Everglades Day and Majorie Stoneman Douglas- April 7, 2019

Shero. Activist. Inspiration. Legacy.

All words to describe a woman I grew up revering as a modern goddess, in the sense of maternalism for wetlands.

Today, is Everglades Day and more importantly, Majorie Stoneman Douglas’ birthday. I learned about her greatness while in elementary school. Everything I know today about the importance of the Florida Everglades is a combination of living here and reading the work of Majorie.

While in law school, I wrote a paper about restoring the Florida Everglades. Majorie is one of the people who inspired that vision, but also brought to light why we MUST protect this wetland. Today, I would like to honor her by asking you to donate to the Friends of the Everglades Fund. They continue to fight for protection of the wetlands.

The Everglades is a one of a kind ecosystem, found only in Florida. Yes, there are other wetlands. Yes, there are other marshes. However, there is only one Florida Everglades. An ecosystem filled with so much biodiversity. Where the limestone and the aquifers are vital to the survival of Florida’s fresh drinking water. The animals and plant life depend on the restoration of the flow south.

The mangroves of the everglades acts of the first sign of defense when a hurricane wants to make landfall. Those roots are meant to dig deep into the ground and act as a natural barrier. The animals work together to carve the paths of the river and it flows and brings forth all the nutrients for plants and animal to survive.

Rapidly, we have destroyed the Everglades. Taking more and more land for development. By removing more water. Adding invasive plant and animal species which are destroying this once vibrant ecosystem. Lack of water flow from Lake Okeechobee is stifling the “River of Grass”, making it a barren wasteland.

The history stems all the way to the Army Corp of Engineers. I could sit here and talk about their involvement and the fact they destroyed the everglades creating all of these canals for waterfront properties. Also, the other culprits are those involved in “Big Sugar”, which is heavily lobbied here in Florida. Sugar = Poison. Yes, you read that correctly. Did you know the US subsidizes the price of sugar, just like they do gasoline! Mind-blowing. The East Agricultural Area is located right outside of Lake Okeechobee and that is where the water must be restore. Dilemma, that water is tainted and polluted. This is actually also the cause of the lovely Red Tide, I think you’ve heard of it. (The dumping of polluted water of the east and west coast of Florida, pouring into the estuaries. – FYI estuaries is where ALL baby sea life start, great start, poisoned water, but I digress).

What will you do to change your impact? We must stand up and speak to our government. Hold them accountable for the environmental atrocities and reckless negligence forced upon the Everglades.

I am doing my part, now it is your turn!

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Weekly Wisdom Wednesday: Everyday Pollution

Pollution. The definition according to Webster’s dictionary is : “the action of polluting especially by environmental contamination with man-made waste.”

Ah, there’s the key word – “man-made waste”. Everything humans create is not natural to the planet, i.e. pollution. Majority of the products created throughout mankind’s history are not from natural resources. From the inception of humans we have always formed and created tools from either things in nature or now, in a lab or a factory. Many of the items we have grown to become accustom to in our everyday lives are actually the very products that are leading the epidemic of pollution.

For example, plastic water bottles. These items are created for individual, one sale use. The demand for single use items has grown exponentially over the years. however, the demand is not only by the “industrialized nations”, such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and so on and so forth. There is a plethora of single use water bottles in “third world” countries all around the world! Why? Well, if the “better” nations are doing this and leading by example, then we must follow suit. The issue is simple: these items take 450 years (yes, you read that correctly, that is FOUR centuries!)

What is the other problem with plastic water bottles? The amount of oil used to create them! So, we are using a non-renewable resource to create something that will not decompose in any of our lifetimes. Some have said it is roughly over 1.6 million barrels of oil to make plastic water bottles.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is unable to provide a real number for the amount of crude oil that is used to produce plastic. Then whom is responsible for knowing these specific amounts? ( I will do some real legal research and come back and update this post).

The purpose of this post was to show that we are responsible for pollution. Everything that humankind has created is with a single purpose. Once those items have fulfilled their purpose they are literally thrown away! There is not even a thought to repurpose them, recycle them, or reuse them in another fashion. This is for glass, plastic, cardboard, paper, napkins and the list goes on!

Collectively, we need to find a way to reduce the DEMAND for single use items. Imagine a world where all you saw was trash every step you made. Oh, wait… we already live in that world.

Here are some images from my stroll in Port Canaveral, Florida this past weekend. I was abhorred to see the amount of trash I did in every single turn!

 

I was disgusted and disappointed. I could not fathom that I descended from one of the “most” intelligent species to see such disregard for the environment. For those of you that are not familiar with Florida’s geography. Port Canaveral is of course near NASA, but it is also the major Port for cruise vessels. That means the ocean is right there!

Below is an image of my location.

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One of the biggest causes of sea life death, pollution! So, if you are littering all over near the ocean, odds are majority of this trash is going to wind up in the ocean.

What can we do? I will admit, I did not see a lot of recycling or trash receptacles. However, that does not mitigate our duty to do our due diligence and pick up and throw or recycle items!

