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Making Waves — Florida

November 6, 2023

Climate problems may seem too big to tackle, yet people all around this great nation are taking action.

This week’s column looks at FLORIDA and the question is: Will Florida’s 7,000-year-old coral reefs be extinguished?

Florida is attractive – it attracts travelers, seasonal snowbirds, eco-tourists, and new residents – typically over a hundred million people visit annually. The biggest draws in Florida, arguably, are its beaches and coastal waters.

The state’s 1,300+ miles of coastline provide numerous ecosystem services that protect not only the marine environment but also developed parts of the state inland. In fact, some services are so critical that we can clearly understand their value, for example, the way barrier islands, mangroves, and wetlands serve as storm buffers and help control erosion, averting extensive property loss. Coastal eco-benefits also include water filtering, marine spawning grounds, and biodiversity on which commercial fisheries are based, and let’s not forget the marine basis for recreation. All are essential to Florida’s economy, environmental health, public safety, and general welfare.

Among these ecosystem services are Florida’s coral reefs. Do you remember hearing, in 2016-7, about Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – that it experienced a huge coral die-off (known as a bleaching event)? It brought world attention to the global reef crisis. In 2017, Smithsonian Magazine reported that roughly half of the world’s coral reefs had died since 1957. Numerous causes were identified – climate change in the form of rising ocean levels/temperatures, increased ocean acidity, shifts in currents, violent storms, disease, as well as damage from human sources, including fishing, boating, pollution, recreation, and even the chemicals in sunscreen products. A stunning 90% of Florida’s coral reefs have been wiped out.

Collaborative efforts, especially by the Coral Restoration Foundation, are underway to save the reefs. I found it absolutely inspiring, what it takes, how many people are working on this problem.… and the emerging best practices for how to save coral are unexpected. It makes perfect listening on your way to the beach or your favorite swimming hole. Noted here: 3 interesting podcasts that describe this process from wholly different points of view, or, for the ”picture’s worth 1,000 words” folks, check these great images:

The first podcast comes from a place as far from Florida’s coast as you could imagine: Harmon’s grocery store in arid Loveland, Utah, where a local aquarium director is explaining coral restoration to a chef and marketing staff. The grocery store provides specialty foods for the creatures at the aquarium. The director is a marine biologist passionate about reefs; his description of best practices is granular and fascinating; the grocery folks’ questions are full of wonder. (Tip: skip first 5 mins. of chitchat).
Podcast: Taste of Harmons (Jun 12, 2020)
Episode: The Coral Reef Rescue [~56 mins]

The second podcast is a good oddball choice if you love wristwatches, and have ever dived underwater or vacationed in Florida. Pick this one if you want confirmation that one person can make a difference – and contribute to or volunteer with coral replanting efforts.
Podcast: Beyond the Dial (June 29, 2020)
Episode: Conversations E10 – Coral Restoration Foundation’s Martha Roesler on Reviving The Carysfort Reef [~57 mins]

The third and longest podcast I picked with Steve Sherwood in mind. It has everything, for the listener who likes getting the big picture, as well as learning from multiple experts who want to share info about a common passion. Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet hosts a panel of six experts on marine corals. Not limited to Florida, it covers all the bases and is chock full of facts about maritime problem-solving, innovation, conservation, and the extensive economic impact coral reefs have in the US.
American Blue Economy Podcast (Jul 20, 2021)
Episode: The Incredible Value of America’s Coral Reefs [81 mins]

A noteworthy program I learned about from this pod is called Force Blue, a nonprofit that actively connects retired, combat-trained Special Operations veterans with ocean conservation programs. Find out more at

Let me know if you have a podcast to recommend, or have a comment about my column or have trouble finding a particular podcast I’ve mentioned. Happy listening!
[email protected]

Note: This column, part of a series looking at examples of positive climate action, state-by-state, first appeared in the Forest Press 06-29-2022. If you are interested in this state’s topic, check online for updated news, as a lot may have changed in a year.


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