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Feature Story

According to a Food and Agriculture Organization report, Earth’s population is expected to increase to 9.3 billion by the year 2050, meaning we will need to produce 60% more food to feed this growing population.

At the same time, Americans throw away roughly 30 to 40% of their food supply each year. A 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found 133 billion pounds of food worth $161 billion was thrown away in 2010 alone. Food is wasted for a number of reasons: spoilage, over-ordering, and discarding of produce with blemishes are a few.

While food waste can unnecessarily threaten global food security, it also places a burden on our natural environment and can contribute to climate change. Learn how you can help prevent food waste this holiday season by reading our feature story!

 

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To pair with the rest of our educational content in each Earth to Florida newsletter, we bring you monthly updates on statewide environmental news. Read below to see what we found for November: 
  • The release of the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, a plan that will revise the timing of discharges from Lake Okeechobee and impact Everglades restoration, is nearing completion. Among other measures, the model will reduce harmful nutrient-rich freshwater discharges into the Caloosahatchee estuary, increase flow south to the Central Everglades, and reduce damaging dry downs on Lake Okeechobee.
     
  • Florida anglers can once again catch snook, redfish and trout. After the Sunshine State’s devastating red tide event this summer, catch-and-release restrictions were imposed on these species in July for Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. However, these measures were lifted in mid-October. Redfish fisheries are also being targeted for conservation efforts. The Coastal Conservation Association of Florida plans to release tens of thousands of juvenile redfish off the Atlantic Coast. Members from the association, along with Florida fishing guides, captured adult redfish that will spawn babies, strengthening the natural stocks.
     
  • This November, the state reached the grim milestone of 1,000 manatee deaths this year, making it the deadliest on record. And while deaths slowed in September and October, scientists worry that manatees will soon face further challenges, as winter is traditionally difficult for these sea cows. Seagrass cover decreases in winter, and manatees must venture to warmer waters to survive. Officials are even considering supplemental feeding, a controversial tactic, to stop them from starving. And invasive armored catfish — which cling to manatees to eat algae off them, impeding their movement and causing them to expend precious energy — also pose a threat to manatees. Based on these threats and more, congressional lawmakers are pushing to immediately re-list the manatee as endangered.
     
  • Florida legislators have proposed a Safe Waterways Act, which would require county health departments to post and maintain warning signs at public bathing spaces that have dangerous levels of bacteria like E. coli. As of now, there are no statutory regulations requiring that citizens be informed of this type of waterway contamination. According to Florida Daily, “Nearly one million acres of coastal estuaries and nine thousand miles of Florida’s streams and rivers are verified impaired for fecal indicator bacteria.”
     
  • The state Department of Environmental Protection denied a request by Trend Exploration of North Fort Myers to dig oil wells near the Everglades. The ruling stated that drilling the wells could have negative impacts on water supplies and wildlife in the area, including protected species such as the endangered Florida panther. Another reason for opposition is that the development would be near historical sites on Seminole Tribal lands.
     
  • Unfavorable weather conditions in the Everglades led to a low number of nesting wading birds during 2020. Extreme dry conditions early in the year led to a decline in the fish population – wading birds' primary food source. Then, heavy rains in the area caused difficulties for young nestlings. Leaders from Audubon Florida are hopeful that upcoming restoration projects could help the bird population rebound.
     
  • Starting next year, Miami-Dade County hopes to mark the period between May 1 and October 31 as “heat season.” Like during hurricane season, shelters will be made available to residents who can’t safely stay at home, and measures will be taken to educate the community on heat safety and ways to stay cool. Without a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, by 2050 Miami-Dade could go from the current 41 days to up to 134 days a year that have temperatures that feel like 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Even today, many facilities such as prisons and federally assisted housing have inefficient air conditioning systems or no air conditioning at all. This can worsen many medical issues, especially for the elderly.
     
  • This November, state and local leaders gathered in Orlando for a conference on energy and climate in Florida organized by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The attendees shared strategies on efficiency, renewable energy, climate change and what it will take to achieve a net-zero carbon future. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried discussed a bill in the Legislature that, if passed, would provide an infrastructure package that she says would help to make buildings, roads and bridges more resilient in the face of climate change. Three Florida mayors also attended the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland to share how their coastal cities are dealing with the impacts of climate change. However, no state administration officials were present.
     
