Voters and candidates must put a focus on the environment

From toxic red tide to turning the Sunshine State solar, the environment is one of the most important issues driving people’s decisions this election season.

The two candidates running for governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis (R) and Andrew Gillum (D), agree that the environment needs to be addressed. But they disagree on how to make these improvements and where to focus their energy and budgets.

These disagreements were clear during this week’s debate.

The candidates’ most stark disagreement is on climate change. Gillum prides himself on believing in science. He knows that something needs to be done quickly about climate change or Florida’s future could be swamped. DeSantis, on the other hand, does not believe in climate change. He “doesn’t want to be an alarmist.” He questions the science behind it, as do many in the Republican party.

Just because DeSantis doesn’t believe in climate change doesn’t mean helping the environment isn’t on his to-do list. Endorsed by the Everglades Trust, he has a strong stance when it comes to restoring the Everglades and getting rid of green algae and red tide.

One of Gillum’s main environmental areas he wishes to focus on is making Florida a solar energy state. Gillum has already implemented solar energy in Tallahassee, with a 120-acre solar farm which, he says, tripled the amount of solar energy they produce.

DeSantis, on the other hand, doesn’t believe that solar energy is necessary. He says that it’ll be too costly to install and the benefits don’t justify the costs.

In the short run, DeSantis is correct.

It cost $32 million to build Tallahassee’s solar farm. No one can deny that it’s a huge expense.

In the long run, though, solar energy will reduce electricity bills and greenhouse gas emissions, and make us less dependent on the non-renewable fossil fuels we’re quickly depleting.

Although DeSantis’ heart appears to be in the right place, being that he doesn’t want to hurt those who can’t afford higher energy bills in the short run, the need for solar energy is apparent to helping Florida’s — and the world’s — environment.

Like the sun rising in the east, in every recent election candidates promise to solve environmental issues, followed by frustrating inaction.

The difference between past elections and this one is the placement of the environmental promises within the discussions and debates. Climate change was the first topic discussed in this week’s debate. This is the issue that demands to be tackled before anything else.

A lot of Floridians are worried about sea life washing up dead on Gulf Coast beaches. The once white sandy havens are turning into a ghastly, smelly scene from some horror movie. Floridians are worried that Hurricane Michael, which started as a tropical storm and exploded into the strongest storm to hit the panhandle due to historically warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, is a sign of things to come.

Climate change isn’t an invisible ghost anymore. People see the effects and they’re scared. Gillum or DeSantis, Florida needs a leader who is going to do something to save Florida’s environment.


Zoe Zbar is a junior majoring in marketing.