Endangered South Florida forest will be destroyed in favor of (yet another) shopping center

What does Florida need? Another shopping center of course! You know, one of those stuccoed, concrete mammoths, usually characterized by a ‘flagship’ store or two, some fast food restaurants, the HomeGoods/Marshalls/TJ Max’s of the world, a gym.

Well, thanks to the University of Miami – which recently sold land to Ram, a Palm Beach developer – you’ll soon be able to welcome another one of these shopping center beasts to the Miami-Dade area. Oh, and in order to build it, ‘one of the world’s rarest forests’ and ‘a globally imperiled habitat containing a menagerie of plants, animals and insects found no place else’, must be destroyed, as reported by The Miami Herald. But hey, no big deal. Another run-of-the-mill shopping center filled with stores that exemplify conformity will replace a rare, endangered, one-of-a-kind ecosystem: seems like a totally fair, logical decision to me…

Not.

The intrinsic value of the 88 acres of pine rockland forest due to be destroyed is incomparable. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ‘pine rocklands once dominated the landscape in eastern Miami-Dade County’, but ‘[ecosystem] fragmentation of pine rocklands and their artificial separation from other communities has had very serious effects on both the pinelands and the wildlife that utilize them.’ Many of Florida’s endangered species, including the key deer, bald eagle, eastern indigo snake, Florida panther and at least two incredibly rare butterfly species, depend on this ecosystem. Building a shopping center here and adding to the already rampant habitat fragmentation will only further threaten the ability of species to survive in this endangered ecosystem.

It saddens me that the University of Miami would choose to sell this land, especially given its supposed commitment to forest protection and environmental education. I understand the need to a) raise funds for the university and b) fulfill society’s terrifying obsession with shopping malls, but I have to believe there are better options than what is currently being proposed. It also saddens me that Walmart does not seem to be taking a stronger interest in this. On the one hand, Walmart has made several commendable environmental commitments, including goals related to sourcing organic and sustainable food, reducing their carbon footprint and utilizing renewable energy, but on the other hand, they seem to be turning a blind eye to the impacts associated with this construction.

Enter ‘Miami, Florida’, in Walmart’s store locator site and you’ll get 20 options as results.
Enter ‘Miami, Florida’, in Walmart’s store locator site and you’ll get 20 results.

I’ve been known to frequent a shopping center or two, so I’m not trying to say that these places don’t have some (material, self-indulgent) value, because they do (I guess). But they shouldn’t be built at the expense of Florida’s fragile, unique ecosystems. And we have enough shopping centers already!

With that, I leave you with this map of the 20 current Walmart locations in Miami, all of which I’m sure can fulfill your bargain shopping needs.

For more information and additional commentary on the impacts of this development, check out The Miami Herald, ThinkProgress, and Grist.

 

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