accountable to the Gov. which seems to get their attention. The other option is find out what untested chemicals are being used and go through the EPA but I can tell you they need to be held at gun point to do anything. Let me know how it works out for you.

Isschade said...

I'll do this ! They did get a warning letter to comply by the law and the owner lied and said he was not doing aerial spraying though I had pictures... and that he wasn't praying the rows closest to me but again.. I took pictures. I will be persistent in this. We're taking water samples to NY with us next time we go and getting the water tested at Cornell. Something will show up eventually. I'm going to take some of my neighbor's hair samples with me too.

Thanks... I'll letcha know how it turns out.

Rebecca

Bruce said...

Thanks Becca: I'll be interested in how this turns out.