Friday, December 16, 2016
Workshop Focuses On Annual Sugar Cane Burns
BELLE GLADE, FL. -- More than 30 residents of Lake Okeechobee’s Glades Communities gathered for the "Stop The Burn!Go Green Harvest! Community Workshop," on December 3, in Belle Glade. Leaders of the Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign team, based in South Bay and Belle Glade, gave a series of presentations about their campaign to end the harmful, outdated practice of pre-harvest sugarcane burning and switch to the burn-free, modern alternative of "green harvesting."
First, workshop host and local team member Steve Messam pointed out that the Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign is not about bashing the sugar industry, but rather influencing it to become a better neighbor to the Glades communities. He emphasized that a good neighbor does not dump its trash in the form of smoke and ash on their neighbors’ property and expect them to deal with the cleanup and health consequences.
Campaign team leader Shanique Scott next presented the negative health effects associated with exposure to sugar cane burning emissions. Studies from other parts of the world have concluded that sugar cane burning contributes to respiratory disease and even cancer. When Ms. Scott asked how many residents and their families personally suffered from respiratory issues such as asthma, the majority of the attendees raised their hands. Ms. Scott also spoke from personal experience about how doctors often recommend to Glades community residents that they move away because the smoke during sugarcane burning season aggravates their respiratory conditions.
Photo: Kina Phillips presenting at the Workshop
Kina Phillips, another local campaign team leader gave a presentation on the environmental injustice of sugar burning. She described the discriminatory nature the of industry's voluntary burn protocols: The protocols prevent sugarcane burning on days when winds blow toward the more affluent residents of eastern Palm Beach County, but provide no such protections when the winds blow toward the poorer, predominantly African American Glades communities in Western Palm Beach County. She highlighted how Glades residents suffer the most from the effects of sugarcane burning while receiving the least amount of protection.