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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World Wildlife Day 2019

World Wildlife Day 2019
I’m a day late, but yesterday, March 3rd was World Wildlife Day. The United Nations decides to proclaim March 3rd, which is also the day of the convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or Wild  Fauna and Flora. The purpose of World Wildlife Day is to raise awareness of the words beautiful species both plant and animal life. All life is precious. Our world relies on intricate ecosystem that support each other’s existence. It is the ever changing nature and balance between these ecosystems that we see life and purity. Keeping the “wild” protected is safer for the animals, but also for humans. Remove humans from the wilderness and most forms of life will thrive. This years theme is “Life below water: for people and planet”.

Meatless Monday Chronicles: Who Say’s Salads are Boring?!

Okay, I’ll admit it, I hate salads. Yes, I said it!! I was a ballerina for so long that I was forced to eat salads all the time. However, going meatless does not necessarily mean you HAVE to eat them all the time. It does mean that you can make them more fun!

I know I have been away for a while and I apologize if anyone is still out there!! I have another post that will explain my disappearance.

Salads, what do you use for the base? Well, anything that is green and leafy. You can use regular romaine lettuce, ice berg lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, and more yummy greens!!

Now, that you have your base, just sprinkle on the toppings!!

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Base: I used Romaine Lettuce
  • Morningstar Buffalo Chik’n Patty cooked via package directions (this is the only item we are cooking which takes about 20 minutes)
  • Carrots
  • 1 Mandarin (Orange or any other citrus fruit)
  • Strawberries
  • Golden Kiwi ( I did not even know this was a type of of kiwi until last week lol!!)
  • Chia Seeds
  • Walnuts

Dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Agave
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil

Process

  • Cook the chik’n patty
  • Lay down the lettuce (or whatever green of your choice) in your bowl or plate.
  • Peel the mandarins and slice the strawberries
  • Add the walnuts, strawberries, mandarins, chia seeds, carrots and chopped chik’n patty.
  • Combine all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk together.
  • Boooom! Just like that the salad is ready to assemble!!

 

I hope you guys enjoy the salad!! Let me know about any variations you decide wit the salad toppings!! Check out the pictures below!! Happy Meatless Monday!!

 

 

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!!

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: What’s that Quinoa Thing?!

Hey everyone! Sorry for the late start, or late post. It has been one heck of a Monday! I have been a little under the weather, so my food is kind of like comfort food today.

Today,  I used quinoa. I know what is this weird grain thing that all veggie and vegan people eat. I literally put it in everything from, “fried rice”, pancakes, eggs, brownies, I mean pretty much anything. It truly is a fantastic grain. It has a lot of antioxidants, which are great for your skin and fighting free radicals in the body. There is also a lot of protein in this enriched, ancient grain. The ancient people of Peru utilized this grain.

The dark truth of quinoa’s ever growing popularity, is that this food source was once a staple in Peru. However, today this grain now costs more than rice in their country because it is of only high demand in the United States and other more advanced countries. This has hurt the populations because they now lack access to their own natural food source. How do you make the right choice? Look for free-trade brands when you are shopping. It is the best for the environment and the surrounding people. Remember this is all our planet and we all deserve the riches she provides.

Enough of my soap box. What do you do with quinoa?! Well, you can cook it as the package instructs with water. This is best when you are going to use the quinoa for some other purpose. Such as pancakes (I’ll teach this recipe soon!)

For today, I used it in its normal form, a grain or a starch for my meal. Let’s start!

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Quinoa 1 cup
  • Vegetable broth 2 cups
  • 3 big Idaho potatoes (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 tablespoons of a diced onion
  • half a bunch of asparagus

Seasoning for Potatoes (Perfect side as wedges/fries)

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill weed
  • you can always add more if you prefer more flavor!

 

Process:

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees for the potatoes.
  • Cut the potatoes long way to make nice even strips or wedge shape.
  • To prevent from turning brown, place potatoes in a bowl of ice water. This helps remove a lot of starch and helps in the cooking process.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  • Place your wedges on the sheet and add the seasonings.
  • Mix them up with your hands and then throw in the oven for 15 minutes, then flip and return for 15 minutes.

 

  • While the potatoes are cooking let’s move on to the rest.
  • Chop your onion and throw in a medium sized skillet.
  • Peel the carrots and cut on a diagonal and cut the ends off the asparagus.
  • Then rinse the carrots and asparagus.
  • Bring the onion to a nice sauté and then add the rest of the veggies.
  • Meanwhile, in another medium size saucepan. Heat some olive oil.
  • Add the 1 cup of quinoa to the pot and let it get toasted, like you would pasta or rice. Gives it an extra earthy flavor.
  • Then add the 2 cups of vegetable stock. This also adds new flavor to the quinoa, which is a lot like a sponge and absorbs what ever flavors you put in it.
  • Let it boil and then simmer until all the liquid is absorbed.

 

Serve:

  • Throw the quinoa at the bottom of your dish.
  • Add the veggies on top and the potatoes, there is your quick and easy  beginner quinoa meal!!

 

Check out some photos of the process. Let me know what else you like to put quinoa in!

 

 

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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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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.