Sponsored: Meet the Man Hell-Bent on Saving Florida's Most Endangered Waterway - Modern Farmer

Sponsored: Meet the Man Hell-Bent on Saving Florida’s Most Endangered Waterway

Toyota and VICE are saluting the unsung heroes of the sustainable world. Here, meet a man fighting to save a dying lagoon - and an entire way of life.

Photography Lina Plioplyte

Mysterious toxic algae have overtaken Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, a 156-mile estuary that’s become a near wasteland. The blanket of noxious, blue-green sludge is doing more than killing nearly all of the lagoon’s sea grass, fish, and mammals. It’s killing jobs, tourism, the community, and a time-honored bond with the water. The near demise of this once thriving waterway can be traced to the epic struggle of man, nature, industry, and government. It’s a tale worthy of Melville, told by an unlikely protagonist, Riverkeeper Marty Baum, a sixth-generation Floridian, former fisherman, and modern-day Sisyphus.

Marty Baum is executive director/riverkeeper of Indian Riverkeeper.org, the local grassroots environmental organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the waters of North America’s most diverse estuary: South Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, home to more than 3,000 aquatic species. One of more than 240 waterkeepers and riverkeepers in The Waterkeeper Alliance, Marty’s world view is crystal clear: We have the right to clean water, and government is entrusted to protect our waterways for the use and enjoyment of the public. When government fails, it is the right and responsibility of citizens to enforce environment laws and protect our right to clean water.

That failure is certainly evident in the Indian River Lagoon, with plenty of finger-pointing to go around. The pernicious algae booms may have originated from billions of gallons of water discharged from the federally owned and operated Herbert Hoover Dike, or from broken septic tanks flooding the water, or from agricultural runoff from nearby sugar fields. But there are more possible culprits: Local cattle pastures go unchecked; manufacturing is poorly regulated; private fertilizer use is rising. In response to the crisis, Florida’s governor declared a state of emergency in 2016 – but no dollars were allocated in the state’s budget for a cleanup.

All of this makes Marty Baum fighting mad. But the operative word here is fighting, because he’s long been determined not to stand by and let the destruction continue. Marty is on the water every day, tracking blooms; investigating pollution, dumping, and fish kills; and monitoring water quality. On land, he’s been suing the government since 2002, demanding stronger regulations and protections, and advocating for public policy and community activism that benefit the well-being of the lagoon and its watershed.

As his story reveals, in working to protect and restore the Indian River Lagoon’s legacy, Marty Baum is building a brilliant legacy of his own.

The Legacy of the Prius Prime

“Prime” comes from the Latin “primus” – first among equals. By naming its latest Prius model the Prime, Toyota signals that it’s the most technologically advanced vehicle in the model’s nearly two-decade global history.

What makes the all-new Prime first-in-class? Meticulous attention to detail. The Prime’s cutting-edge, lightweight materials, combined with its advanced hybrid technology, work harmoniously to enhance performance with maximum efficiency – an EPA-estimated 133 MPGe.* But a car must also inspire, which is why equal attention has been paid to Prime’s style, convenience, and comfort. The result? A vehicle worthy of its legacy… and a tribute to all those who aspire to change the world for the greater good.

To learn more about, visit www.toyota.com/priusprime

*2017 Prius Prime EPA-estimated combined MPGe. Actual MPGe will vary depending upon driving conditions, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, and other factors. Battery capacity will decrease with time and use. For more information, see www.fueleconomy.gov.

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