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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Last Day of Wetlands Month!

Did you know May is called “Wetlands Month”?!

I wish I knew earlier that it was #WetlandsMonth! My entire passion and reason for going to law school is to protect the Everglades. Once, one of the largest wetlands in the state of Florida and in the world!! While in law school I wrote my upper level writing requirement on the everglades and restoring it. In this blog post I will cite to some excerpts from my paper. (DISCLAIMER: Please do not plagiarize. I busted my butt for two years working on it and intend to be published, okay thanks!) Fun Fact: My logo picture is of the Everglades. I went there 3 years ago to get more information on the Everglades and what is being done to protect and restore it.

Being a native Floridian from Miami, the Everglades is very near and dear to my heart, so are the protections for it. Knowing the south Florida continues to destroy the everglades is one of the reasons I decided politics may be where my career lies. Now, I live in Orlando, but who knew my drive for protecting the Everglades would have grown with the physical distance. I actually live in the wetlands in Orlando. Also, the headwaters of the Everglades is located in Kissimmee, Florida. Yes, the Everglades used to encompass more than a third of the state. Now, it barely covers the south eastern portion of the state.

What is a wetland?

A wetland is an area where much of the land is submerged in water or covered in water. It maintains this state for much of it’s duration through out the wet and dry seasons. A wetland is home to an array of animals and plant life. Many of which are not found anywhere else in the world. More specifically, the Everglades was formed over 100,000 years ago! (Book I cite in my paper!)

Purpose of a Wetland

From an ecocentric perspective, it has a right to exist solely for its on inherent value. Meaning, it is natural and should exist on its own. Wetlands are one of the only ecological systems that brings forth various forms of life into one area to coexist. The Florida Everglades is one of the only places where you may find the American Crocodile and Alligator in the same place.

A wetland is one of the key sources of potable (drinking) water. Rain and run off waters seep into the ground through the marshes and then down into the limestone. This is the purest form of cleaning pollutants and contaminants out of the water. This beautifully, naturally filtered water eventually ends up in our aquifers. An aquifer is underground layer of permeable rock, which essentially acts as holding tank for water. (Over the years the water table has been dredged by huge conglomerates in processing bottled water. (I’ll go off that tangent another day).

Pretty much, wetlands act as a natural sponge to soak up all contaminants and then create purified drinking water! So, why are we destroying it?!

Destroyers of the Everglades: Big Sugar and Corporations

Again, these are people who have no regard for the sanctity of nature to just exist. Further, they have only one goal: money.

Big Sugar, refers to the huge lobbying industry in the state of Florida. A lot of the agricultural land near Lake Okeechobee is owned by sugar cane farmers. They are heavily subsidized by our government! Why? Obesity. (again, another tangent). The East Agricultural Area, is all sugar land. Much of this run of water from the pesticides and over use of phosphorus end up in the lake. The lake once connected tot he beautiful “River of Grass”, but has stopped. There are many proponents to release the headwaters back from Kissimmee, but the issue is the pollution.

IF those waters are released from the lake the will transfer polluted water into what is left of the wetlands. High levels of phosphorus allow for invasive plant species to thrive. Additionally, these high volumes are too much for the depleted wetland to clean. This also creates algae build up, which in turn blocks oxygen in the water. No oxygen, then the plant and animal life begin to suffer. Thus, creating a catastrophic chain of events. Single handily we are destroying an entire eco-system that existed long before humans ever “conquered” these lands.

What will you do to help protect our innocent Wetlands? Remember, Florida is not the only place with wetlands, they are found all over, but are being destroyed at an alarming rate by human sprawling and the need to create farms everywhere…for profit.

Profits will not protect the environment, nor will it prevent destruction of innocent sentient beings throughout the world. Will you be a part of the solution? To protect, preserve and restore!!

Elusive Ghost Crab

The Elusive Ghost Crab
Probably my favorite creature on the shoreline. I absolutely love crabs! They are the cutest thing running across the beach, sideways. Have you ever notice tiny holes on the beach when you arrive early morning right before sunrise? Crabs are pretty active in the early hours, mainly because their main predators, birds cannot see them as easily. They tend to burrow into their holes. They are very shy and easily frightened. I had to stay pretty far to get a picture of this one. I am a huge proponent of beach clean ups. This little ‘fella’ was out while I was cleaning the beach with fellow law students. Beach clean ups are one of the best ways to give back to the earth and then being able to spend the rest of the day enjoying what nature has to offer. Whether it is finding crabs, watching birds dive into the ocean. Seeing, jellyfish, turtles or other fish in the water and even the rare stingray if you are lucky! I would never trade the ocean life. There are a multitude of creatures that can be found at the beach.Just remember to respect their space and admire them from a distance. They are just as afraid of us as we are of them.

