Carl Wernicke

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.

His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home on Pensacola Beach and watching sports, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union.

Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.


We lost a good man with the death last week of Reubin Askew, Pensacola’s favorite son and maybe the greatest governor in Florida history.


A valuable lesson I learned over years as a reporter in writing about the environment is that to see is not always to understand. Crystal clear water can be severely polluted, and verdant woods can be a tree farm that bears little comparison to a healthy, diverse forest.

To understand what’s really happening, you need research. And what such research reveals can be spectacular. Especially when you realize that because of nature’s amazing resiliency, great damage done to ecological systems can sometimes be undone through relatively simple steps.


   Mahatma Gandhi is famously quoted as saying that, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” By that standard, the United States often falls short, especially if you judge us by the factory farms providing so much of our meat.

But good and evil are often neither black or white. As in most judgments, you need to exercise some, well, judgment.

In that light, some recent actions by the uber animal – us – have put us in a pretty good light. At least, it bodes well for the people involved.


I have often stated my reservations about the growth of technology and where it’s taking us, while also understanding the benefits it can offer. And like most people I have come to an uneasy truce with it, from smart phones to pads to online shopping.

But it pays to remember that while the whizzes might be whizzier and the bangs bangier, technology remains a human product and subject to human weaknesses.

One of those weaknesses is that when technology fails, or you fail to operate it correctly, you are helpless. And that’s where tech support comes in.

Or not.



 As a community, we tend to mark the passage of time through memorable events whose impacts are as powerful mentally as they are physically. Just as the memory of the great hurricanes of 1906, 1916 and 1926 imprinted itself on past generations of Pensacolians, many of us today will carry the marker of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 for the rest of our lives.


Last week I talked about clean water as the foundation of the Northwest Florida economy and lifestyle. And about the importance of using money from fines to be imposed on BP for the 2010 oil spill to restore the health of Pensacola Bay. But it was more of an emotional appeal than anything else.

But last Sunday in the Pensacola News Journal, a local biologist made the scientific case. It is well worth reading, and can be found here.


   Driving in to work Wednesday I saw something I have seen before, but not often.  I don’t see it often because it’s not often that we have a cold snap hard enough to ice over the surface of local bayous.


As the recent front-page article in the Pensacola News Journal shows, I’m not the only person taken aback by the surprise tree massacre at the I-10/Scenic Highway intersection.


Given that I’m known for going off on rants about the perceived evils of technology, fairness compels me to also note how sometimes technology can enhance even the experience of the natural world.

This past Saturday brought us a classic fall Northwest Florida day. The decidedly low-tech mechanical barometer on the dining room wall, and the old-fashioned liquid-filled thermometer on the porch told the story: high pressure, low humidity, temperatures in the upper 40s and rising under a crystal-clear and limitless blue sky. Gentle sunshine bathed the landscape.


History informs us in useful ways if we're willing to listen to it. And one of its main values lies in how it puts in perspective what we are experiencing in current events.

Hearing the reflections this week from so many people about the assassination of John F. Kennedy naturally reminded me of my own memories of the event. It also brought perspective on the bitterness of our current politics.