A recent survey conducted by ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partner revealed surprising attitudes among resident of Southwest Florida, finding that Hurricane Irma was a wake-up call to establish climate solutions for the area. The survey was commissioned by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, who has been working on natural resource conservation and wildlife protection in the area for over 50 years. Last week, on behalf of Path to Positive and ecoAmerica, I traveled down to Naples to discuss the survey’s results with the community.
Currently, Southwest Florida does not have a comprehensive resiliency or climate solutions plan, but the survey shows that residents and organizations realize that it might be time to develop one. The study revealed that seven in ten Southwest Florida residents are concerned about the changing climate and that the majority say that extreme weather events have been a factor. They are now looking for community leaders and organizations to implement solutions; a handful of local news stations documented this collective desire to protect the coast.
The increasing incidents of red tide and green algae blooms have also become more severe, and locals expressed to me how these issues troubled them specifically. They told me that when the algae blooms hit the coast, the air would cause them to cough and their eyes would sting. Coastal restaurants near the blooms saw a sharp drop in business, and I heard from several unhappy business owners about it. The impacts of climate change in this part of the state, which relies heavily on low lying land and coastline, have affected their way of life and well-being.
With this newfound recognition and the growing experiences of climate change’s impacts by those living in this area, The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is exploring what actions to take going forward. The Conservancy has solid support in the community and a history of positive results in conservation efforts, with the backing of Congressman Rooney (R) as well, whose 19th Congressional District serves over 800,000 constituents all the way from Fort Myers down to Marco Island. As the community starts to explore how best to implement solutions, we will continue to offer guidance, and I’ll look forward to seeing Southwest Florida take its next steps.