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?

My First Experience in a Winter Wonderland

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I finally got to experience snow, at the young, ripe age of 27! Being a native Floridian, I never got to experience snow. Snow is a mesmerizing form of science. Frozen water. Maybe it is because I have never experienced snow, that I am able to appreciate it in all this natural awe. This is picture from February 2017 in Brattleboro, Vermont. This is a creek in the backyard of the house we were visiting.

I simply found myself just standing outside and experiencing my surroundings through my senses. Feeling the cold air as the wind cascaded against me. Smelling snow for the first time, is quite like smelling rain, they have their own distinct smells. Staring at the icy creek, wanting to stand out, but knowing that with enough force the ice could break through. Giving you that exhilarating sensation of the unknown. Listening to every footstep as the snow crunches beneath your feet. Most importantly, just being able to see snow and realizing that it is exactly like every book, picture or movie you have ever encountered describing snow. It simply is breathtaking.

In Memory of Stephen Hawking

Today is a day that will forever be remembered in our history, one of the greatest minds to have existed in out time has passed away. Against all odds he accomplished what many have dreamed. World renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking passed away today at the age of 76. He was more than a scientist, he was an inspiration. He did not let his illness or disability be a hinderance to his life’s work or to making great accomplishments throughout his career.

Professor Hawkins was diagnosed at the age of twenty-two with a rare disease , motor neuron disease. He was a cosmologist, astronomer, mathematician, and author of many books. His most famous book is, “A Brief History of Time”.

One of his famous quotes, “It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next 100 years, let alone next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let’s hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load.” I have to agree, we are the caretakers of our planet and we have not treated her well over the years. It is only a matter of time before we bring about complete destruction. It is now we must begin to make an impact on ourselves and the future of our planet.

Philosophical Moment: Just Stop and Listen

Have you ever just stopped to listen to the sounds all around you? To inhale and exhale the scent of the earth? Yes, the earth has a unique smell. In the morning, when the ground is full of dew, there is a certain scent. Then as the day wears on and the sun is beating down, there is a different more neutral scent. At dusk and nightfall, the earth yet again, smells different with the coolness of the air.

As the morning comes, the earth is stirring during feeding time for most creatures. Listening to birds as they sing to each other. Right now it is Spring in Florida. I am lucky enough to live in an area where we have “woods” in the back. In the rainy season there is a creek that forms and we get to see turtles, frogs in every stage of life, to predatory birds, babies that are bunnies, birds, small fish, and so much more. On my runs, with Tolkien of course, we spot eagles soaring above us. They are indeed majestic.

When I run, I use that time to reconnect with nature. I block out everything from the day, all the stress of the modern world. I just allow myself to literally become one with nature. I find myself just as inquisitive as my pup, as we go on trails. We both look for alligators (duh, it is Florida), in the canals, or different fish and even snakes! This is time to listen to the wind as it moves through the trees. I’ll get all “Pocahontas” for a minute…I do “Listen to the colors of the wind” and (“Listen with your heart” is tattooed on me). Something about the meaning behind that song has always resonated with me since I was a child. It is a beautiful story the earth has to speak to us, we just have to listen.

Even with the cars on the street driving by as we run, it is easy to tune them out and just focus on my breathing and what the earth has to offer. When I listen to the sounds of the wind, rustling of the leaves on the ground, the crunching of sticks and brush by animals hidden from sight, it brings a sense of awareness. We are not alone. Other sentient beings exist and live among us. It is very easy to forget that in our mundane lives. Just because you have a pet, it does not equate to connecting with your inner soul and the earth. Most of our animals are our family and are given a sense of privilege already, so they do not count.

Take at least one day a week to go outside and just, listen. Listen to the sounds of the earth. If you do not live somewhere where you can just go in your yard, then go to the park, beach, river, lake, forest, whatever natural area you can find. Take a notebook, and just sit and listen. Write down what you hear.  Write down how you feel. Is there a new sense of self? Sense of awareness? Awareness of yourself or of other things? Sense of peace and harmony? I would love for you all to come back and write on this post and share what you experienced. It is amazing what one day in nature can do for your sanity, hectic life, and just a self-love project.