We only have one planet, please take care of it. If you have any other suggestions or things you have seen work, please feel free to comment!

 

Mentor from Afar, Dr. Jane Goodall

I became enamored with Dr. Jane Goodall as a child, watching her on television. I thought how remarkable her career must be to study animals for a living and traveling the world. Her passion inspired me to want to make a difference in the world. To be the change I wanted to see. She instilled something within that I have since tried to follow.

Dr. Goodall may not even know the impact she has had on my life or my choices, but everything she stands for is what I believe in. She made groundbreaking strides not only for women in a male dominated field, but for animals. The Chimpanzees are very lucky to have an advocate like her in their corner. Dr. Goodall also brings the protection of local and indigenous people into the realm of protection. We must educate the masses on their vital role to protecting wildlife. The local people are very much part of the problem, but also they key to the solution when provided with the proper tools.

Not only is she a brilliant scientist, but a phenomenal world leader. She is known for being a peacemaker around the globe. According to her website, she “travels the world, writing, speaking and spreading hope though action, encouraging each of us to use ‘the gist of our life to make the world a better place’.”

I may not have followed in her footsteps, but I have continued to follow her work. I may not have become the scientist my parents wished, but I instead chose to take the law into my own hands and pursue a career in the protection of the environment and animals.

Many people do not believe they can make a change, but Dr. Jane Goodall is the perfect example of one person “being the change they wish to see in the world.” She is the ultimate “shero”, most definitely one of my idols. My dream is to one day meet her in a world where animals are given rights to exist and coexist with humans. I aspire to one day achieve the incredible accolades Dr. Goodall has over her lifetime as a pioneer in the animal rights community. Thank you for everything you have done, Dr. Goodall. Wishing you the most fabulous 84th Birthday. Here is to many more, and one day meeting you.

One of your biggest fans, Elizabeth ❤

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The End of the White Rhino

What are you going to do to help prevent the extinction of animals? Poaching is not necessary. The horns of these animals are made of the same material as our fingernails and hair. Why is it so coveted throughout the world? If there is no demand then there should be no supply. The people who poach and kill many of these innocent creatures are doing it out of desperation to feed and support their families. They are forced. The extinction problem is a human caused problem.

Humans have an obsession with believing we are indestructible and our actions hold no consequences. Quite the contrary, animals such as the White Rhino coexisted with dinosaurs for millions of years before our existence. We single handily destroyed this species. For what? To exploit their horns and carve designs on them? Supposedly according to ancient culturales they held healing powers. However, we are not as ignorant as our ancestors. We have science that has proven we do not need any of those materials from a Rhino or any other animal such as elephants, tigers, pangolins and more.

We must come together to preserve what is late of the wildlife. Humans created this problem. Now, humans have to solve it.

What will you do to help?

Tolkien in his Natural State

Tolkein in his Natural State
Here, is the love of my life, my furchild, Tolkien. He is part of my inspiration to fight for Animal Rights. I adopted mister handsome, just over two years ago. It was during my last year of law school, which was a difficult time. Law school is extremely stressful, never believe anyone who says otherwise. A lot of my friends, colleagues, bosses and professors thought I was crazy to get an eight and half week old puppy! Actually, I think I was crazy, I’ll post a picture of him as a baby…you’ll see why I caved. Tolkien entered my life at the perfect time. He became my relief from everyday life. He brought happiness to my life in the simplest of ways, by just existing. His silly antics, his obsession with carrying the mail or sticks, and his genuine love for everything. Tolkien was my first puppy (not first dog), but first real puppy. Being so young, I had to train him, learn to be better at a schedule, stay organized (especially for feeding and monthly medicine), and most importantly, FINANCIALLY! Boy, i knew pups were expensive, but every horrible thing you could imagine happened to my little man. He had his peanuts removed at three months, then right after the cone came off, two weeks later- he fractured his knee! (in between we found out he was allergic to the medicine for their eyes when they go under and had goopy stuff oozing for a few days; visit to the ER). I did my due diligence and took him in immediately to the vet. My regular was out, so the other lady who is now referred to as “she-who-must-be-named” x-rayed his leg, but not his knee. For ten days I believed the injury was his ankle, per that “doctor”. Then I got back in for a follow-up after I called because I said he’s still limping. Poor baby was on 23-hour crate rest. How does anyone put a 4 month old puppy on crate rest?! (There was a lot of spoiling during this time). Needless to say, this vet now does the proper x-ray of his knee and sees that is what was fractured, not his ankle! She then tells me he needs immediate surgery..yea, a law student affording surgery. She contacted an orthopedic and he says this dog needs surgery immediately as well, but he costs a lot, however, a non-specialist doctor in the office could do it also..probably. Risks?! Oh, he may have arthritis the rest of his life, limp, and need a pin in his knee. Now, lets explain whats happening in my life, its FINAL EXAMS! So, I am at the end of my loan money, its finals, and now my world needs $2,000 surgery. Okay, cool. I immediately start looking for second opinions. Thank goodness I found someone on short notice that can read the x-ray. They explain everything to me and contact their orthopedic. Guess what….Orlando only has one dog orthopedic! He says ” I recognize this x-ray”. My second opinion doctors, then tell hm the FULL story of the injury, the TEN days that lapsed and then the second x-ray that was taken. Hold up- yea, the first “doctor” aka not my normal vet…NEVER told the orthopedic that Tolkien had gone 10 days no treatment and this was not the initial x-ray. He now says, wait I didn’t know that. This dog has healed for 10days. Do not perform surgery. If he is healing already we could cause more damage if we go in there surgically. (Mind you the first doctor is threatening me I can’t do surgery with the new ones…on principal…” However, once I had the ortho tell me this new information, I made him contact that doctor. Long story short. I prevent my son from unnecessary surgery and poor veterinary care! Also, saved $1,000. I still had to do x-rays every 2 weeks to see how he was healing. Moral of the story- ALWAYS get a second opinion. After he finally healed from all of that he was back to normal puppy life. He is a proven fighter and gives me strength everyday to fight my battles to make this world a better place. We can learn a lot from our animals. Just pay attention and the life lessons that come with them.

