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Informed citizens can protect the environment

The Wildlife Forecast

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Media contact: Patricia Behnke

"Bless you," my coworkers shout out several times each morning. My gray car turned yellow with pollen extra-early this year, and my sinuses did not handle it well.

An early, powerful spring escalated this year into one powerful economic boon for antihistamine manufacturers and allergy doctors. We Floridians suffer through knowing that soon summer humidity and heat will drive us to seek air-conditioned bliss.

But wildlife may not fare so well with the continued disruption to the seasons they depend upon during their life cycles.

The National Wildlife Foundation recently published a report stating that spring now arrives 10-14 days earlier than it did 20 years ago. Climate change has been the suspected culprit. However, a gentleman recently stopped by my office to tell me he was certain global warming was a hoax, because Venice had not sunk into the ocean. What's a gal to think?

As I sifted through all the materials to learn why this spring seems to be so powerful, I found myself thinking about the past. I remember a tractor driving around the small town where I lived in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One man drove the machine with a large horizontal tank on the back spraying white clouds of poison to kill the mosquitoes that grew to the size of flies during a northern summer. My mother would admonish me to come inside for a few minutes until the clouds disappeared. By that time, all the insects and small wildlife in the tractor's wake were probably decimated. I would venture back outside and play in the yard, only smelling the lingering odor of the sweet DDT lying in wait in the grass.

All the while the birds in the sky choked to death - a very visible sign to herald changes in the way we viewed the environment and wildlife.

If the disappearance of the bald eagle and other birds did not give enough proof of the damage being done, Rachel Carson, a writer and biologist, wrote "Silent Spring" in 1962, recounting her findings of the destruction of wildlife as a result of the indiscriminate use of pesticides to fight the insect war. Her writing led to the birth of an environmental movement. By 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed, with the mission of "working to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment - air, water, land - upon which life depends." With the growing concern nationwide that began with the publication of "Silent Spring," the EPA banned the use of DDT by 1973, just in time to save the national symbol - the bald eagle - from certain extinction.

Carson brought awareness, but some disagreed with her. One publication compared her to Sen. Joseph McCarthy because of what they deemed her intense desire to destroy industry and agriculture in this county. Unfortunately, Carson died of cancer in 1964, and never saw the positive fruition her book yielded as it became the foundation for an ecology-minded public.

What would Carson say to us today? She wrote, "The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts."

Those words are as true today as they were back in 1962 when she wrote them. No matter what we believe as individuals, it is imperative that we read everything we can and decipher what is true and what is propaganda. An intelligent public can only make wise decisions based on informed and science-based information. If you doubt spring is coming earlier or pollen count is higher this year, and your yellow car or red nose is not the proof you need, read as much as you can from reliable sources, such as the climatologists who are responsible for studying such things. A recent survey of climatologists who are currently publishing in the field show that 97 percent of them think temperatures are rising and humans are partially responsible for that rise.

"The public should have access to the very best scientific information available to make informed decisions," said Doug Parsons, the head of the FWC's climate change team. "Our job in managing wildlife as changes occur is enhanced and assisted by the public's awareness and cooperation."

To that end, this month the FWC launches a new website on climate change. At your fingertips, you can access a wealth of materials that can assist you in understanding this issue and what actions you can take or not take.

After DDT was banned in this country, many of the species nearly decimated through the uninhibited use of deadly agents revived. The bald eagle has now been removed from the Endangered Species list and thrives.

Visit the new website at By becoming informed, we can conserve our wildlife, and that's nothing to sneeze at.

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