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 

 

Plant a Tree with your Phone!!

www.forestapp.cc

Absolutely love this app!! Whether you’re studying or just need to get a project or work assignment done, this is the best way to not touch your phone!! You are actually able to plant a real tree if you do this enough!! Today is Earth 🌎 Day and I was able to plant a real tree!! Download this app!! It is called Forest. 🌲🌳

Weekly Wisdom Wednesday: Earth Week 2018!

One of the best weeks out of the year! It is a time to celebrate the planet that gives us all life. The planet that nourishes our very existence. To this beautiful planet called Earth, we owe our thanks. Not all planets are able to sustain life, such as ours. We must be grateful for the gifts she has given us.

Take this week as a time to meditate on ways you can help our planet. For she is now dying by our hand. The amount of pollution and destruction we have caused, it is said if we continue on our current path, our planet will cease to exist.

What are some simple things you can do to honor the planet?

  • Plant something!
    • Examples:
      • Plant potatoes if they start to grow roots, you are recycling and growing your own food!
      • Plant the bottom ends of lettuce instead of throwing them out.
      • Plant the tops of a pineapple
  • Host a recycling drive:
    • Have people bring their recyclables to you if they do not have access to recycling. My first apartment complex did not recycle. I would bag up all my plastics and fold all my cardboard and take them to the right place. Just because my apartment did not have a recycling aspect did not mean I was not going to do my part because it was not convenient.
  • Host an event to raise awareness about plastic pollution and how it is harming our environment!
  • Attend a local event at your park on Earth Day, April 22nd, 2018!

 

Be apart of the change!! Save our planet. If you have other great ideas, please share them!

 

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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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?

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

World Ocean Day 2015

Healthy Oceans = Healthy Planet
Healthy Oceans = Healthy Planet

Today is world ocean day, but that day should be everyday. The ocean provides life to so many species and provides so much enjoyment for humans, yet we continue to destroy, pollute, overfish, drill oil, dump waste, test bombs, and so much more. At the rate we are going soon the ocean will no longer be able to sustain any life forms. Think about all that fish you love to eat, or catch and release, or all the animals that have existed before us, but now cease to because of us. I have faith people will change, but I hope it’s not when it’s too late. Also, remember the circle – water evaporates from the ocean, goes into clouds, then creates precipitation… Toxic ocean = toxic rain. Think before you litter. Remember this earth is for us all. If you keep destroying it where are you going to live?

Progress to becoming an Animal Attorney!!

Update!! So, I’ve been slacking on my food posts again! I promise those will be back after mid-April! Currently, working on my Appellant Brief and then Oral Arguments!! Gahhh. More exciting news, I am now President of my law school’s SALDF chapter, which is Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. I am also the new Vice President of the Environmental Law Society! I think it is such an honor to be apart of these organization let alone become an active member of the e-board. SALDF is the law school chapter for the bigger group known as ALDF, Animal Legal Defense Fund. It is a non-profit organization that fights to protect the lives and interests of animals through the legal system! I love being apart of such a great organization to help support the end to abused animals. I can’t wait to bring awareness to more people about animals, animal legislation, and environmental progress. It may not seem that important, but protecting the environment is not only for the animals, but for our future generations. We have to start now to try and protect what we have left and preserve it. As well as educating people to become better habitants of earth. We all share this earth with animals and plants, which need our help! If not we won’t have a planet to give to our kids.

Hopefully, you guys will love al the updates and learning about helping animals and the environment!