by Morgan Keene
    Hosted by the Library’s Popcorn and Politics, a monthly event at the University of North Florida, Ms. Raniman, along with UNF political science professor Josh Geller, spent an hour discussing state politics and the effect they have on the local environment.     Raniman, who has been the St. John’s River Keeper since 2012, discussed the role that voting and politics have on the local ecosystem. Her role as River Keeper means that she works with officials in order to give a voice to the river and to the communities around it. Dr. Josh Geller is an associate professor of political science at the University of North Florida who focuses on environmental issues.

    With the mid-term elections coming up soon in Florida, many are pointing fingers at Governor Scott, who is now running for Senate, for the current environmental issues in the state. According to Dr. Geller, the environment polled as the second biggest concern amongst voters in Florida. The sudden spike in the importance of the environment in the elections is due, according to Geller and Raniman, to the red tide that is currently infecting Florida’s waterways.

    Red tide, as defined by Geller, is an alga bloom that creates a neurotoxin that affects the fish, leading to dead fish filling Florida waterways. Red Tide is a form of nutrient pollution, which Raniman defines as the warming of waters caused by pollution and run off being pushed into the sea.

Governor Rick Scott has faced a lot of backlash due to his lack of initiative in protecting the Florida environment. Governor Scott’s passing of laws that allowed for infected water and sludge to be dumped into different rivers, lakes, and other water forms around Florida. This has led to the infection and pollution spreading around the state. His role in the spreading of red tide has helped give him the nickname “Red Tide Rick.” Dr. Geller specifies that the current environmental issues have “…no quick fix. It is a multi-source problem that requires a complex solution,” and that,” In terms of the [current] race itself, Rick Scott is running against Senator Bill Nelson for the second Florida Senate seat and he’s going to have to answer to some of the critics that are saying his policies are responsible for the amount of run-off that is, in part, responsible for red tide.”

    Community member, Corrina, who just recently moved to Jacksonville, sat in on the conversation in order to learn about the things that would be affecting her in her new town and the state, overall. Taking the opportunity to find out more about Jacksonville politics, Corrina walked away from the speech feeling that      “The topic was awesome and broad, and I was expecting more just river talk, and I like how it spread to more environmental topics throughout Florida, and politics, too.”

    Audience member and environmentalist, Christie, was thrilled at the outcome of the discussion. “I was happy to hear a lot of people ask about red tide and climate change because those are things that interest me…and I liked that they explained [the topics] in a way that could bring more people aboard to understanding this is a bad issue.”

    Ms. Raniman and Dr. Geller’s talk brought an issue that once maybe would have been the last interest in college students minds to the forefront of the upcoming election. Their speech was not meant to encourage students to vote one way or another but educating students on what their votes could do in helping to keep the Florida waterways clean and the environment alive for years to come.
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