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: Say ‘NO’ to Straws

Straws, what are they? They are small tubular items that are used to drink out of various glassware, bottles, cups, and array of other drinking apparatuses. I will say the inventor of the modern day straw, Marvin Stone, probably did not realize the impact straws would have on the environment. As time progresses so did the manufacturing of the modern straws. They were no longer paper, but soon became…plastic.

The plastic straw has become more of an environmental epidemic. These are single use, disposable items. We literally use straws in practically every facet of our lives. I, being a germaphobe, preferred the idea of drinking out of a straw at a restaurant because I did not believe the glasses were ever clean enough. However, as I age, I realize no matter how much of a germaphobe I am, I cannot justify the use of the plastic straw anymore.

Straws are used EVERYWHERE! Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, Burger King, Paneras, hotels, gas stations, restaurants (big and small), small businesses, school events, movie theaters, theme parks, bars, and the list goes on! Can you imagine how many straws are used a day and thrown out!? According to National Park Services U.S. Department of the Interior, “Americans use 500 million drinking straws everyday.” This number does not even sound real. Now, realize that is just in America. That does not even include the rest of the world!

STRAW PROBLEM:

The problem with straws is that they are not biodegradable. They are a single use disposable item that litter the earth. They do not decompose in a timely manner. These items are polluting our planet at an alarming rate. Most recycling plants cannot process straws because they are too small for their machines.

Human Problem:

Not all home recycling areas actually collect straws. If you do throw your straws in, guess what? You could be contaminating all of your recyclable materials!

Also, as Earth911 so eloquently put it, “Straws are small and lightweight, meaning they will take up a negligible amount of space in a landfill. Many people use this thinking to justify using and throwing them away, but the waste will definitely add up.” This is the sad, sad truth. We are responsible! I know we are all guilty of this, but the issue is not just one person is being negligent. It is an entire population of humans, assuming others are doing the “right thing” so, they justify their bad behavior and still continue to toss out their non-disposable straws.

Wildlife Problems:

Straws are one of the most common items found on beaches, oceans, rivers, forests, springs, roads, gutters …need I say more? Straws are apart of the degradation of our planet.

Most importantly, they are harming innocent wildlife. These creatures have no control over what we do to the planet. They are the innocent bystanders, suffering irreparable harm. Straws are one of the most common items found lodged in the nostrils of turtles. When they are removed you can see blood coming from these animals. This impairs their breathing and ability to survive. See the video below from Plastic Pollution Coalition. 

 

Solution:

Say NO to straws. Do not use straws when you are out in public. I no longer use straws at restaurants. I, Lizzie, the germaphobe, drink out of glasses. (Side note, I try to avoid eating out as well…that is a bigger and different problem for the planet).

While at sporting events, bars, hotels, wherever, I try and bring my own bottle or reusable bottle. If those are not allowed, then I bring with me reusable straws!!! There is an awesome new straw that was on Kickstarter known as FinalStraw and it is a collapsable straw that fits on your keychain!! The game has changed. Now, it is your turn to make a difference in the planet.

 

 

Everyone should make the pledge!! Go to www.onelessstraw.organd sign the pledge!! Today I did!! (Actually I did April 19th, 2018.) Aluminum straws are a great alternative to plastic straws. Plastic straws end up all over the environment. They are difficult to recycle and majority wind up in landfills or the oceans. They are extremely harmful to wildlife. Please take the time to boycott companies that use straws, say no to straws at restaurants, buy reusable straws!! 

 #onelessstraw #1lessstraw#bethechange #saveourplanet #freedomandpreservationofthewild #saynotosraws 

 

Meatless Monday Chronicles: Butternut Squash Soup!

I am still figuring out this whole blog website thing…however, I want to create a recipe corner! (Just not sure how to make the menu thingy work). I am always concocting new creations. I have been obsessed with the kitchen since I was five. My mother said the first thing I learned was to push the dining chair into the kitchen and get to the counter. She would catch me peeling and stuffing boiled eggs in my face.