What is Animal Law?

When people meet me and ask what type of law do I intend to practice, they are always pretty baffled. I have a true passion for protecting those that are voiceless. Most animals embody the meaning of voiceless. Animals do not have their own voice, their choices are made for them by humans, their actions are chosen by humans, their very existence is controlled by our actions. Animals are more than just “chattel”, ( legal jargon for- property). However, our laws do not protect animals as living sentient beings, they are seen as a means to an end. Ultimately, that end is for the pure purpose of humans and not to lead a full life. A sentient being is a “creature” or mammal that has the capacity to suffer and feel pain, which is all living and breathing creatures.

While I was in law school, I became the President of our “animal law club” properly known as Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF). Being president was not only an honor, but it afforded me opportunities and experiences in the Animal Law realm that I never knew existed. As President, I became very involved and was able to promote more awareness, thanks to the hard work of our national chapter, Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

I wanted to give a proper definition of what animal law actually is. Below is an excerpt from ALDF’s website and I hyperlinked the subsection to their website!

ALDF is one of the pioneering organizations that is responsible for aiding animal liberation around the country. I was very honored to have attended the Animal Law Conference in Portland, Oregon in 2015. Throughout the rest of my blog posts, I intend to elaborate more on Animal Law (as well as Environmental Law) and touch on different facets of the law regarding animals and their treatment. Be sure to stay tuned!

What is Animal Law?

“It’s a combination of statutory and case law in which the nature – legal, social or biological – of nonhuman animals is an important factor. It encompasses companion animalswildlife, and animals used in entertainmentresearch, and raised for food.

It permeates and affects most traditional areas of the law – including tort, contract, criminal, trust/estates, family, environmental, administrative, and constitutional law. Examples of this intersection include: animal custody disputes in divorces and separations, veterinary malpractice caseshousing disputes: “no pets” policies and discrimination laws, damages cases involving the wrongful death or injury to a companion animal, enforceable trusts for companion animals, and criminal law issues, encompassing domestic violence and anti-cruelty laws.”

Again, the above is taken directly from Animal Legal Defense Fund’s website. I will give a more thorough analysis in this post, or a new one! ( I have a huge book from my Animal Law class, as well all the research and work I have done thus far.

As always: peace, love, and world peace ❤

Let’s try something new! Nature Reflection.

As you all know, I am aspiring to be an environmental and animal lawyer. In my Environmental Ethics class one of our assignments is to spend twenty minutes in nature. I’ve done the assignment three times because it is once per week. I have found in that time I really do become one, reflect, and feel my connection with the earth. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve grown to look forward to those twenty minutes. I will now be posting my nature reflections on here. I hope that it inspires you the way it has brought forth new meaning to life for me. (disclaimer: I am not the most amazing at grammar and obviously I am working on it! lol who wants an inept attorney!! lol)

Crash, boom, clang! From clear bright blue skies there was a dramatic change in the wind. Suddenly, there were strong gusts, where one feels almost weightless. Again, crash, boom, clang! The roar of the skies grew stronger as the skies continued to darken. The rush of fear covers my body because I knew I did not want to get wet, but sometimes it is inevitable especially when the oncoming downpour loomed over. I stayed, listening and watching the sky. The ever strikingly bright lightening took over the skies. Watching in awe, thinking to myself how something so beautiful could be so deadly. In the distance I hear the fury of the skies again but it is illuminated once more, as if lighting a path into the unknown. It almost seems impossible to not stand there and continue to gaze upon this wondrous phenomenon. Then it begins. My initial reaction is to run and scream, but I don’t I allow the water to cascade off my skin. The water is cold and piercing, yet welcomed because I have had the pleasure of witnessing something so graceful that it seems I am being blessed by the skies. I smile because there is nothing in this world that can replicate mother nature nor the effects she gives ones’ soul. The spirits connect and there all my worries are washed away and it is just me and rain. It helps to bring forth new life and I give it gratitude for allowing me to be in her presence.

~By: Elizabeth G-Vasquez