Statement To Joint Committee Of The Florida Legislature On South Florida Area Regional Organization, January 17 1972, 4 pp.
From discussions I have had with others in regard to the assignment to your Committee, from testimony others have given to you and from press articles I have read, I conclude that we are evolving to some yet undetermined new mode for managing the environment of the south Florida region.
Evolve we must, for time is running out. Some evidences of this are likely to be recognized primarily by the natural scientists and the wilderness environmentalists -- the old-time conservationists. I would include in this category the many evidences of stress in the Florida Everglades -- the greatly reduced populations of 15 or 16 wild species, the bloom and bust cycle of the Everglades deer herd, losses of wetland vegetation, extensive wild fires, rapid consumption of the agricultural muck soils south of Lake Okeechobee, and deterioration of water quality in Okeechobee itself. Related to these are the degraded conditions of some east coast estuaries -- notably the St. Lucie at Stuart and south Lake Worth in Palm Beach County, both of which have been badly damaged by Okeechobee-Everglades drainage into them.
Another class of environmental stress is evident in the urban areas, especially those of the Gold Coast. The people here know it. Some examples of its components are growing air pollution, visible water pollution, a twice-a- day traffic abomination, crime, an enervated school system, police forces which confront crime or traffic but not both, enormous ghetto areas which are expanding at an enormous rate, fear, debilitated units of government which are increasingly unable to provide the services they were created to provide, rampant visual ugliness and, lastspring, a touch of water shortages, with a sprinkle of salt.
These are the kinds of problems our evolving regional managers, however established, must confront. The pressures on the resources and most of the people of south Florida are so intense and precipitous that the decade of the 70's is truly the decade of our environment, not by anyone's choice. There are two allied goals our environmental managers must pursue. One is to protect and restore the resources of the region so as to insure the health, safety and decent conditions of life for all its inhabitants, now and in the future. The other is to prevent the buildup of such enormous pressures and demands on local units of government that they lack the ability or the funds to act.
It is fair to say, and disquieting, that whatever managers and managerial systems we choose now shall set the quality of life, the viability of south Florida -- whether good or bad -- into the far distant future. This places a burden on yourselves, on the legislature, on the Governor, and on anyone who pursues a particular means for responding to the problems to either do the job which is required or to become, by omission, a contributor to the racing degradation of south Florida.
My profession is ecology -- human ecology. It is a complex profession which lacks, as I well know, the ultimate sophistications which our pressured times require. Despite those shortcomings, there are now available to us well-substantiated ecologic principles that we must apply or fail in attempts to manage our environment.
One of these is the concept of living systems. We have ignored their reality at present great cost to ourselves. One cannot build a road across the Everglades, an expressway through the city, erect highrises or attract ten thousand additional residents in a vacuum. The effects of these reverberate throughout the system -- they have done so in south Florida and we still have difficulty believing it.
Americans are habitual specialists. Our industries are primarily insti- tutions which specialize in one or a few products, in the exploitation of one or a few resources.
American medicine is practiced through specialities. Its assorted practitioners have come to look at a kidney, a lung, or a genito-urinary tract and only recently are coming again to recognize that these comprise a man or a woman.
Our universities produce many persons specialized to such a high degree that there is no valid reason to expect them as individuals to be responsive to our array of systems problems.
Government is made up of specialists. It was the specialists of government who sought to drain, to farm, to build roads, to divide the Everglades pie into a hundred provincial, geographic, political, and mission-oriented parts which nearly tore it apart.
Cities -- and urban-oriented counties -- are specialists. Their specialty is growth. It is a dedication with much historic momentum and great inertia. The inertia carries us on despite their widening bankruptcy in ability to fund or even to decide critical public issues. The result can be seen readily in the spreading slum core at the center of the metropolitan area.
In south Florida we are suddenly confronted with the impinging and over- lapping results of our pursuits of multiple special goals. All east coast communities, and Fort Myers on the west coast now compete for water. There isnit enough Everglades for the potential swamp buggy and airboat populations of the region. Garbage and sewage and air pollutants and traffic are inter- community properties to be shared in some yet undetermined way by all the cities of the Gold Coast.
The job of putting it all together is the special mission of your Committee, or of any other organization which exercises that opportunity. It is not an easy assignment. Bold souls and bold actions are essential.
We must construct a mechanism of system generalists which can assemble the products of the multiple specialists, and from those reconstitute the human ecosystem of the south Florida region.
The establishment of the South Florida Regional Planning Council was a recognition of the need for putting it together. They, however, or anyone else have much more to do than planning, and little time to do it in. They or anyone else shall have to usurp some of the present authorities of the cities. They or anyone else must soon have the authority to implement or be a partici- pant to continuing erosion of living conditions in south Florida.
Senator Graham's bill enacted would move us ahead in these issues. I would hope that it can be further fortified by other actions of the legislature, actions which would put the State of Florida fuliy into comprehensive and functional land and water use planning on a scale which our great growth requires.
I am attaching a copy of an incisive column written by Mr. Nixon Smiley published in yesterday's Miami Herald which describes our condition forcefully -- the way it is. I commend it to you for your reading.
This document is designed and maintained for the Everglades Digital
This document is copyright © 1998 Arthur R. Marshall Foundation.
It is digitally reproduced for the Everglades Digital Library
with the express permission of the Copyright Holder. All rights reserved.