Florida: So Long, and Thanks for All the Dead Fish

David Friedlander
3 min readOct 3, 2022

For about 30 years, a large portion of my family and I descended upon Longboat Key, a small holiday enclave on Florida’s west coast. For 30 years — until I cut that part of the family out of my life — I endured trips to this area, whose charms were limited to relative wintertime warmth and white sand beaches, which have recently been covered by red tide-killed fish.

A combination of warm waters and fertilizer runoff into the Gulf of Mexico has caused Red Tides, killing massive amounts of fish, which blanket Florida’s famous beaches.

Unfortunately, Longboat is not my only experience with Florida. Like many, I was taken to Disney World and Epcot as a child. My childhood enthusiasm for Disney parks was replaced by adolescent revulsion after visiting them at 16 — old enough to notice the entire place was a child-indoctrinating billboard for multinational corporations: Tomorrowland PeopleMover brought to you by Enterprise Rent-A-Car; Spaceship Earth brought to you by Siemens; and so forth. During my marriage, I visited my ex’s folks on the east coast — Boynton Beach, to be precise. Boynton, like Boca, Orlando, and most Florida towns is a former-swampland developed to satisfy the greed of opportunistic real estate investors, and provide storage facilities for the country’s seniors and tax-dodging businesses.

Drawn in by cheap real estate and low taxes, Florida’s population has steadily grown despite its position as one of the U.S.’s most climate vulnerable areas. 55+ Communities with undifferentiated real estate (right), mostly serving East Coast retirees, blankets a good portion of Florida’s inland. Generally built on top of wetlands, these developments and rely on lakes and drainage canals to mitigate flood risk — ones that will be increasingly overfilled as storms become more frequent and intense.

I detest almost everything about Florida: its muggy weather, flat topography, nonexistent culture, theme parks, and Ponzi real estate economics. And oh, I detest Publix — that place sucks. So when the state was recently blasted by Hurricane Ian, it failed to elicit much grief.

Hurricane Ian, unlike many previous storms, seems to have registered as a legitimate threat to Floridians.

My lack of sadness was only matched by my lack of surprise. Last year, I wrote a post for my startup Change Order Group’s blog called “Top 5 Large American Cities That Will Be Destroyed By Climate Change.” On top of the list was Miami and South Florida, including the west coast cities like Tampa, Sarasota, Naples, and Longboat Key. For some time, climate experts have foretold Florida’s descent into the Atlantic Ocean, and for some time Florida politicians, real estate developers, and residents have ignored the warnings, continuing to invest, build, settle, and move to a doomed state.

The experiment that is Florida is about to end, as climate forces will destroy infrastructure and properties faster than they can be sold or rebuilt. According to The Tampa Bay Times:

In the last two years, more than 400,000 Floridians have had their [home insurance] policies dropped or nonrenewed. Fourteen companies have stopped writing new policies in Florida. Five have gone belly-up in 2022 alone. The record, set after Hurricane Andrew’s devastation, is eight in one year.

The inability to insure individual homes will be mirrored by large developments, which will be unable to secure the underwriting — and thus financing — for the construction of glass towers on South Beach’s disappearing coast and 55+ communities in flood-prone bogs. The U.S.’s third most populous state and fourth largest economy will crash like storm surge waves.

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David Friedlander

Pondering the future, today. Housing, health, and lots of other stuff.