Marked for life

Pity poor Hester Prynne. Censored by her Puritan community for having a child out of wedlock she was forced to wear a scarlet A, so that all would know of her mortal sin wherever she went.

But really, sexual promiscuity is so passé in this day and age. Everybody does it, right?

No, the real promiscuous behavior – the nearest thing to original sin in autoAmerica – isn’t performed between the sheets, but rather on top of the asphalt.

The new promiscuity is committed every day by miscreants who refuse to insert themselves into two-ton steel cocoons, like normal people, before using the public streets.

Instead they insist on inserting themselves, sans cocoons, between the unobstructed road ahead and the God-given right of American motorists to drive as fast as they please wherever they please.

Slow down hell! Freedom of movement is an American birthright and not to be surrendered lightly.

Until some reckless pedestrian or renegade cyclist gets in the way. And then pity the poor motorist who has to live with that.

Thus the new scarlet letter. Interfere with the fast flow of traffic is you must. If you dare. But at least, for the love of Ford, brand yourself with neon red flags.

Or fluorescent yellow vests. Or something else reflective to warn innocent drivers that you intend to rudely interrupt their freedom of movement.

It is only in hunting that the predators wear bright orange and the game goes unadorned. But that’s just because they can’t figure out how to make a deer wear a vest.

But there is a war being waged against cars in autoAmerica. Everybody says so. At the very least the anti-auto insurgents should be made to identify themselves.

Really, there ought to be a law. We could call it the Yellow Flag Law. Branded for life.

And when will these people learn to just stay out of our way? Haven’t we drivers suffered enough?

Or maybe the prey aren’t the problem. Maybe it really is the hunters.

Perhaps it is because, as a mobile society, we stubbornly refuse to design our communities and public streets to protect life rather than facilitate speed.

Instead of this.

We could do this.

And we could reverse this deadly trend.

By slowing cars down. Because we know that speed kills.

And we know how to do it.

We simply lack the will to do it. No matter the consequences.

Hence the new scarlet letter. Something to scare or shame the miscreants so they might stay out of our way.

But be warned, autoAmerica. France’s yellow vest law set the stage for a revolution. It could happen here.

Viva la revolution.

The waiting game

Listen, if you think waiting for Dorian to make up its mind was a tedious exercise in quiet desperation, try waiting for our politicians to do something about Florida’s other warm water crisis.

The same climate change-driven conditions that are conspiring to make hurricanes slower, more destructive and less predictable are also fueling the explosive growth of toxic algae in our lakes and rivers and red tides in our coastal waters.

“Florida waters are in trouble,” warns the Florida Conservation Coalition. “Across the state, point and non-point source pollution plague the quality of our rivers, springs, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters, and have created ecological, economic and health crises.”

And here’s the thing. Hurricanes may be here today and gone tomorrow. But our blue-green algae and red tide problems won’t blow away. They will only to get worse thanks to our failure to exercise stewardship over our most precious natural resource, the life-giving waters around us.

We know why this is happening. It’s neither an act of God nor the fickle finger of nature.

Let us count just some of the ways we have been turning our waters into algae factories.

More than a billion gallons of wastewater discharged into Tampa Bay in just four years.

South Florida, unable to handle its own sewage sludge, has been trucking it north, ostensibly to “fertilize” farmlands, but ultimately to turn the St. Johns River green.

The Big Ag retention basin formerly known as Lake Okeechobee continues to spew its filth west into the Caloosahatchee River and east into the St. Lucy.

The Indian River Lagoon is suffering the death of a thousand point sources – septic tanks, stormwater runoff, lawn fertilizer overuse and more.

When we hear the word “infrastructure,” we are conditioned to think roads and highways. But Florida’s algae crisis is very much a result of our failure to modernize sewage treatment systems, replace aging septic tanks, insist on more responsible agriculture practices and otherwise invest in water quality infrastructure.

Under the flimsy excuse of providing better hurricane evacuation routes Florida will spend billions for new toll highways which will only further abet the runaway growth and over development that is killing Florida’s environmental integrity.

But where is the funding to stop St. Petersburg from dumping a couple million gallons of poorly treated wastewater into the aquifer? Or to keep biosolids out of the St. Johns?

“Upgrading wastewater utilities and replacing or upgrading septic tanks in areas already impaired by excessive nutrient pollution will be an expensive but necessary undertaking for current and future generations of Floridians,” cautions the FCC.

How expensive. The coalition argues that Florida requires a sustained $1 billion to $2 billion a year investment in water quality infrastructure. That would mean septic tank replacement, upgrading aging sewage treatment facilities, imposing new “best management practices” on dairy and agricultural operations, cracking down on Florida’s green lawn fetish…for a start.

“This has been frustrating I know for a lot of people because it seems like we’ve been talking about this a long time,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said the other day, urging Floridians not to succumb to complacency while waiting for Dorian to move on.

Talk about complacency! Florida has been stewing in its own toxic juices for a long time and we’re still just talking about it.

Billions for toll roads and pennies for clean water?

The time for talk is over, Governor, and a new legislative session is near. We need less talk and more action.

(Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun.)