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Florida Man

Florida Man

Hey Dewey #4

By Dewey Turner

Hey Dewey,

Whatever happened to Ron DeSantis? I heard he dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination for president when people found out he was wearing lifts in his boots, or maybe it was some kind of disguised high heels, and reminded everybody of that creepy Arnold Friend in Joyce Carol Oates’ short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” You know, where she writes, “He had to bend and adjust his boots. Evidently his feet did not go all the way down; the boots must have been stuffed with something so that he would seem taller.” Anyway, is he still in Florida, and still their governor? DeSantis, I mean. Not Arnold Friend. Though maybe him, too. 

Gator Hater

Dear Gator,

Funny you should ask. The day I got your question, May 23, I read these seven stories:

1. From The New York Times: The heat index reached 112 degrees in Miami, beating the previous daily record by 11 degrees. And that’s how the month has gone for much of south Florida. Actual temperatures don’t normally hit 90 there in May—what’s known as a “shoulder month,” because it’s not quite spring anymore but it’s not quite summer yet, either. Or so it’s been in the past. Now, they’re regularly in the mid-90s, and summer is predicted to be even worse. Also, extreme rains and flooding.

2. Also from the Times: “As the world warms, permafrost is thawing across two-thirds of Russia, threatening cities and towns that were constructed to house miners sent to dig up a subterranean trove of oil, gas, gold and diamonds. Even the roads are buckling, cracking and collapsing, as if in a slow-motion earthquake. And outside a small town called Batagay, deep in the Siberian hinterland, a crater is rapidly opening up—known to local residents as the gateway to the underworld.”

Apparently it’s happening in Canada, China, and Alaska, too.

3. In Iowa, a 165 mph tornado killed five people, injured 35 more, and destroyed the town of Greenfield as it swept across the state. The Times said the National Weather Service had issued warnings about “unsettled and changeable weather” across half of the country for the next few days, from the West Coast to the Great Plains. 

4. In Mexico, according to yet another story in the Times—same day—dozens of howler monkeys have been falling dead out of their trees, killed by the brutal heat that’s climbed over 100 already in May and stayed there. People have been trying to resuscitate them, but they’ve been too late. “The deaths of dozens of mantled howler monkeys in Mexico may be the latest sign of the danger extreme temperatures pose to wildlife around the world,” the Times reported. “As global temperatures have shattered records, scientists have recently documented a die-off of Amazon dolphins and a mass bleaching event in the world’s coral reefs.”

5. From The Washington Post: Back in Miami, where the sea level has risen at least six inches since 2010, officials say that half of the area’s 120,000 septic systems are at risk of being “periodically compromised,” which means during intense storms or just during particularly wet years, shit in south Florida has been backing up into streets and yards and waterways, fouling everything it touches and fueling algae blooms that are killing off fish. It’s happening all over, especially along the Atlantic coast in the Carolinas.

“We don’t even know the scale of the problem,” Rob Young, director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, told the Post. “I think it’s everywhere. And it can’t get better as long as sea levels are rising. The only question is how quickly it can get worse.”

6. In Norfolk, The Virginian-Pilot reported, not for the first time, that sea levels are rising there “faster than anywhere else on the East Coast, and the land is sinking twice as fast.” The headline pretty much said it all: “‘How do you stop the ocean?’ Norfolk grapples with slowing down sea level rise at its doorsteps.” The accompanying photo showed a father and daughter on a stand-up paddleboard making their watery way down the street in front of their house. It hadn’t been raining.

7. The Florida Phoenix—and other newspapers in Florida—reported that Ron DeSantis, who is still, as it turns out, the governor, took action to address the environmental crisis by signing into law a bill to erase the words “climate change” from state statutes. The bill also bans windmills from being built off Florida’s coastline, even though none are planned and wind conditions are too unreliable there for them to be likely.

The Phoenix also reported on a recent insurance company survey that identified “The 10 Worst Cities to Live in as Climate Change Progresses.” Five of them were in Florida. 

*** 

Dewey Turner spent much of his childhood in Polk County, Florida, and has been trying to leave ever since. But like James Joyce, self-exiled from Dublin, he keeps returning in one way or another. He reports—with some consternation but no real surprise—that a great number of the kids he knew when he was a boy grew up to become Florida Man.