Rough draft of Gov. Rick Scott’s urgent message to all employees of the state of Florida:
Please pay no attention to recent news reports about my administration banning the use of the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in official documents, letters or emails.
There is no official ban.
All communications among state employees are routinely diverted for review by my staff members who, when appropriate, rephrase the content.
For example, residents in Miami Beach are blaming so-called climate change for raising the sea level and causing frequent flooding of streets and neighborhoods.
The crisis poses an undeniable threat to the tourism and real-estate industries, and I’ve acted swiftly. At my direction, the state Department of Environmental Protection will henceforth define the situation in Miami Beach as a “permanent high tide.”
This isn’t censorship. It’s creative editing.
As I have said many times, I’m not a scientist so I can’t say for sure that the climate is changing because of human activity. I’m also not a reader, so I am basically incapable of researching the subject on my own.
Another word I’m accused of banning is “sustainability,” which refers to the wise and measured use of environmental resources. Or so I’ve been told.
Again, there’s no official ban of that term. If someone can just explain to me what sustainability means — and, more important, what’s the darn point? — I might allow it to appear in a memo or perhaps a low-level email.
Please understand that part of my duty as governor is to polish the image of the Sunshine State, and make it a welcoming place for businesses who might want to relocate here and take advantage of our laughably low wages. We in state government shouldn’t frighten people away with alarmist speculation. Under my watch, no official documents shall ever suggest that Miami Beach is sinking underwater — not as long as a single manhole remains dry!
This editorial vigilance applies to other hot-button issues, as well.
The other day I intercepted a copy of a memo that unnecessarily contained the word “pollution,” in reference to silted waters being pumped in Biblical quantities from Lake Okeechobee toward Florida’s coastlines.
Certainly we can all agree that “pollution” is a term that has negative connotations. It implies not only that our famed wild waters aren’t clean and safe, but that somebody is at fault for “polluting” them.
As your governor I don’t like playing the blame game — and it’s got nothing to do with the fact that my re-election campaign took truckloads of money from U.S. Sugar and other companies that treat Lake Okeechobee as a septic tank.
In your official correspondence, never be shy about emphasizing our commitment to Everglades “restoration,” which is much nicer than the word “cleanup.” The latter implies past negligence.
Like “climate change” and “global warming,” the term “pollution” is constantly being twisted by the liberal media.
We don’t have pollution in Florida. We have “runoff.” We have “outfall.” Personally, I’m fond of “collateral spillage.”
It’s bad for business if state officials toss around inflammatory expressions such as “algae bloom,” when the same aquatic phenomenon could be more gently described as “decorative greening.”
Likewise, the unappealing phrase “red tide” has been overused by the wildlife officers who patrol our busy beaches. These incidents should be more benignly reported as “floating fish hospices.”
Not being a scientist, I find myself confused by tricky technical terminology like “nitrogen” and “phosphorus.” People who went to science school tell me these are real chemical elements found in the waste of farms and ranches, and unhealthy in heavy concentrations.
However, using such weird mumbo-jumbo puts Floridians on edge about what’s happening to their water. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on all the harmful chemicals that aren’t being dumped into the Everglades?
For instance, gasoline (“G” on the periodic table I was given). Water sampling shows almost no gas, leaded or unleaded, in the public aquifers. There’s some news worth spreading!
Be assured that the aim of my administration isn’t to muzzle or distort known facts. Climate change, global warming, sustainability — these are interesting theories, and I encourage all state workers to discuss them freely with your families, in the privacy of your own homes.
Again, I’m not a scientist. I’m just a governor in way over his head, and proud to be there.
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132.
Governor Rick Scott visits with FWC staff and Commissioners Yablonski and Roberts on November 17, 2014 at the Bryant Building in Tallahassee, FL. (Florida Fish & Wildlife via Flickr)