Hello Florida! With London’s social season winding up I decided to hop across the pond and get back to saving the planet. This will be an easy trip as the poor Floridians have been sent a painfully obvious message from Mother Nature and will surely be poised to fight climate change. To be sure though, I want to sound more like Mary Poppins (here to save the day) than mean mommy.
They aren’t making the voyage terribly easy as there is absolutely no direct way to get to Tallahassee (where Florida's governor lives) from London—and still they wonder why we fly private. As I recall it’s much the same with California’s capital city of Sacramento—fifth largest economy in the world and they have you on a bus or plane that isn’t much larger.
But soon enough I’ll be skipping through the verdant solar farms of Florida and Babcock Ranch—America’s first solar-powered town. I wanted to call my father for some understanding of the new thin-film PV cells but haven’t yet told him I’m in the States. He will invariably ask why I’m not visiting my house in Los Angeles and I don’t have a defensible answer.
Upon arrival—can I just say one thing? It’s not Palm Beach. I know it’s a big state but if I hear 'it’s a college town' one more time I think I’m going to lose it. The good and the bad news is they’ve recovered from the hurricane and no one seems terribly interested in talking about it. To be perfectly honest I was hoping that the trauma of Idalia would have done some of my work for me, compelling them to go big on net-zero by 2050.
I always think it's a good idea to take in some local culture, and for lack of alternatives, I chose Mission San Luis. Trust me, it was NOT the place for a photo-op. Today’s activities included a wood bonfire in the center of the main building and a blessing of animals. I’m sorry but with the fire in the background and primitive costume, it looked like a ritual animal sacrifice. The custom was purportedly started by St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, but just off the reservation was a steady stream of SUVs and yapping white dogs queuing to get in. Disaster.
Every beast is sacred.
The history wasn’t encouraging either, the mission was built by the Spanish in an attempt to colonise the native Indians and convert them to Christianity. This lasted until they vacated, and burned it to the ground lest an approaching militia of Indians seize it and get the benefit. I assume what I toured was rebuilt from archeological research but given they were nomadic and kept no records, who can be sure? Worse yet, it seems the natives were the worst caretakers of the land. This was not making the highlights reel.
My first official meeting with Sustainable Tallahassee was encouraging! They had already compiled the county’s carbon dioxide levels for the past twenty years and passed an initiative. Just then my phone rang…I picked it up before realising it was my father. UGH!
‘Hi Daddy!’ I said. ‘What’s up?’
‘Hello Jennifer. Just wondering if we should be expecting you anytime soon. Are you still at Burghley House?’
‘Of course you are. Helping to restore the power there?’
‘Well, no. It’s largely done. I mean, it’s done rather. But I wanted to ask you about thin-film PV cells’.
‘What are we talking about?’ he asked.
‘PV cells for solar farms’, I said.
‘Did you say “FARMS”? Now that’s rich. Like a steel farm or an oil refinery farm?’
He had a point. BOO! But I wasn’t letting him get to me. I began again… ‘So…the difference if you would, please?
‘Very little difference between one photovoltaic cell and another. They’re all bad for your beloved planet, my dear. From manufacture, to installation, to disposal, bad for the workers, and bad for the land. There’s also habitat loss and incredible strain on water resources. But I guess that’s life down on the farm, eh?’
How do you keep 'em down on the solar farm after they've see Paree?
‘Ok, Daddy, never mind that. One other thing…the client here seems to be doing a good job managing residential use but is there a viable solution for commercial? They account for 54 percent.’
‘Absolutely! You can do what California did… chase all the industry to China or Mexico where you know they are environmentally responsible. And even if not… it took twenty years for China’s smog to reach California. Speaking of California…’
‘Umm…Right. Thanks, Daddy I have to run’. I said, and rang off.
What was I going to tell these folks who by virtue of their published numbers believed they were on track?? I think I’ll just say that slow and steady wins the race, encourage the progress made… and 2050 is a long way off.
This was stressful. On top of that Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, had to reschedule our meeting. I was told not to take it personally—that he’s rather busy and that he flat refused to meet with President Joe Biden, but still it hurt. I decided instead to head to The Breakers in Palm Beach to regroup. Again they don’t make it easy to fly commercial with not one direct flight from the state’s capitol to Palm Beach. I don’t understand these people.
Finally sorted with my laptop and papers, I began to research for my rescheduled meeting. What I stumbled upon would strike fear in the hearts of men. It was Florida’s very own governor rejecting the very real crisis of climate. He cited the anniversary of the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in the state. And he said ‘the notion that somehow hurricanes are something new, that’s just false… the notion that somehow if we just adopt, very left-wing policies… that somehow we will not have hurricanes, that is a lie’.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. And it seemed as though he was speaking directly to me when he said, ‘People trying to take what happened and use that as a pretext to advance their agenda… that’s wrong’. Honestly—some people will never learn!