Ten inches is a lot! This is one estimate on how much the sea level will rise in the next 15 years. Our coastal neighbors will be feeling brunt of this first; in fact Miami Beach and surrounding lower areas were seriously flooded this week. The summer of 2015 worldwide was the hottest ever on record and I could guess Central Florida added to this both in temperature and rainfall. Climate change is here – it’s not what is coming, it is what has arrived, and its threats have become promises.
Some years back a friend of mine asked, “Why do you care about the environment? You’re gay; it’s not like you’re going to have kids?” The fact is the LGBT community is concerned about the environment and we are having more and more couples creating families with children. The scary part is that we can’t leave it to our next generation to figure things out. We need to address the issues today, and we can do it sensibly. The LGBT community has proven itself time and again: When we come together, things change for the better. Our environment, which affects all of us, needs to be at the top of our list of goals,and here’s why. Property values: Areas that are more prone to flooding are required to carry expensive flood insurance and, as the frequency of flooding increases, it will be more difficult to sell homes in those areas. As we experienced in Tampa and Orlando this summer, you don’t have to live on the beach to feel the effects of what a more severe climate can bring to our neighborhoods. Water is life: Clean water for the LGBT community is as important as the African-American community as the Latin community – you get the point … everyone without exception.
As sea levels rise, the saltwater is intruding on our drinking water making the water we are using today unfit for consumption. Broward County has closed two well fields because of saltwater intrusion; Deerfield Beach closed its Eastern wells; Hallandale closed six of its eight wells. It will just be a matter of time before areas that don’t have water look to places that do.
So here is what you can do. 52 percent of our drinking water is used for our lawns. Stop that! Plant native species instead of water gobbling Saint Augustine turf. The best thing you can do is install a moisture sensor for about $150. A little pricey, but Orlando Utilities Commission will reimburse you the cost of the sensor, so it’s basically free, and you just saved money on water and sewer charges and saved thousands of gallons of water a year (check with your local utility company to see what they offer for water saving devices). Today’s easy fix: shut the water off while you brush your teeth and while shaving, and turn the water off while you soap up in the shower.
The LGBT community loves to travel, and in many areas we’ve chosen the destination because of the location’s beauty. Some of the very places we have beach homes or other such getaways have been challenged with fish die offs, algae blooms and red tides. Many of the causes are from human activity, including runoff of pesticides and fertilizers. We cannot expect for us to do something here that won’t affect our neighbors somewhere else, and that somewhere else could be the place we choose to visit.
There’s a huge difference between not caring and not knowing. Educating people of all ages and demographics is the best part of being elected to the Orange Soil and Water Conservation District. It’s rare that someone will admit to me that they just can’t be bothered. Most people react by saying “I didn’t know that?” Followed often by “How can I help?” Learn! Learn as much as you can about how living everyday impacts our earth and your neighborhood. Important local issues such as banning polystyrene products in the City of Orlando (nofoamzone.org) or statewide initiatives to stop fracking in Florida are part of the puzzle. I’m more than happy to speak at your event, homeowners association meeting, Girl/Boy Scout troop, or organization. Soil and water supervisors are all across the state of Florida, elected by you to help you conserve what makes Florida special. Our materials and topics are broad and suitable for everyone and geared to your concerns.
The LGBT community has an excellent opportunity right now to help take the lead in making significant changes in our world. We need to protect our investments, our quality of life and recreation. Enhancing our awareness and implementing practices that protect our environment is great for the earth but also for our economy and how we enjoy our life in a time where we have so much to celebrate.
Eric Rollings is Chair of the Orange Soil and Water Conservation District and Deputy Vice President of area 3B that includes all of Brevard, Osceola, Polk and Orange Counties.