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Treat the cause, cure the ill

August 22, 2018
Lehigh Acres Citizen

To the editor:

If a doctor only treated the symptoms of a patient's illness and not the causes, the patient would never return to full health and the delay in proper treatment most likely would worsen the patient's condition.

These are the circumstances involving Lake O. We are treating symptoms, not causes. Virtually all our effort and money spent on dikes, reservoirs, and injection wells are focused on the management of symptoms, such as ugly algae blooms, and not on the causes underlying those symptoms.

I don't mean that we still aren't regulating the pollutants going into the lake and watershed from sugar fields to its south and communities and agricultural areas to its north, although that would be an obvious course of action. (Wouldn't a doctor compel a patient suffering obesity-related health issues to regulate his intake of food?) No, the refusal to regulate is also just a symptom of the fundamental problems.

"Recognizing the reasons why a given area is polluted requires a study of the workings of society, its economy, its behavior patterns, and the ways it grasps reality," writes Pope Francis in Laudadto Si', his encyclical on the environment, and this is the crux of the issue, for we don't want to look in the mirror and question some of the foundational beliefs and behaviors of our society.

We do not want to question the notion of a perpetually growing economy on a planet of finite resources, and we do not want to question our belief in the unregulated market, for both these things support the consumer lifestyle we have come to believe in, even if it is at the expense of the earth. To spur economic growth, Governor Scott and the state legislature purposely weakened laws and regulations controlling development and pollutants. The result is green slime visible from space (and a tourism-based economy at risk anyway).

We do not want to question the entire cultural mechanism that places the economy at a level of importance greater than that of the earth. At the same time laws and regulations were weakened, DEP budgets were slashed. It is business before earth, until green beaches and canals hurt business, of course. "It's the economy, stupid!" Bill Clinton said. That was and still is political and social reality, even if it is foolishly narrow-minded and short-sighted.

We do not want to question our consumer culture noted above. More than anything else, it is our unbridled consumption of goods and services that is bringing the earth's ecosystems to the point of collapse, and hundreds of dead sea turtles, dead manatees, and fish die-offs are signs of an ecosystem in collapse. We simply refuse to live lightly on the planet. Our houses are twice the size they were in the '50s although our families are half as large. We buy big cars, run the A/C too much, eat too much meat and buy too much unnecessary stuff. We think all this consumption makes for a meaningful and happy life, even though every faith-tradition in the world declares the opposite. All this consumption warms the planet and contributes to our algae blooms and red tides. And when the next hurricane comes, supercharged by warmer conditions and deluging us with historic rains, where is all that polluted water in Lake O going to go?

This is how our society and economy work, how we behave, and how we perceive reality, and, as Pope Francis said, these are the root causes of pollution, and consequently, of our water crisis.

Raising the dike and building reservoirs, multi-billion-dollar Band-aids, are needed, but they won't cure the underlying illness. Fundamental problems require fundamental change.

Joseph Bonasia,

Cape Coral

Pachamama Alliance of SWFL



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