Environment

Although the news these days tends to be depressing, there is good news if you know where to look. And one of those items is the resurgence of the book, both the electronic version and the old-fashioned kind printed on paper.

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In the 1960s, a little known group of local fishermen, worried about severe pollution affecting the waters they fished in, formed a group called the Bream Fishermen Association. Formally chartered in 1970, over the last 40-plus years BFA volunteers have doggedly and tirelessly measured water quality across Northwest Florida and South Alabama. Adhering to strict scientific standards, the group has built a documented record accepted by the state of Florida for inclusion in its own database.

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The pesticide DDT has been found in sediment samples from the Escambia River and its adjacent wetlands, a post-doctoral research associate at the University of West Florida has discovered.

Dr. Geoffrey Marchal, who was hired in April to begin the research, is now testing those sediment samples to see how readily available the pollutant is to the many diverse species that inhabit the bay.

“That’s the big concern,” Marchal said. “If the DDT in the sediment is bioavailable and can go through the food chain, then we have an issue.”

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With all the concern about climate change, it’s no surprise that energy production is so much in the news today. It’s a big change for a society that basically assumed that energy came from the light switch, while food came from the grocery store. 

And just as the sustainable food movement has prompted a much-needed understanding of the real costs of cheap food, the energy crisis has opened our eyes to the real cost of all those lights your kids forget to turn off when they leave the room.

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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.

The deadline for public comment on 44 projects scheduled for Early Restoration Funding from BP is Wednesday. Environmentalists and public officials are calling on Gulf Coast residents to weigh in. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody sat down with Keith Wilkins, the Director of Community and Environment for Escambia County.