Water op-eds: Daniels, Scott, and Graham (and Orwell)

George Orwell

Yesterday, three newspapers published water management op-eds by Lad Daniels (chair of the St. Johns River Water Management District), Rick Scott (current Governor), and Bob Graham (former Governor, state Senator and United States Senator). What are we to make of these statements, taking into account George Orwell’s insights in his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language”?

The op-ed by Mr. Daniels is the thinnest. It has the highest fraction of what Orwell called “euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” Words like lake, estuary, groundwater, aquifer, estuary, and ocean are not used. Neither are drought, minimum flows, climate change, water conservation, water efficiency, agriculture, city, or public water supply. There is no mention of any water feature in the district or any specific water issue.

Rick Scott’s op-ed comes out firmly for both a “healthy economy” and a  “healthy environment.” Scott is against “government bureaucracy, excessive salaries and benefits, and costly litigation” while favoring “customer service, timely permit decisions and compliance by sound rule development.” He strongly favors Everglades restoration but counsels also that “we should look to public-private partnerships to help meet our water quantity and quality goals, while keeping land on the tax rolls and agriculture in business.”

Reading this op-ed, you would not have a clue that Scott led a successful effort to dramatically reduce spending on water management in Florida. (Orwell might cite this as an example of using language for “concealing or preventing thought.”) I am sure that Scott means it when he says that “I understand a healthy economy is dependent upon a healthy environment.” My concern, however, is that if environmental protection impairs the economy in any way, environmental protection instantly will be shoved overboard. That is the historic pattern of economic development in Florida.

Bob Graham’s op-ed is the most direct and fact-filled of the three. It is the only one with any numbers:

  • Everglades restoration will “result in $46.5 billion in gains to Florida’s economy and create in excess of 440,000 jobs in the next 50 years” and “Almost 600 men and women who had served the SFWMD in its Everglades and other water management functions critical to the southern region of Florida were summarily fired.”
  • Water management funding “was cut almost 39.6 percent or over $700 million.”
  • “Within less than three years, the $400 million fund established primarily +to finance the state’s share of Everglades land acquisition and restoration will be exhausted, with no prospects for replenishment.”

Orwell warned that political language can be used to give an “appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Graham avoids that by being specific and quantitative. He commends Rick Scott for recent statements on the Everglades. I hope that Graham’s wish for continued action in this direction turns out to be fulfilled.

Very interestingly, Graham adds a concern that state leaders may move in 2012 to privatize the state’s water resources. There could lead to immense profits for some businesses. However, privatization would not ultimately advance either the state’s economy, its water supplies, or its unique natural systems.

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  • Buddy Vickers November 28, 2021 at 8:48 am

    Tom, the op-ed had a wonderful use of words, but no substance. In the same issue of the Gainesville Sun is an article about the SJRWMD and the issuance of a permit that could allow the pumping of 155 million gallons a day of groundwater. Colombia County has called for a meeting of all counties affected in NE Florida. Water issues are the wave of the future,

  • Tom November 28, 2021 at 9:50 am

    If you’re gonna talk about water, you gotta talk about water and not about “leveraging more partnership opportunities with our extremely diverse constituency” or a “thorough analysis of those core missions and our highest priorities.” The St. Johns River WMD has some tough challenges all over the district. It would be nice to hear what the Governing Board Chair thinks should be done about them.

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