  • Governor Ron DeSantis announced that he would request about $1 billion for a resiliency program aimed at protecting coastal areas from sea level rise. The program would allocate money for Everglades restoration efforts and coastal resiliency during the 2022-2023 fiscal year. But environmental groups remain skeptical. Details of the plan have not yet been made public, and there are also concerns that a portion of the funds will be taken from other environmental efforts such as the protection and restoration of habitats. Critics also worry the plan doesn’t address the state’s reliance on fossil fuels. Gov. DeSantis has also hired the state’s third chief resilience officer, Wesley Brooks, who has served as federal affairs director for the state Department of Environmental Protection since early 2020. Prior to that, Brooks worked for Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and U.S. Reps. Brian Mast (R) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R).
     
  • On Earth Day, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced the Miami Forever Carbon Neutral plan that would try to cut down the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by ending natural gas hookups, making buildings more energy-efficient and boosting electric cars. But recently, the city removed several policies related to the plan’s goal to cut down on natural gas. A Miami Herald reporter discovered that the changes had been made following emails with a representative from TECO People’s Gas who expressed concerns about the impact of the plan on their industry. The city maintains that despite the changes, they are still focused on a “long-term net-zero goal.”
     
  • Economically important military installations in Central Florida may be in trouble as climate change progresses. At Kennedy Space Center, satellite imagery already shows that the ocean is encroaching on one of the launch pads. Sea level rise will impact infrastructure and increased temperatures could slow down outdoor productivity.
     
  • The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has announced the next meeting of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force will take place at the Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021 beginning at 9:30 a.m. Members of the public are invited to participate in-person or online. View the agenda and register.
     
  • The dolphin fish, characterized by its bright color and large size, is in trouble. Recreational landings of the fish, a popular staple at seafood restaurants, decreased more than 68% from 2015-2020. Now, a grassroots group of anglers in South Florida is working to alert federal fisheries managers to address the problem.
     
  • Governor Ron DeSantis has allocated more than $481 million on projects aimed at improving Florida's water quality. The money would go toward fixing leaky septic tanks and aging wastewater infrastructure that contributes to nutrient pollution and harmful algal blooms as well as springs restoration, land acquisitions and conservation easements.
Visit the links below for other environmental stories you may have missed this month!
Share these updates on social media!

Feature Video:
What Does Fall Look Like in Florida?

Sweeping vistas of orange, red, and yellow leaves. Chilly temperatures, huge coats, and maybe a mug of steaming apple cider. While these scenes might not evoke “Florida” in your mind, fall is still very much present in the Sunshine State, even if it manifests in slightly different ways than autumn in other parts of the U.S. Learn more in our video: Fall in Florida

Action of the Month:
Know the History of the Land You Inhabit

Our shared humanity and coexistence on Earth can act as a motivating force in cultivating an equitable and resilient society. In other words, sustainability is not limited to the natural environment. Rather, it encompasses the people, communities, and practices existing within the environment. In honor of National Native American Heritage Month, join Sustainable UF for the November Action of the Month: Know the History of the Land You Inhabit.

Explore resources and tools for better understanding and acknowledging the depth and diversity of Indigenous identity as it relates to land in general and the land you’re on right now!

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Earth to Florida's Action of the Month is produced in collaboration with the UF Office of Sustainability. If you’d like to learn more about sustainability at UF, follow Sustainable UF on Instagram or Facebook!
Like our Action of the Month column? Visit our Instagram page for weekly actions you can take for the betterment of the planet. 

What We're Reading

Environmental protection and social justice are deeply intertwined, and we cannot accurately communicate the environmental issues facing our state without acknowledging this relationship. In this monthly Earth to Florida segment, we will share articles and videos that help explain these connections.

Tell Me About

Tell Me About is a weekly series on TESI's Instagram channel that explains environmental topics facing Florida and why they matter. Click the images below to learn more about sea level rise, stony coral tissue loss disease and wetland mitigation banking in Florida. 
Visit our blog posts below to learn more about these topics!
Learn more about Earth systems-related topics through our other student-produced educational videos! (Great for classrooms!)

What's the Word?

When reading environmental news, you may hear a lot of buzzwords. Our What's the Word Instagram series helps define terms you may come across while reading stories. Click the images below to learn more! 

Know Your Florida

Want to impress your friends with all you know about our beautiful state? Follow us on Instagram @KnowYourFlorida and get to know your state’s natural history and outdoor wonders. Click the images below for fun Florida facts for this month!

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About the Institute

Started in 2018, the mission of the UF Thompson Earth Systems Institute is to advance communication and education about Earth systems science in a way that inspires Floridians to be effective stewards of our planet. 
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About Earth to Florida

Each month, a student-led team at the UF Thompson Earth Systems Institute curates Florida's environmental news and puts it into context by explaining what’s going on, why it matters and what we can do about it. We hope you enjoy this month's sampling.

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Have feedback for our team? Email earthsystems@floridamuseum.ufl.edu

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