THE BLOG

On Big Sugar's Pollution of Florida, Social Media Could Spark a Political Revolution

02/11/2016 07:48 am ET | Updated Feb 11, 2016

On Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, hundreds of thousands of viewers are sharing photos, videos, and terse observations on the massive destruction caused by the release of hundreds of billions of filthy water from Lake Okeechobee -- thanks to Big Sugar's control of the Florida legislature and Congress.

Historic January rains in Florida are draining from the center of the state and coating both east and west coasts with polluted farm runoff, mostly from Big Sugar. The disaster has turned into a flood on social media. That flood is newsworthy of itself, in an electorally critical state holding its presidential primary in March.

There is a very large audience for information how a few billionaires are holding Florida hostage to profit schemes based on shifting their pollution onto the backs of taxpayers; in this case, wrecking billions of dollars of coastal real estate and tourism-based businesses to keep sugar fields dry.

These are not a few hundred people trolling the blogs. Social media, in the weeks before the March presidential primaries, is attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers who will vote.

This video by fishing guide Michael Conner has been viewed on Facebook nearly 300,000 times:

And it's not just the east coast of Florida that is affected. Big Sugar has always relied on the geographic separation of the Gulf from the Atlantic to keep voters divided.

Through social media, the rampant abuse by polluters is linking outraged citizens the west coast with their counterparts on the east coast. Bullsugar.org on Facebook has recruited nearly 40,000 viewers.

On Wednesday in the state capitol, Democratic leader Mark Pafford demonstrated the intransigence of the GOP-controlled legislature, blocking state purchase of land from Big Sugar south of Lake Okeechobee that could eventually solve the pollution crisis. Even Republican elected leaders from the most polluted regions of the state-- like Senator Joe Negron -- ignored and allowed Pafford's bill to die.

The bill would have allocated moneys to buy lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area, south of Lake Okeechobee for storage marshes adequate to hold and cleanse sugar's filthy discharges.

Not even a 2014 constitutional amendment, approved by more than 75 percent of Florida voters, for land acquisition has swayed legislators to fixing the Lake Okeechobee disaster. Social media could do the job, showing graphic images how Big Sugar billionaires fertilize the Republican majority just like sulfates from its half million acres using drainage canals like sewage pipes.

The flood on social media targeting Big Sugar is skipping past print journalism, OPEDs carefully crafted to avoid antagonizing its advertisers, and is even vaulting beyond environmental groups.

It will take a political revolution to fix what is wrong with Florida. That could happen if those hundreds of thousands on social media gather millions and turn anger against Big Sugar into votes. When people lead, leaders follow.

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