Times for some ‘rewilding’
Tampa moves ahead on slowing down apartment boom | April 18
I came to Tampa Bay in 1998 for a lot of the same reasons other people moved here — the beauty and the laidback lifestyle. Now that that’s mostly gone, I’m ready to leave my beloved Orlando ... I mean Tampa ...for good. Florida is an eternal paradox. People want to move and live here because of the climate and the landscape, but the more people move here, the more infrastructure and development is needed, and the less beauty there is to enjoy. Just recently, the University of South Florida put a 700 acre forest preserve up for development.
Unless Floridians realize that the patchy greenspaces that still exist in and around our towns and cities are more than just another development opportunity, another tax generating smoke shop or storage facility, or another gated community, we will have created an apocalyptic hellscape, a manicured parody of Florida. These remaining greenspaces are the lungs that make our cities livable. Someone is going to have to explain to future generations why we thought it was better to pave and develop a living breathing ecosystem, so we could have another WaWa and a convenient place to get a fresh sandwich. There is only one solution. I call it “undevelopment.” In Europe, they call it call it “re-wilding.” Before we re-wild Florida, we have to undevelop parts of the city and return it to greenspace.
In Tampa the solution is not designating more city parks, although I’m not against them. Such seemingly good-natured gestures often give license for more aggressive development elsewhere. Since no one is going to stop the insatiable desire for development in Tampa or Florida, why don’t we make the developers responsible for undeveloping an equal amount of currently developed space and return it to green space? Tampa has plenty of candidates for spaces that are inefficiently developed. Parking lots alone account for an absurd amount of acreage. We’re driving less, going to retailers less, attending church less, and ready to embrace autonomous vehicles, so it’s time to start digging up these carpets of hot black tar and replace them with friendly plants and trees, whole ecosystems that do nothing except make our air cleaner, our planet cooler, our property values rise, and our citizens happy.
Take one last look at that orange grove you pass every day, that small farm, that “empty” lot with the For Sale sign — the execution warrant of green space. But it’s not gone forever. If Miami is any indication, or St. Petersburg, or South Tampa, ocean levels will continue to rise, flooding will intrude on our most exclusive neighborhoods and Florida will learn one way or another that re-wilding, undevelopment, or whatever you want to call it, is coming whether we want it or not.
Jeffrey Rubinstein, Tampa
Religion invading schools
The country’s founder separated church and state for good reasons
The Florida Department of Education recently solicited feedback on recommended Civics and Government curriculum changes for seventh- and ninth-grade students. The proposed changes clearly violate the separation of religion and government intended by our nation’s founders and explicit in the First Amendment of the Constitution. The proposed curriculum changes read, “Recognize how Judeo-Christian values influenced America’s founding ideals and documents.” Two of the five curriculum details for seventh-graders include, “Students will recognize the influence of the Protestant work ethic on economic freedom and personal responsibility,” along with “Students will recognize the influence of the Ten Commandments on establishing the rule of law in America.” Including these in the curriculum would clearly be an intrusion of religion into public education.
We bring this outrageous encroachment of separation of religion and government to the attention of Americans, including people of many diverse faith groups and people of no faith. Our Founding Fathers were adamant about maintaining separation of religion and government based on the lack of religious freedom experienced in England. What “Protestant work ethic” will be taught, the ethic that allowed slavery for white economic advantage followed by another 150 years of segregation and oppression? Genocide of the Native American tribes? Which of the four sets of Ten Commandments will be used? The one in Exodus 20 contains rules that thoroughly conflict with American ideals of liberty and justice.
Indoctrinating children with religious or atheist-based curriculum does not belong in the public schools. The opportunity to comment on this curriculum change ended on April 23. However, new opportunities to provide input may occur. I hope those who support separation of government and religion will make their voices heard, lest Christian Nationalism slip into public education.
Jo Anne Gillespie, Port St. Lucie
The writer is president of the Humanists of the Treasure Coast.
Facing mask realities
Masks and social distance were wrong for Biden’s speech | April 30
Dr. Leana Wen laments that President Joe Biden’s speech constituted a missed opportunity because the limited number of attendees wore masks and were seated far apart from one another. She would have preferred that only fully vaccinated persons attend the event without a need to wear face masks, thereby demonstrating the benefits of health screening. Apparently overlooked by the good doctor is the fact that what happens in the House of Representatives is controlled by the Speaker and not the President, who is effectively her guest. Imagine the uproar from House Republicans and Sens. Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Rick Scott and Mike Lee that would have resulted had Speaker Nancy Pelosi required those attending to prove that they had been fully vaccinated. More than likely a requirement like the one suggested by Dr. Wen would have resulted in a Republican boycott of the speech.
Fred Kalhammer, Sun City Center