Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Opinion

Ruth: Banning the term won't stop climate change

RECOMMENDED READING


Contrary to popular misconception, especially in Tallahassee, Rick Scott isn't really the governor of Florida. He is, in fact, one of Monty Python's addled Knights Who Say "Ni!"

Really now, don't you suspect that if the first floor of the Governor's Mansion was 2 feet under water due to climate change, Scott still would be holding his hands over his ears while chanting "Wawawawawawawa," all the while insisting the flooding was the result of a heavy dew?

How else to explain recent revelations that upon Scott assuming the governorship, employees at the Department of Environmental Protection were ordered never to mention the science that dare not speak its name.

Or more simply, the very state agency charged with protecting and nurturing the environment was barred from using terms reflecting the greatest threat to Florida's environment: "climate change," "global warming," "sustainability" and "sea level rise." Scott might just as well have tossed in "reality," "willful ignorance" and "Luddite."

Banning DEP employees from using the vernacular of their jobs would be akin to Attorney General Pam Bondi excising the word "crime" in the workplace, or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam decreeing that henceforth no one would be allowed to whisper "citrus greening."

Of course, as Tristram Korten of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting discovered, you will not find any written official order barring the expression of climate change at the DEP, since that would have required printing the censored language. Pillars of salt to follow.

But Korten found no shortage of former DEP employees engaged in the science of protecting the environment who confirmed they had been verbally ordered by Scott's office to delete any references to climate change from their work product.

Things got so loopy that DEP agency employees were instructed to replace the phrase "sea level rise" with "nuisance flooding."

Now you might well expect this sort of dictatorial edict-making to occur in places like Turkmenistan, which was once ruled by Saparmurat Niyzov, who ordered the months of the year to be renamed after his family and outlawed lip-synching.

But this is Florida, the third-largest state with a university system that aspires to become a world-class leader in scientific research, being presided over by Scott, R-Bring Me A Shrubbery, a denier of an overwhelming number of peer-reviewed studies concluding (Shush!) is very, very real.

Days ago, Scott emerged from his Cone of Babel to deny he had attempted to muzzle DEP employees from speaking English. Ah — a conflict.

So whom do you believe? Former DEP professionals who claim the Scott administration undermined their scientific work, or a governor with a lengthy rap sheet of dissembling, fibbing and obfuscation who wouldn't give you a straight answer if you asked him where did Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address?

Scott delivered his Hummana-hummana-hummana response to the DEP flap while visiting Hialeah, which was the first time reporters had a chance to ask him questions since he ducked out a back door rather than respond to scribblers after his State of the State address last week before the start of the legislative session. Good grief, this guy spends more time on the run than The Fugitive's Richard Kimble.

Once again the artful dodger refused to say whether he believes if global warming is real, accepts mankind's contribution to the problem, or outline what the DEP is doing to combat its impact on a vulnerable peninsula.

Just what Scott hoped to accomplish by suppressing state employees charged with safeguarding the environment from merely using factual language to describe the climate challenges confronting Florida isn't entirely clear — or rational.

Perhaps it was merely a ham-handed, sloppy air-kiss sop to Scott's tea party acolytes, who somehow have accomplished the Gordian knot delusion that objective, empirically scientifically validated climate change is linked to dreaded liberal ideology. Man-made climate change = socialism?

You could probably make a modest argument that the body politic doesn't demand all that much literacy from their elected officials. Expecting the governor to acknowledge established science and avoid banning the state agency mandated to protect the environment from using accepted terms is a low bar to clear.

But this is Florida, a state at great risk from the chilling side effects of semantic chicanery.

Comments

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nationís budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more ó s...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nationís highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17
Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

From birth to death, opioid addiction is ravaging the lives of thousands of Floridians. Drugmakers, doctors, state lawmakers and insurance companies all have a role to play in slowing the epidemic. Lately some more responsible answers, including mill...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "Iím pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise ó for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system ó one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Krisemanís own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17