“We have undergone a corporate coup d’état in slow motion.” -Chris Hedges
Unbridled power has been given to big corporations in America today. Nothing illustrates this point better than the discharge that is allowed to flow into the Indian River Lagoon from Lake Okeechobee. The destruction of the Lagoon and the power that the sugar oligarchs hold is the perfect example of unfettered capitalism. While we give corporations bailouts and corporate welfare programs and more Americans go without jobs, Big Agra is laying down enough cash to buy himself or herself a senator or even a governor.
In 1926, two canals were connected to Lake Okochobee: C-44 (east) and C-43 (west). These canals were built when draining the Everglades was seen as beneficial. More than 700,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee were drained in an effort for the sugar agriculture business to access this fertile land and grow their crops. The excess water from these farms, which is full of pollutants, is pumped into the lake. The pesticides and fertilizers will eventually poison the entire ecosystem in South Florida. As well, the entire nation would be poisoned by foods laced with sugar cane causing cancer, obesity, and childhood disabilities. All this was done in an effort to support a few wealthy corporations and is done on the backs of taxpayers here in Florida. Yes, if you pay taxes in Florida, you are paying to subsidize the sugar industries waste and run off. Storm water treatment stations have been positioned by Okeechobee where Big Agra’s poisons are produced and pumped into the Indian River Lagoon. We need to look no further than Wal-Mart, the oil industry, fracking in upstate New york, or the Pharmaceutical companies to see how much money one needs to buy an elected official. And we the taxpayers are left with the clean up for their greed. Meanwhile, our elected representatives are systematically being paid off through campaign donations and lobbyists—something I like to call “legalized bribery.”
Enter Jacqui Thurlow-Lipsich. She is the town commissioner for the Town of Sewell’s point. Her husband loves to fly, but as she explains it: “I hate to fly, but one day I said to myself, ‘You know it’s time for me to get up in that plane!’ On the ground you don’t have the perspective. When you get up in the sky, you can see how awful the water is. I wanted people to see what it is really like. I believe if people want to, they can change things. The photos would help the people to rebel.” After Jacqui posted her photos of the dumping from Lake Okeechobee, they immediately went viral. NBC picked them up, The Miami Herald and The Orlando Sentinel. In these pictures from her husbands plane, we see on the right, the heaven-like paradisiacal waters of the Lagoon. To the left, we see the deluge of filth. Sixty dolphins and 120 manatees perished after the dumping began last summer. Additionally, the St. Lucie waterway is deemed too toxic to swim in; the children in Stuart cancelled all summer activities including oceanographic camps, sailing camps, and any activity that brought the children close to the toxic slime. Henry Konietsky was not so fortunate, he died last month on September 28 from exposure to the flesh-eating bacteria in the seawater. Several other people up and down the lagoon have turned up with Vibrio vulnificus—a flesh-eating, bacterial skin infection caused by the dumping from Lake Okeechobee into the Indian River Lagoon.
As for me, I live on the Indian River Lagoon. I have seen the slime first hand. Last year around Christmas, my children and I took a morning to wade in the crystal clear waters of the Lagoon. We could see every stone, oyster, fish, and my eleven-year-old laughing with delight. Today—not even a year later—the lagoon is a stinking, rotting, deluge of filth from this most recent red tide. Let’s look at the facts: we need to hold Governor Rick Scott to task. After he has received his corporate kickbacks from Big Sugar, by way of campaign financing (legalized bribes, again), he and his corporate buddies took a proverbial dump in our lagoon. Are we going to sit and let this happen? These corrupt politicians and Wall Street thugs should be in jail.
On Saturday, October 28, I attended the “Hands Across the Lagoon” demonstration that took place up and down the Lagoon. Do you think they heard us? How will this affect the tourism in Florida? And when are we going to put tighter restraints on Big Agra to stop pumping GMOs, pesticides, and fertilizers into our precious waterways? We have become a nation that abuses every resource, uses them for commodity, and then tosses them aside like an empty beer can. Let’s take a stand! It is time to take back this nation from the corporate thugs who have hijacked our children’s futures. Let’s rebuild and stop exploiting our “home of the free.” This nation belongs to the people, not its banks and corporations. Enough is enough.