Thursday, May 7, 2009

Down among the sweltering palms

Carl Hiaasen provides one of the annual (or so) treats in Malcolm's life. Those light satirical thrillers, with a message, are a proverbial Chinese take-away: enjoy one now, and you'll be hungry for another in two hours' time.

The essential message is environmental.

From that, Hiaasen expounds, oh so lightly, on the corruption and spectacular rape of southern Florida, where little old widow ladies and alligators (the reptile variety is the safer) vie for territory, in a locale for events:
... way beyond anything in a Tom Clancy novel ... the one place in the United States where the bar for bad behaviour is so high that nothing we do will be noticed, where we can walk into a flight training school and hand the guy six grand in cash, and ask to use the 747 simulator, except not for taking-off and landing, just for flying in circles, and they won't ask any questions... And they picked the right place ...
That's at 4:10 in this clip:

Is it all about to change?

First, as a result of the continuing efforts of thousands of decent folk (including Hiaasen himself) there came (flourish of trumpets!) the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Now CERP would cost $20 billion.

Of course, back in 2000, this was estimable, generally deemed "a good thing", worthy of joint federal and state funding. For the eight years of the Bush Presidency, something significant happened: it effectively amounted to nothing, nada, zilch.

"Change that matters"

Now, curiously, inexplicably, magnificently, the ground rules have changed:
... the $279 million in federal funds earmarked largely for Glades restoration projects mark the single-largest amount that Congress and the White House have allocated since the joint federal-state project was approved in 2000. It's a start, finally.

The money comes from two sources. There is $183 million in a spending bill approved by Congress last month and $96 million from the federal-stimulus package for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work. Together, these funds will get stalled projects started, such as restoring wetlands in the 55,000-acre Picayune Strand in Southwest Florida and building a reservoir to improve the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County. There also is funding for repairs on Lake Okeechobee's dike and an upgrading of the Tamiami Trail, though not enough to elevate the road, which is the best solution to impairment of sheet flow.

"Sheet flow"? Am I sure I heard that right?

Don't knock it:
There also is $25 million to help Monroe County replace its antiquated cesspool and septic tanks with a central-sewage system.
Hiaasen would probably reckon (and, until now, however surreal, he's been on the button), there's already some smart guy in southern Florida skimming the till.

So, Malcolm resolves:
  • To pray for a new Hiaasen novel;
  • To refer to Hiaasen's less-regular columns on line at the Miami Herald; and
  • To lie back, and -- thinking of England and his Lady's weekly golfing exploits -- wait for delivery of the only two of Hiaasen's published books not already on his shelves:

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