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Panelists before the Manatee Tiger Bay Club chat about who’s affecting the environment

A person at a podium giving a presentation. Three other panelists sitting to the right look on.
Sarah Owens
Community News Collaborative
Miri Hardy gives her presentation as the other panelists look on.

The Manatee Tiger Bay group hosts a discussion about who (or what) is affecting nature.

Acknowledging that someday, even human-made wetlands might be hard to fit into a potentially built-out landscape, Cassidy Statler-Hiatt said there really aren’t many substitutes for the real thing.

Speaking on a four-member panel Thursday before the Manatee Tiger Bay Club in Bradenton, Statler-Hiatt said the race between natural and artificial isn’t much of a competition.

“Natural is usually going to beat out the engineered wetland,” said the Technical Project Manager at Southface Sarasota at the luncheon entitled “Who or What is Impacting the Environment.”

“It's not going to compete, and at a certain point, we’re going to run out of land so that we’re going to run out of space to even build those engineered spaces, you know, so I think it’s a double-edged sword. And I think not invading the natural spaces is the first step, and looking at what we already have in place, going to the abandoned buildings and repurposing them.”

Closer to home, Manatee County Commissioners in early October will take a second and final vote on a measure that would in many cases reduce the buffers between development projects and wetland from 50 feet to 15. Their previous vote on the topic was a 6-1 approval.

Joining Statler-Hiatt on the dais were Miri Hardy, Ric Kearbey and Michael Mogil who each delivered a seven-minute presentation.

Hardy is executive director of Friends of Myakka River, a nonprofit that works to protect, preserve and support the Myakka River State Park. Her presentation touched on the park’s history of human intervention and its effects on the surrounding environment. Hardy says the park has been working for years to reverse or repair damage done to the area by things such the 1938 construction of a weir in the Upper Myakka Lake.

This topic of human made infrastructure that impacts our environment continued into Statler-Hiatt's presentation on efficient building. Statler-Hiatt stressed the effect that human-engineered structures have on the environment, stating that the average building in the United States is roughly 54 years old and lacks attributes such as proper insulation that result in wasted energy and money.

Kearbey, a Senior Scientist with the Climate Adaptation Center, and Mogil, a Certified Consulting Meteorologist with How the Weather Works, both presented climate change data, but they discussed different points in the impacts of carbon dioxide. Kearbey argued that human contributions are a key concern while Mogil specifically urged critical thinking when it comes to evaluating the causes of climate change.

Mogil says that while deforestation is an issue, it’s compounded by the fact that trees only provide four or five months of real carbon dioxide removal a year due to the natural change of seasons, an aspect he says deserves more attention than it gets.

“You have all these sources of heat in the atmosphere that have nothing to do with burning of fossil fuels,” Mogil said. “So, I’m not a proponent that we should keep burning fossil fuels, but I am a proponent of this. And if we don’t think this, we’re going to make some very serious financial and other decisions that are not going to produce tangible results.”

The presentations were followed up with a few questions from club members, and some spoke with panelists one-one-one after the event officially ended.

For information on the Manatee Tiger Bay Club, visit http://www.manateetigerbay.org/.

Sarah Owens in a reporter for the Community News Collaborative. Connect with her at slowens@cncfl.org.

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