Monday, March 8, 2010

Squeezing Good News from Bad

Back in my days as a comfortable (yet often desperate!) housewife (hw), I ran with a fellow hw who was in no way, shape or form cut from ordinary cloth. Along with being the mother of 2 and a wife, Donna was a rather well-known psychic. She boasted corporate clients such as Conde Nast and Citibank and celebrity clients who shall remain nameless. She (with me as her some-time producer and occasional sidekick) hosted a cable TV call-in show, "Psychically Speaking with Donna McCue."
Always striving to move onward and upward and to spread positive energy throughout the cosmos, Donna one day came up with the idea of "The Good News Show."
As I remember, like "Psychically Speaking," "Good News" was a call-in format. But before the caller was gifted with a free psychic reading, he or she was required to contribute a good news item, either personal or news-based. I never ceased to be amazed by the hemming and hawing that went on more often than not upon reminding a viewer that they had to tell of good news to pass go.
Despite grumpy viewers who were only in it for the free reading, we had a blast putting both shows out. A particular "Good News Show," that will always stand out in my memories featured a senior-aged work out enthusiast as the guest. As bald and wrinkly as he appeared, the fellow was really physically spry and emotionally uplifting. The three of us ended up ridiculously wiggling and laughing our heads off as we danced the macerana on NY-metropolitan-area cable TV.
Donna and I were a lot like Lucy and Ethel. Always working the angles, always looking for the next big idea, inspirational gimmick and golden opportunity.
As I was scanning the headlines this morning, I thought of Donna and the "Good News Show," because frankly, the headlines were mostly dismal. Aside from one of my favorite actresses winning an Oscar, the reports screamed of bombings and earthquakes and dead bodies of young girls. Not good news, to say the last, and I was hoping to be inspired.
Always one to fashion a silk purse from a sow's ear (or at least try my darnedest to), I spotted the New York Times headline, "Deal to Save Everglades May Help Sugar Firm."
In my opinion and experience, it's never a good idea to help a sugar firm. Sugar firms, while providing revenue, rape the land and exploit workers. It doesn't matter on which side of the political fence one sits, I am here to tell you that I have met and interviewed migrant farm workers and their families in Florida. They love their children, they go to Church, they send their kids to school and take pride in their achievements. And when they become part of a community, although at first it's only for months out of a year, they give back.
I've met migrants volunteering in churches, schools, libraries, homeless shelters, for charities, and at community events. I've met migrants who have become citizens, built homes, and have started successful businesses. I regularly interacted with the son of a migrant who along with owning his business and home, served his community as a city councilman.
I am aware that this pretty scenario is not the case in all places frequented by migrant workers. But in Florida, the migrants I was inspired and enlightened by knowing were family and community-oriented-people, returning to the same cities and towns season after season, with many eventually settling in those towns and cities.
Additionally, sugar is just bad for every man, woman and child on the planet. Just take a look out your window at the obese, out of breath, legion of type 2 diabetics - both young and old- that wanton sugar consumption has created. Enough said.
Back to the Everglades. The first time I laid eyes on the Everglades, I was astonished by its beauty, and that's an understatement. There's no point in searching for words, the Everglades, with its harmonious palate of bright, glowing greens and sparkling blues tinged with earth-tone browns and yellows, and wonderfully teaming with life, is simply awe-inspiring. It's a unique, subtropical wetland; one-of-a-kind and evaporating into obscurity, doomed to eventually die because its simple yet vital thirst for clean water is going unquenched.
"The River of Grass," as locals call it, is truly a national, global treasure that must be experienced first-hand, and that must be reclaimed, rejuvenated and preserved.
Interestingly enough (this is, after all, the NEPAFollies) a native Pennsylvanian who happens to be Florida's well-tanned 44th governor put forth a plan to do just that, reclaim and preserve the Everglades.
Politics aside, Charlie Crist is, as far as I was able to surmise, a decent, down-to-Earth guy. I'm basing that opinion on a very personal need - the need for politicians to take or return the calls of reporters before press time. When Crist was Florida's attorney general(2003-07), and I was a newspaper journalist, he never left me in the lurch, so he's OK by me.
Originally, and before the economic down-turn exploded into an economic A-bomb,Crist's plan (as governor) was to buy out Everglade's landowner U.S. Sugar to the tune of $1.75 billion. Crist characterized the huge expenditure as a gift to the Everglades, to the people of Florida, to all U.S. citizens and to the planet.
Public ownership of U.S. Sugar's land was a crucial link in restoring the Everglades that Crist deemed, "as monumental as the creation of the nation's first national park, Yellowstone."
Long story short, by Spring 2009, Florida could only afford to spend $536 million on 72,800 acres. The state retains purchase rights for the remaining 107,000 acres, but the fact remains, the winner here is largely U.S. Sugar, as it pockets $5.3 mill. and its operations continue buzzing along, spewing sugar to the obese masses, and further choking out the River of Grass.
Although the down-sized plan still offers the best hope immediately available for restoring the Everglades, the current deal leaves six large disconnected parcels, a huge deterrent to restoration.
So where's the good news here? I see good news in the fact that the New York Times is reporting about restoring the Everglades in a supportive manner. It's good news that you're reading this, and I hope it's good news that you care. It's good news for my personal campaign against stress that I was reminded of an indescribably beautiful, serene place I once had the opportunity and honor to visit and to revel in.
And perhaps it will become good news that a fellow Pennsylvanian-turned-Floridian will receive the national support needed to save a global treasure from extinction.
What do you think? Have a wonderful day!

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