Environment

In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? 

WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

Emily Michot / Miami Herald

José Javier Rodríguez, a state senator from Miami, has finally achieved the slogan he’s borne on his rubber boots for three years — ActOnClimateFL.

For the first time in a decade, Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature has passed a bill that explicitly acknowledges climate change’s threats to the state and aims to limit at least some impacts.

Updated on March 16 at 8:42 p.m. ET

Long before condominiums lined the shoreline in Miami Beach, before air conditioning, many thousands of years before Columbus, people lived along Florida's coastline.

Archaeologists say the remains of their settlements are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels as a result of climate change.

In Florida's Palm Beach County researchers are planning how best to protect and preserve the ancient sites most at risk from rising seas.

Courtney Benson

Marine debris — or trash in the water — is a problem everywhere including the Florida Keys. And it got a lot worse when Hurricane Irma crashed across the Keys in September of 2017 as a Category 4 storm.

Emily Michot / Miami Herald

Forty-five million.

That’s how many plastic straws Miami-Dade County Public Schools was sending to landfills every school year, according to estimates by administrators.

This school year, that number is zero.

Starting last August, the district eliminated plastic straws from the utensil packets distributed during breakfasts, lunches and after-school meals. Now, students get sporks and napkins, and those who need straws can ask for the paper variety.

Amy Green / WMFE

Sarasota is known for its sunny skies and beautiful beaches, but two years ago, a terrible outbreak of red tide left Bruce Andersen a virtual prisoner of his waterfront condo.

“It was to the point where we could hardly go outside without smelling the dead fish, all of the dead animals that came from that,” said Andersen, 75, a retired school administrator.

Under Drone Radar, Florida Park Becomes Living Lab For Sea Level Rise

Mar 3, 2020
Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

Across the road from a snack shack in Fort De Soto Park, Gary Raulerson searches until he finds a gap in the cabbage palms. He ducks inside, branches creaking on a bright February morning. He plods a few steps past an orange survey flag.

Sunlight slashes through dead Brazilian pepper trees, brought here more than a century ago for decoration, now invasive. Raulerson tries to avoid poison ivy. Sweat pricks his back.

Luis Hernandez / WLRN

On this Monday, Feb. 24, episode of Sundial:

South Florida woman given clemency by Trump

Last week, President Donald Trump announced 11 pardons and commutations in high-profile cases. 

Among them: Judith Negron, a South Florida woman who was convicted in a $200 million Medicare fraud scheme 10 years ago. 

Researchers say they’ve detected a potent neurotoxin in dolphins of the Indian River Lagoon during times of harmful algae blooms and also when blooms are not present.

Courtesy of Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management

On this Thursday, Feb. 20, episode of Sundial:

Environmental reporter moderates presidential debate

The Democratic presidential debate in Nevada was moderated by its first climate journalist, Vanessa Hauc. 

"The Democratic field takes [climate change] very seriously," Hauc says. "Right now, we have a clear understanding of what is happening to our planet."

Al Diaz / Miami Herald

Coping with storm surge fueled by rising seas in the Keys means elevating homes, buyouts in vulnerable areas, protecting important places like hospitals and wastewater plants and stabilizing parts of the Overseas Highway that could get washed out in storms.

‘Invisible Oil’ From Deepwater Horizon Spill May Have Reached The Florida Keys

Feb 19, 2020
US Coast Guard / AP

Florida Keys residents may not have seen massive tar balls and fish kills after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but small concentrations of toxic crude were still reaching the islands and potentially harming marine life, as the extent of the deadly disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was worse than originally thought, according to a University of Miami study.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Monday he is committing $10 billion to fight climate change, which he calls "the biggest threat to our planet."

Bezos says the funds will go toward the creation of the Bezos Earth Fund.

Lydia Bell / Greenpeace

It’s called “the plastic monster.” The 15-foot sculpture made of plastic bags, bottles, and packaging visited the state Capitol in Tallahassee earlier this month and has stopped in Publix parking lots throughout the state. Now, the monster is part of an effort by Greenpeace to bring attention to single-use plastics, the companies that use them and legislative efforts to prohibit local governments from banning certain plastic products.

 

Study: Florida Keys May Have Suffered From Deepwater Horizon Spill

Feb 14, 2020
McClatchy

Florida Keys residents may not have seen massive tar balls and fish kills after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but small concentrations of toxic crude were still reaching the islands and potentially harming marine life, as the extent of the deadly disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was worse than originally thought, according to a University of Miami study.

North Atlantic right whales – already the most endangered large whale species in the world – are becoming even more at risk as rising sea temperatures make it harder to find food or safe waters.

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