Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis published a new autobiography this week that details his political ascent and offers a glimpse into his views on environmental issues.
The new book, “The Courage to Be Free,” comes as DeSantis is widely expected to launch a 2024 presidential campaign, setting up a potential primary brawl between the second-term Florida governor and his former ally, ex-President Donald Trump.
The wide-ranging political autobiography provides new details about how DeSantis views environmental issues ranging from hurricane recovery and water quality to the climate-conscious investment movement DeSantis derides as “woke capital.”
Here are six takeaways on environmental issues:
DeSantis’ pitch on hurricane recovery: ‘This is Trump country’
DeSantis recounts how Hurricane Michael ripped through the state less than a month before he was elected as Florida’s governor in the fall of 2018. He went to Washington to meet with then-President Trump to ask the federal government to pay an additional share of the cleanup costs.
“These are good folks in northwest Florida, and they are as resilient as anyone could be expected to be under these circumstances, but they are overwhelmed with the destruction. This is Trump country — and they need your help,” DeSantis recalled telling the president in his book.
“They love me in the Panhandle,” Trump told DeSantis, according to the book. “I must have won 90 percent of the vote out there. Huge crowds. What do they need?” Trump told DeSantis that the federal government would increase its share of the recovery costs, DeSantis recalled.
Trump’s then-chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, “pleaded” for 24 hours to “run the traps” before DeSantis made the announcement, DeSantis wrote. Mulvaney hadn’t called DeSantis within 24 hours, he wrote, so DeSantis held a press conference announcing that Trump had approved additional federal support. “According to my chief of staff, the White House was not pleased with the press conference,” DeSantis wrote.
Teddy Roosevelt shoutout
As governor, DeSantis wrote, “I recognized that I had a great opportunity to usher in a new era of environmental stewardship that would benefit the state for decades to come.”
He hoped that his leadership, he added, “would also demonstrate a way for Republicans to reclaim the GOP’s historic attentiveness to matters of conservation going back to Theodore Roosevelt.”
‘Alarmism about global warming’
DeSantis slammed Democrats’ approach to climate change.
It seemed to him, he said, that “Democrats had largely ignored issues that had a direct effect on people’s ability to enjoy the natural environment, such as the quality of the water, in favor of alarmism about global warming, which served as the pretext for massive social engineering.”
DeSantis is known for discussing resilience and water quality, but generally eschewing the terms “climate change” and global warming. “I am not a global warming person. I do not want that label on me,” he said in 2018 (Greenwire, Nov. 21, 2022).
He sees himself as a clean water champion
The Florida governor does like to talk about the Everglades and water quality, and those were frequently mentioned topics in his new book.
“Our waterways are the bread and butter of our state,” DeSantis wrote in his book. “By focusing attention on environmental issues that directly impacted the quality of life of the people of Florida, I know that I could galvanize a lot of support for a significant agenda.”
Trump told him the Army Corps ‘is the worst’
Before he took office, DeSantis wrote, he flew to Washington to meet with Trump. His goal: to convince Trump to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to manage Lake Okeechobee “in a more balanced manner” to improve water quality.
“Mr. President, I need your help regarding the discharges of algae-laden water from Lake Okeechobee,” DeSantis recalled telling Trump.
“What do you want, money?” the president asked. DeSantis told him yes, eventually, but he was hoping for immediate help with the Army Corps.
Trump’s response, according to DeSantis: “‘Oh, the Army Corps is the worst,’ he thundered. ‘I mean, they are good people, but they have the worst red tape in the entire government!’”
Trump said he’d see what he could do, DeSantis recalled, and the Army Corps changed the way it handled the lake.
He slammed ESG and ‘woke capital’
DeSantis, a prominent critic of the environmental, social and governance movement, said that on his watch, Florida has become a “model in recognizing the threat posed by woke ideology’s capture of institutions at the commanding heights of society.”
The “movement for environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG),” he wrote, “is an attempt to impose ruling class ideology on society through publicly traded companies and asset management. By taking on woke capital, we in Florida have recognized the perils of public power being wielded by private entities that are unaccountable to the electorate.”