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Key Economic Messages From Harvey Ruvin and Bill Gates..."We Can't Delay the Fight Against Sea Level

In a commentary published by the Miami Herald on Saturday, August 30, 2014, Harvey Ruvin, Clerk of the Courts and Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Task Force Chairman, made it clear...."Without innovative adaptive capital planning, it [sea level rise] will threaten trillions of dollars of the region's built environment, our future water supply, unique natural resources, agricultural soils and basic economy."

With all the discussion concerning the urban "built environment," we must not wait to address the threats posed by rising salt water to our rural food infrastructure.

That's why this proposal exists.

The Raising Fields Project raises a number of urgent issues which need to be resolved. Here are but a few:

  • Will the State of Florida permit raised fields for food growers?

  • What will the permit process be for raised mounds?

  • Is our land use regulatory system ready for high growing sectors?

  • What kind of specialized engineering requirements will be necessary to make modern raised agricultural areas?

  • What will drainage and freshwater technology look like in elevated fields?

  • Will the big food companies support efforts to lengthen the life of Southeastern Florida farm lands?

  • Will universities and colleges embrace this ancient but still relevant means of food production?

  • What can architects contribute to make stable and attractive raised landscapes?

  • Will the U.S. Department of Agriculture gain an interest in raised production techniques?

  • Will Congress and the Executive Branch encourage research and development of heightened landscapes to fend off sea water to continue food production as sea levels increase?

  • Will communities surrounding raised fields accept the altered landscape concept?

  • Will the Southeast Florida Climate Compact embrace the concept of testing raised fields?

  • What are the local, regional, state, national and global economic impacts of creating elevated farmlands in Southeastern Florida?

  • How many jobs can be created as a result of the Raising Fields Project?

  • What is the cost of increasing the height of farm land?

  • What can be done to further advance crop yield on earthen mounds?

  • Will growers abandon South Florida for other regions, or nations if we fail to take creative action? (Unacceptable).

Sea level rise (SLR) implicates so many dimensions. Agriculture and farming need to be right at the top as we plan for the next 30 years. As growing lands in other parts of the nation are threatened by droughts, severe storms and wild fires, Florida land becomes even more precious, today and tomorrow.

Just ask Bill Gates.

The Tampa Bay Business Journal, on October 23, 2014, reported that "Over the past two years, an investment company owned by Bill Gates has been purchasing land in northern Florida." The Journal revealed Lakeland Sands Florida, a company controlled by Mr. Gates, "recently bought 4,500 acres in Suwanee County."

There's a reason Mr. Gates is buying land in the northern part of the Sunshine State and not here. If that reason is approaching SLR, that would be very sad. We need to show South Florida fields offer just as many opportunities as our in-state neighbors to the north.

If our region plans and prepares to preserve its farmland to ensure production for most of the rest of this century, it should be attractive to investors like the Microsoft founder. We need to understand...When it comes to insuring our future for growing food, both Mr. Ruvin and Mr. Gates have compelling economic messages to which we must respond.

We can't achieve intelligent agricultural adaptation by thinking at the speed grass grows. (It will not grow in salt water). We don't have that luxury. Every week lost now to inaction on SLR adaptation for agriculture and farming hurts the South Floridians of 2030, 2040 and beyond.

I join with Mr. Ruvin. We cannot waste this valuable time by failing to study what can be done for agriculture in South Florida. The ocean's schedule is already understood. In fact, projections over the last year alone call for a greater rate of sea level rise than appreciated just a few years ago. The human schedule to adapt, as much as possible, must be activated, and accelerated, from this point forward and with all deliberate speed.

--By Mitch Chester


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