I once heard “As fly fishers, we are all inherently conservationists.” The quote resonated with me as I grew up thinking I was environmentally conscience. Through research and discussion I learned that I was off the mark from a young age. It provoked thoughts in my head that I have struggled putting into words. As Hemingway said, “Big emotions do not come from big words”.
The fly fishing community as a whole is a huge user of public lands and waters. If you have spent any time on the water you have seen the trash that lines the shores and our oceans. We have constant battles with Big Business and Big Government on bettering the world we live in. There are a million different ways to get involved, you just have to actually want to make a change. I am never one to talk about politics or how one should live their life, but this is one thing I will not be moved on. WE NEED TO CHANGE.
When I was growing up in southern Florida I knew two things: The Everglades were a wild and wonderful environment and that Big Sugar and Big Citrus were our life blood. Big Sugar and Citrus (Big Agriculture) provided much of the local economy. Besides the growing and picking of the crops they sponsored our school programs, our sports teams, and ironically enough our community parks. Later I learned that it is a tad bit different than young Nathan grew up believing.
One of the biggest problems that my home state of Florida faces is the miss-use and contamination of water due to Big Agriculture. Florida has long been drained of a significant amount of water to enable the building of homes and the growing of crops. Though we are known for our beaches, fishing, and our golf courses most of our land is agriculture. Agricultural areas south of Lake Okeechobee flood after heavy rains (common in Florida). The water is then drained and then pumped back into the lake. This is called “Back Pumping” and it adds more fresh water and nutrients the lake. The purpose of this is to help reduce the flooding in the Big Agriculture areas, or at least that is how the justify it.
An obvious problem is the fertilizers and chemicals that get into the water sources and harm the plant life and wild life. The less thought about problem is the excess of nutrients. The problem comes from the nutrients helping the algae blooms and red tide grow to dangerous proportions. This is contributing to the kill off of oyster beds, sea grass, and other marine life. Sea grass and oysters are the natural filter that the environment needs to survive. Due to the re-routing of the flood waters Florida Bay is also becoming too salty to sustain life. All of this to help out “Big Agriculture” in my home state. We have an ecosystem that is dying and we need to act!
Those of us that hunt for trout or other species not on the coast can sometimes be in our own little bubble. As humans we only see the area that we currently live. We need to be more than that. There are many ecosystems across the United States and our globe that are in danger of developing into the current state of Florida. I was ignorant growing up, but I am attempting to no longer be. These ecosystems are gone forever once they die. We can look towards mars and space all we want, but our planet is dying here. Go check out what Costa Delmar Sunglasses is doing with the Kick Plastic movement, what Yeti is doing to help develop sustainable practices, and most importantly check out captainsforcleanwater.org. They are a grass roots organization that is taking the fight to the government themselves, searching for changes to policies and helping develop practices that will save the precious ecosystem that is Florida’s waterways. “Build a better future for our children” is good, but we need a better present. Do more, be better, and help invoke change by doing so.