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Letter of the month and Florida as an ‘apocalyptic hellscape’ | Letters
Here’s what readers are saying in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
Florida as seen from space.
Florida as seen from space. [ NASA | NASA ]
Published Jun. 5

Highway to hell

Florida is on its way to being an ‘apocalyptic hellscape’

Editor’s note: This is the Letter of the Month for May.

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

Money for nothing

Why are we still paying people not to work? | Column, June 4

Sen. Marco Rubio oversimplifies why people are not going back to work. Could it be the lack of pay and health benefits? A recent survey done by the software company Achievers discovered that 52% of North American workers were planning to look for a new position in 2021. For reference, before the pandemic, the average voluntary turnover rate across U.S. industries was about 15%, according to Mercer, a benefits consulting company. The Paycheck Protection Program that Rubio lauds as a huge success is fraught with people with money and connections getting even more money. But, that isn’t the red meat for the base he so desperately seeks to hold onto in order to continue to collect his paycheck.

Terrence Callahan, Crystal Beach

Earn it

Why are we still paying people not to work? | Column, June 4

The bigger question should be: Why are we paying Marco Rubio and Rick Scott (and the rest of the GOP Senate) not to work!

James Parry, Riverview

A ‘hard’ major

Florida needs more philosophy majors. Here’s proof | Letters, June 3

Presuming the author’s data are correct about philosophy majors earning above-average incomes, there may be an explanation more important than what they learned by studying their subject. Philosophy is regarded everywhere as one of the “hard” majors. It attracts students of above-average intelligence, drive, and self-confidence. It is not surprising they turn out above-average in career success. It is less clear exactly why that happened.

Alan Balfour, Temple Terrace

A republic, if you can keep it

Populism is at the root of right wing’s conspiracy-mongering paranoia | Column, June 2

Jonah Goldberg’s column should be required reading for anyone confused about the term “populism” and its effect on today’s political dialogue. He lays out clearly that the new brand of conservatism, under the guise of populism, is nothing more than the politics of distraction with an emphasis on cultural passions and division. The intent is to mobilize masses to vote by utilizing the language of “us versus them,” which was magnified exponentially by perhaps the most divisive president in U.S. history. By latching on to the passions of white grievance, today’s elected Republicans have little incentive to abandon the populism of divide and conquer. Currently, the 26 smallest states elect a majority of U.S. senators with a combined 18 percent of the total population. Therefore, the big question remains: With selected social media as the major news source for populist voters, how can our democratic republic survive?

William Falcone, Brandon