Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Nov. 23, 2005)
Where is the edge of civilization?
The morning was of cool fog. We guided the canoe
through the veils of mist while avoiding low hanging branches and unsuspected
debris. The tannin stained waters rushed passed the canoe as the current enticed us
down the river. Unseen splashes sounded in the near distance, evidence of awakening
alligators hidden under cover of fog.
|Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
|A glimpse of old Florida
today, preserved for the future.
We sat in silence and deep breaths. No sounds of automobiles, boom boxes,
telephones. We had slipped back into a lost moment in time, a place of yesteryear,
a time quickly disappearing and increasingly more difficult to find, a rare moment
in Florida. Where is the edge of civilization? In these wild places we can touch
the heart of the earth and hear her whispers but for how long?
Take a drive on any one of Floridas highways or county roads. You will
observe that miles upon miles of open fields are being transformed into housing
developments. Where once there was scrub lands, farmers fields, oak hammocks,
wetlands, rivers, lakes and orange groves, houses soon will stand one next to the
other with only a few feet between.
Floridas highways are clogged with polluting traffic jams that are a direct
result of urban sprawl that seems to happen almost by default. Roads are being
plowed, enormous concrete septic fields dug, while fake lakes in geometric shapes
with unnatural flora and fauna are replacing naturally occurring stream beds and
ponds. A housing development pops up in one place, a road is then put in another
place, followed by a shopping center accommodating the new residents and so on.
Florida depends on agriculture as its second-largest industry, but has lost
roughly 8 million acres of farmland to development since 1954.
Programs are in place to help the siege on public, undeveloped, forest and farm
lands such as: the Forever Florida program and Floridas 1959
greenbelt law. Another program, the Rural Land Protection Act, was
immobilized by legislatures when Jeb Bush vetoed $5 million for the program, which
has never received funding since it passed in 2001.
And yet, according to the Negative Population Growth, Florida loses 860 acres of
its forests and farmlands to development each month. Recent statistics from the
Sierra and NPG show Florida is now the leading state for urban sprawl. When the
Sierra Club rated cities on sprawl, Florida had the largest presence of any
Fort Lauderdale ranked ninth among the most sprawled threatened cities
of 1 million or more. Orlando and West Palm Beach ranked first and fifth
respectively among urbanized areas with populations between 500,000 and 1 million.
Pensacola and Daytona Beach were third and fifth among urbanized areas of their
Tampa-St. Petersburg area ranked eight out of the 100 largest U.S. Urbanized Areas
by square miles of sprawl the Land Area Data derived from the U.S. Census
Bureaus report on Urbanized Areas, between 1970-1990.
The American Farmland Trust Organization research offers these suggestions on its
A process of dialogue and debate should be initiated in each locality where
conversion of farmland is significant to develop long-term objectives for the land
and mechanisms to share responsibility to protect it. Americans need to recognize
that irrevocable decisions regarding the fate of farmland are being made every day
without guidance on public priorities for the land. Urban planners should look more
closely at the principles of compact growth, including building homes at optimal
density, renewing inner cities and using existing infrastructure.
Another study during Florida OverPopulation Awareness Week (Oct. 29 to Nov. 4,
2000), notes that Floridas phenomenal population growth has been the No. 1
factor in the states urban sprawl.
This in-depth study explores this phenomenon, but also offers solutions for
Floridas future. Sprawl in Florida was written and is made downloadable in a
free access format, by Leon Kolankiewicz and Roy Beck.
The authors write on their Web site: (We) embarked upon this study after a
literature search found that media stories, advocacy programs, governmental reports
and political statements about sprawl rarely consider population growth as a factor
that could be modified to reduce sprawl. This seemed surprising in light of
Floridas population nearly doubling during the period of study from
6.8 million to 12.9 million.
The half-century view is even more startling; The states human
inhabitants have expanded from around 2.8 million in 1950 to around 15.6 million in
2000. The findings in this study suggest that those who would stop sprawl in
Florida will need to address three levels of government: (a) local incentives that
entice more people to move into particular cities, (b) state policies that attract
residents from other states, and (c) federal policies that add population to
Florida and the nation as a whole.
Even as the writer, researcher and advocate for saving natural habitats, some of
these statistics are overwhelming to comprehend. Furthermore the average citizen is
left scratching their head in the face of such a huge plight.
Solutions are difficult to surmise. Get involved. Take action. Learn about
whats happening in your own back yard. Read reports such as those published
by Sierra on solving urban sprawl.
Sierra Club advises, Sprawl happens on a project-by-project basis. One bad
decision after another results in a poorly planned, quickly expanding community
that ends up suffering from increased air and water pollution, traffic congestion,
declining cities and towns and loss of its historical identity. Educated and active
community members are the greatest defense against sprawl.
Sprawl threatens wildlife. Sprawl permanently destroys vital habitats that
wildlife depends upon. One decision, one person, one acre, one letter, one phone
call, one e-mail, one habitat, one panther, one bear, one eagle, one nation, one
cause, one alone canoeing upon a foggy river away from civilization, lost moment in
time, a place of yesteryear, a time quickly disappearing and increasingly more
difficult to find back to nature.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.