WordWieldingWriter

United States

Message to Readers

I would like to know what I did well on in terms of writing, as well as what I should improve on. If I got any scientific facts wrong, please let me know and send me a link to a reliable source. I am not looking for political debates, as this is not what this piece is about.

For Florida

March 9, 2018

PROMPT: Solastalgia

4
I grew up in Florida.
​It's a wonderful state, with so much to do. There's the Disney parks for when you're in the mood for some commercialized, family-friendly fun, the beaches for sunbathing, surfing, and socialization, the forests and swamps for when you're feeling adventurous. It's a state full of unique natural wonders from underground aquifers, the source of most of our water, to the mangroves in our wetlands that provide a vital ecosystem for copious amounts of wildlife. The Florida Everglades are the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles live together in the wild.
​However, I realized just this past year that all of this is one day going to be gone.
​2017 saw the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, which terrorized Texas, a region that hardly sees hurricanes. Later that year, I experienced the might of Hurricane Irma, a powerful natural disaster that swept through the southeastern United States. I remember sitting at home with the air conditioner down, the power out for at least five days. Following Irma came many other devastating hurricanes, such as Maria, which infamously ravaged Puerto Rico, and Ophelia, which arrived on the coasts of Ireland and the United Kingdom, a rare occurrence for hurricanes.
​Why was 2017 receiving so many hurricanes? As many Floridians know, hurricanes are formed over warm water and follow certain paths, losing momentum as they travel over land. As our oceans were warming, hurricane season bombarded the world with storm after storm, sometimes in places that had never received them.
​2017 also experienced one of the warmest winters in recent history. According to NOAA, temperatures that February were the second highest in a 123-year period, the hottest being in 1954. Temperatures in the Arctic have increased as well, oftentimes above freezing, due to the warming of the atmosphere, which traps gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. This is especially concerning, as melting ice caps mean rising sea levels. Already, cities in southern Florida, such as Miami, are trying to combat flooding in the streets. And for a state like Florida, which is below sea level, time is running out faster for us than many other places in the United States. Although the subject of climate change has become increasingly controversial as it becomes intertwined with politics, it's also becoming harder to deny.
​In addition, climate change is not the only problem Florida faces.
​As stated before, Florida's water supply comes mainly from underground aquifers. The water bottling industry has grown prosperous in Florida, due to the readily available and cheap supply of water here, though these low costs come at an even greater expense.
​These aquifers exist because Florida is founded on limestone- a kind of sedimentary rock with a high calcium carbonate content, the same material found in seashells. As rocks go, limestone is soft and porous, allowing water to seep through. This acts as a natural filtration system, providing us with clean water at a lower cost.
​However, limestone can easily dissolve through exposure to acid and harmful chemicals. Due to the fertilizers and pesticides used to sustain our agricultural industries, such as farming cattle, celery, and oranges, these chemicals can easily seep into the ground, contaminating the water and dissolving the limestone, causing sinkholes to open up.
​These problems, as well as many others, have existed all my life, though I have become increasingly aware of them while taking an AP Environmental Science class. In every unit, we learned of the destructive consequences of human actions, and it became apparent that one species- our species- is responsible for the degradation of an entire planet, the only one that we know of that is capable of sustaining life.
​In Florida, the effects of a changing environment are visible all around us. Lakes are often left desolate and cloudy as a result of a process called hypoxia, where chemicals cause algae to infest the water, resulting in an ultimate depletion of oxygen. Duplexes and condominiums tower where forests once stood only a decade ago. The weather grows ever unpredictable. 
​This is especially distressing to me, because this is where I grew up. This is where I spent my childhood. Children of the future may never experience my memories of combing the shores of Sanibel Island for seashells, or hiking through pine-and-palmetto forests to see a red-tailed hawk swoop overhead, or learning about the wonders of the marvelous mangrove trees. In the future, Sanibel may be underwater, the pine-and-palmetto forests may be replaced with those of concrete, and the mangrove trees may be declared extinct. In the future, my memories of Florida may be reduced to just that- memories.
​I don't care about climate change because of politics, and I don't care about the environment because people say I should. I care because this is where I live. I care because of the mighty alligators, the sawgrass forests, and the cry of a whip-poor-will bird after dark. I care because of my friends and family, and their descendants, and those who come after them.
I care because this is Florida, and this is my home.
 
* Sources include the websites of CNN, NOAA, Miller and Spoolman's Living With the Environment ​AP Environmental Science textbook (2011) and firsthand experience.
 

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