Then elementary school summer break came along, guess who loved reading books of all kinds?! Yup, cookbooks too. Very first, unsupervised thing I made was fudge. Boy was it delicious! My mom was impressed, yet terrified because I was cooking and boiling hot sugar…of course, I did not do that unsupervised again. I did learn to be really messy in the kitchen, which did not go so well with mom either. What can I say, I live by organized chaos! (I’ve learned to clean more haha).

My inspiration for this recipe is my mom. She has been vegetarian for over 30 years, maybe longer. As I got older, I perfected meat dishes for my dad (do not cook meat anymore), but I wanted to create unique things for my mom too. So, I combined a lot of my favorite orange things and thus called it soup!! Yup, as creative as it gets sometimes lol.

My mom is from the beautiful small island of Trinidad and Tobago, so, making a “Butternut Squash Soup” was definitely not a normal thing, but she was excited to try it! I have been making it the same ever since!

# of ingredients: 5

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Butternut Squash (1/2 pound)
  • Sweet Potatoes (2 medium size)
  • Carrots (3, peeled)
  • Veggie Stock (homemade or store bought – 3 cups)
  • Olive Oil Spray (or mister if you have one)

 

Directions:

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cut the butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots into similar size chunks.
  • Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
  • Place all the orange veggies on the sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  • Use a long wooden skewer to pierce the veggies. If it goes through, they are ready to come out of the oven.
  • Heat a pot with 1 1/2 cup of veggie stock and bring to a boil.
  • Add all your veggies, (here, you can add some other fresh veggies like onion or fennel to give a different flavor!)
  • Bring to a nice simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Turn the stove off, and get your blender ready! I have a NinjaChef, which was an awesome Christmas present!
  • I used the soup setting first and yes it will look like small lumpy mashed veggies, that is okay!
  • Don’t forget that reserved vegetable stock! Start to add that liquid to your veggies to help them move around the blender.
  • I do it in half portions to not exceed the “hot liquid” warning and to ensure smooth soup texture!
  • Once, all has turned into mush, add the last 1/2 cup of vegetable stock to the blender and put on the puree setting!
  • It is like magic, no more mushy, just silk smooth soup!
  • You can store in a freezer proof container for up to a month! I always divide my portions for lunch, dinner, and a lazy day in the future, i.e. freezer.

Below are some pictures from my Meatless Monday Chronicles! Tune in next week for another fun creation!

Remember, there is nothing to being an amazing home chef! Healthy meals are quick, simple, and low maintenance ingredients, they also do not have to break the bank!

Notice, there was no salt or sugar in this recipe! You get all the natural sweetness from the sweet potatoes and the carrots. Also, the butternut squash gives you amazing flavor and texture. This is a sure fire healthy meal, whether you are on a diet, trying to be vegetarian or vegan, or just want to try something new!

 

Hope you enjoy!! Come back for more Meatless Monday Chronicles!!

 

~Elizabeth Gosein-Vasquez

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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Amongst the Hustle and Bustle…Life is Created

Even with the constant movement in our mundane lives, life is being created. Spring is the time of rebirth. For all the beautiful plant life and vegetation, the sun is out longer and new plants have a chance to blossom. With the revival of the fauna, it is also time time for LIFE!

In our little yard, we noticed some perfectly made holes in our fence post. Of course, we thought woodpeckers! Interestingly enough, it was definitely birds, but not the ones we thought. We have in our fence post multiple holes in multiples posts and they all seem to be form the same birds! They have blue upper bodies and a red breast area. They are called Eastern Bluebird. If you click on the link you can see the type of bird I am referring too, unfortunately, I did not catch any good photos of the birds, but I see them everyday!

However, I have pictures of something even more precious. Important Note: Never touch wild eggs or wild babies. The parents will no longer recognize the scent and they will then abandon their eggs or young. This is a common problem of humans always feeling the necessity to touch what does not belong to them.

When we took our picture, we made it quick and brief and did not linger long so or scent would not perfume the air. The parents kept a safe distance as we captured a quick photo! Do you see the beauty?! Five beautiful small colored eggs, you could not ask for a more special Easter Surprise! We can’t wait to see the little birdies learn to fly. ❤ Happy Easter!!

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.