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Sustainability Column: From Hawai’i to Florida, a look at our ecosystems

Graphic by Sustainability

Hawaiʻi and Florida have many similarities regarding their environments, which was not something I expected when I first moved here for college, five thousand miles from my tiny island home. I thought that being across the Pacific Ocean and across the North American continent, I would feel as if I were in another world. As time went on, however, I began to draw similarities between my new home and my old home. 

Both Florida and Hawaiʻi are home to ecosystems and habitats that are unlike any other places on Earth. Brimming with jaw-dropping beaches, dense forests, dreamy coasts, crisp streams, and incredible wildlife, both states are easy to fall in love with. Nevertheless, with such beauty and abundance comes detrimental issues. Because of their appeal, the population of each place continues to rise exponentially. And with the increase of people comes the increase in the use of natural resources, and the growth of waste and pollution. Additionally, the abundance of natural resources attracts corporations who seek to exploit the environment, making the land vulnerable. 

A great illustration of this is water pollution. In Hawaiʻi, Kapūkakī, now known as Red Hill, has faced a major water crisis. Approximately 27,000 gallons of jet fuel have leaked into one of Oʻahu’s main aquifers from a Navy storage tank, sitting approximately 100 feet above the aquifer. More than 93,000 people were affected by the contaminated water, not to mention the environmental implications of the disaster. In Florida, agricultural pesticides and chemicals have long been affecting the Indian River. The pesticides have caused a major loss of seagrasses, causing manatees to starve to death and algae blooms to rise exponentially. Both of these places have been negatively affected by human activity and will continue to suffer unless action is taken. 

Having seen both of these special places face such negative impacts, I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with the Sustainability Program at Rollins College. Being able to take environmental and sustainable action at a place that I care deeply about is so special, and helps me gain the skills, opportunities, and connections that I can utilize to make even bigger changes and actions in both Florida and Hawaiʻi. Realizing the connections between these places solidified the fact that everything is connected and that no place on Earth is safe from the negative effects of humanity. 

This experience has helped me understand how precious our environment really is, and how we must do everything in our ability to protect it, even by taking small steps on an individual scale. As a person involved with Rollins College, you too have the ability to make an impact. Stay connected with the Sustainability Program, Eco Rollins, and the Urban Farm to learn how we can work together to protect our home(s).

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