Glades residents are calling for The Last Burn Season

Sugarcane burns in fields north of Pahokee on Oct. 21, 2022. At the start of 2022, Friends of the Everglades set out on a video  project chronicling the widespread negative impacts of sugarcane burning, which disproportionately impacts the Glades communities south of Lake Okeechobee. Today, we are proud to present the final installment of this project. The final video, narrated by Glades resident Kina Phillips, represents a culmination of the fears, frustrations and ultimately the hope that we heard from each subject in a series of interviews over the course of five months. It offers a rallying cry that is as true today as it was when the burns started decades ago: Enough is enough. This  project [...]

2022-11-18T10:00:15-05:00November 23rd, 2022|Sugarcane Burning|

“Everybody deserves to breathe clean air.”

Friends of the Everglades board member Robert Mitchell speaks out against sugarcane burning at the Stop the Burn rally on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, at Nancy Graham Centennial Square Park in front of the Florida Crystals headquarters in downtown West Palm Beach. Other Glades residents also spoke out against harmful sugarcane burning practices on the first day of burn season that goes through May. There are few people who have been more outspoken or shown more passion for ending the harmful practice of sugarcane burning in Glades communities south of Lake Okeechobee than Robert Mitchell. A Stop the Burn campaign leader and the founder of Muck City Black Lives Matter, Robert also serves as a volunteer board [...]

2022-10-13T22:12:25-04:00October 13th, 2022|Sugarcane Burning|

The Last Burn Season video series: “Isn’t our life worth it?”

Sugarcane burning leaves communities vulnerable to air pollution, health risks and economic stress. It’s time to forge a meaningful path to a long-overdue solution. Make this the Last Burn Season. "I don't blame the people for not having hope, but I've got hope for them. I'm standing in the gap for my people."— Kina Phillips Kina Phillips knows what it is to sacrifice. At her home in South Bay, Florida, all she has to do is look past the fence line in her backyard for a reminder of the largest agricultural influence south of Lake Okeechobee, and the risks it poses to residents of the Glades communities. Sugarcane stretches for miles into the horizon. When the cane is burned [...]

The Last Burn Season Video Series: “I’m making plans to relocate.”

Sugarcane burning leaves communities vulnerable to air pollution, health risks and economic stress. It’s time to forge a meaningful path to a long-overdue solution. Make this the Last Burn Season. “It impacts my quality of life, not only health-wise but my social life... I'm gradually making plans to relocate.” — Ras Benjahman Howard Stephens, known to his friends as Ras Benjahman, lives in an oasis at his home in Lake Harbor on the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee. His yard bursts with greenery — trees and plants lovingly cultivated into his own private jungle. The upkeep takes time, but the gardening and the daily maintenance of his small farm are welcome toils. He is emphatically fulfilled by the life [...]

The Last Burn Season Video Series: A love letter to the people of Belle Glade

Sugarcane burning leaves communities vulnerable to air pollution, health risks and economic stress. It’s time to forge a meaningful path to a long-overdue solution. Make this the Last Burn Season. “When people come to Belle Glade they don’t fall in love with anything else first, but the people.” — Robert Mitchell Robert Mitchell knows that the true soul of Belle Glade is in the people who live there. From an empty plot of land where his late grandmother once owned a beloved restaurant, Essie Mae’s Cafe, he makes a firm declaration: “We have a saying here in Belle Glade that her soil is her fortune. I’m here to tell you that her soil AND her people are her fortune.” [...]

The Last Burn Season Video Series: “They need to be better neighbors”

Sugarcane burning leaves communities vulnerable to air pollution, health risks and economic stress. It’s time to forge a meaningful path to a long-overdue solution. Make this the Last Burn Season.   “People should be running the government, not corporations.” — Fred Brockman The choice between sending a child to school or keeping them home to protect their health is one that many Floridians experienced for the first time as Covid-19 ravaged the country. Yet, in the Glades communities south of Lake Okeechobee, it’s a dilemma parents have faced for decades. During the 22 years that Anne Haskell taught at Glades Central Community High School, she watched families struggle when sugarcane burning in nearby fields filled the air around the school [...]

The Last Burn Season Video Series: “We’re too sick from the burning of the cane”

Sugarcane burning leaves communities vulnerable to air pollution, health risks and economic stress. It’s time to forge a meaningful path to a long-overdue solution. Make this the Last Burn Season. “Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee is a nice place to raise your kids, and live, and to work and to play. But we’re not able to do that, ‘cause we’re too sick from the burning of the cane.” — Hester Harrell From a hospital bed in Belle Glade, Florida, 53-year old Hester Harrell breathes slowly and deliberately. She’s no stranger to the confinement of these walls, where complications from gastroparesis, diabetes and asthma have frequently landed her over the years. As a Belle Glade native, Hester has lived in [...]

Help us make this The Last Burn Season

We know a picture’s worth a thousand words, and this year Friends of the Everglades has worked to visually chronicle the story of sugarcane burning in Florida. The images, seen here in the carousel above, are alarming. May marked the final days of the 2021-2022 burn season, which began in October. For the last eight months, large plumes of smoke regularly darkened the sky over Glades communities. Smoke and black ash became the regular backdrop for community and family events, encroaching on barbecues, wedding receptions, playgrounds, and roadways adjacent to burning fields. Mounting evidence from ProPublica and The Palm Beach Post’s investigative reporting, and [...]

2022-06-01T13:30:17-04:00May 31st, 2022|Action Alerts, All Posts, Sugarcane Burning|

VIDEO: Let’s make this the Last Burn Season

Colin Walkes painted a stark picture for us today, asking each of us to think what it's like to celebrate a wedding in our backyards as plumes of smoke billow in the background and black ash rains down to rest on a loved one's white dress. Though it may seem unimaginable to some, smoke as a backdrop to daily life is a familiar reality for residents of the Glades communities south of Lake Okeechobee that can last up to eight months of each year. Courageous local leaders have inspired a movement for justice to bring an end to sugarcane burning in favor of safer, sustainable, burn-free harvesting. We are grateful to Colin Walkes, Robert Mitchell and Patrick Ferguson for leading [...]

Everglades Illustrated: Cane burning risks human health

https://youtu.be/_89aQ3YSt-g Watch this video. Orange flames spit through the air as sugarcane leaves are burned from the stalk for harvest. Thick black smoke swirls and a single white bird wings its way above the fire. Florida Forest Service Active Burn Tracking Satellite Map - Feb. 8, 2022 Now look at this map. Each of those cones on the map indicates a sugarcane burn notice happening today and the direction of its plume. Dozens of these burns can happen on any given day from October to May, filling the air of surrounding towns with smoke and soot that can travel miles from the initial burn sites. At greatest risk are the children and the elderly residents of the Glades [...]

2022-02-08T11:38:53-05:00February 8th, 2022|All Posts, Everglades Illustrated, Sugarcane Burning|

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