Sunday's letters: Take care of the only planet we have

Published April 19, 2019

On Monday millions of people will raise awareness and take action to improve the health of our planet. However, if humanity wants to rise above the issues threatening our livelihood, we need to make every day "Earth Day." Some believe climate science is new and unproven, but the data is almost 200 years old.

In the 1800s scientists asked why the moon and Earth were different temperatures when both sit the same distance from the Sun. They discovered Earth's atmosphere traps greenhouse gases. In the natural amount of two trillion tons, greenhouse gases keep us from freezing. But the current amount is three trillion tons, creating warming at unprecedented levels and rates. Using numbers published by energy companies, we applied basic math to discover that the 50 percent increase in Earth's greenhouse gases is 100 percent attributable to human activity.

At the local level, some Florida leaders recognize the need for environmental policies. St. Petersburg has made a commitment to "clean energy" by 2035, including electric buses and LEED-certified buildings. Orlando aims to reach net-zero energy consumption by 2050, and Miami is investing $100 million in the next two years to install pumps and raise roads above projected sea level rise.

We urge you to understand the environmental impacts of policies. If politicians are to enact legislation that makes a visible difference, they first must see that climate change is a priority for those who live in this state. Review facts, share information and make your voice heard.

David S. Vogel and Thais Lopez Vogel, Jupiter

The writers are the founders of VoLo Foundation, which aims to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health.


E-scooters on the road

HB 453, which would provide a new, affordable transportation option and help alleviate traffic issues by permitting e-scooters, is successfully moving through the Florida House. If HB 453 passes, local governments would be able to seamlessly regulate e-scooters and allow e-scooters to be used on the road rather than sidewalks — similar to bicycles.

As the bill sponsor, I've been able to bring together all sides in support of this transportation alternative. Where some local governments previously said no to micromobility, we've been able to ensure their questions are answered, and thoughts and concerns have been addressed to earn their support.

HB 453 would give Floridians the power to make transportation decisions as unique as their needs. Modes of transportation that work for a Tampa resident who lives in the hustle and bustle of downtown may not work for another who lives in a quiet, secluded neighborhood.

E-scooters, which are introducing revolutionary changes to urban planning, are available at no cost to taxpayers and allow people to use current transportation assets more efficiently. For cities, readily and easily available e-scooters may reduce the need to invest in expensive and lengthy transportation projects that may be paid for by taxpayers, allowing infrastructure dollars to go farther. E-scooters also offer an alternative to owning personal cars, which eases congestion on roads and saves commuters money.

Public transit, with fewer travelers, will have fewer crowds and congestion, and e-scooters can alleviate a commuter's stress of delays or schedule disruptions. Micromobility also allows the rider the convenience of not having to worry about finding a parking spot or paying to park in a garage far away from their destination.

I urge my fellow lawmakers to support this good legislation so we can provide a consensus regarding e-scooters by the close of session.

State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa

Stifling the intent of the local voters | Editorial, April 14

More than one black hole

On one page, the depressing arrogance of the Florida Legislature's attempts to subvert the will of voters was properly condemned by your excellent editorial. The page opposite reprinted the uplifting message of science, the future and hope in Eugene Robinson's column about the technical achievement of a photo of a black hole 50-plus million light years from Earth. For me, the irony in the two pieces is particularly dramatic. I met Albert Einstein when I was a boy. His ideas provided the theoretical basis for the discovery of black holes and for civilization to progress in a humane and fact-based direction. The attempt to deny majority-approved voter wishes by Republican politicians indicates a venal, cynical perception of people that threatens democracy. Instead of a rational examination of issues, Republicans continue to wish for a world that is based on control, not compromise. Their Trumpian worship values ignorance over knowledge, personal preference over the common good. It is hard to imagine a more egregious example of chutzpah than using taxpayer money to pay for private schools. They just don't care about anyone or anything that threatens their distorted, privatized perception of democracy. What is ironic is the Legislature leading the way to a black hole of discontent and injustice, while discovery of real black holes is relegated by the president and his sycophants to second-class citizenship. Not quite fake news, but judging by education budget allocations at the state and federal levels, pretty close.

David Nathanson, Tampa

Felon voting rights

Voters were quite clear

Sixty-five percent of Floridians voted to restore voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences. Court fees should not be defined as part of a sentence. The people of Florida know what they voted on, and we voted on full restoration without the financial court fees attached. We also didn't vote to expand the crimes for which people have their voting rights taken away. I, in fact, believe inmates should still be able to vote. The people of Florida want to restore the voting rights of more than 1 million people who have paid their debt to society. The Jim Crow times of the South belong in the past.

Liz Gutierrez, Spring Hill