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 the “tri-city area,” encompassing Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay, most of her life. It’s a community she loves. She raised her children here and continues to live in Pahokee with her daughter and two grandchildren.
Yet she feels certain there are specific factors that worsen her conditions. With frustration, she describes the black smoke that wafts over the Glades communities six to eight months of the year as almost half a million acres of sugarcane is burned before harvest. There are days when she can’t put her emergency inhaler down. She carries it with her everywhere, using it as often as five times a day to keep her asthma at bay. One granddaughter is now plagued by the same breathing condition.
Hester’s tired of living like this. She’s angry that more hasn’t been done to improve conditions for residents that live as neighbors to multi-million dollar sugarcane corporations. She dreams of a future with safe, clean air.
That’s a future every Florida resident deserves — and Hester’s story illustrates why Friends of the Everglades has locked arms with Glades community residents demanding an end to sugarcane burning.
Watch Hester’s story.