written by Sr. Patricia Siemen
Summer begins its unofficial reign here in Florida with the beginning of the rainy season. This is when the humidity rises and the afternoon rain showers soak the Earth—and restore some of the groundwater and Floridian aquifer. It’s not the favorite time for many visitors and residents as one hears people say, “It’s another terrible rainy day.” Interestingly, the day is generally only “terrible” for those of us who don’t want to be inconvenienced with carrying an umbrella! For the rest of the ecosystem—the other animals and plants—it’s a wonderful time of replenishment and restoration.
Here at CEJ, summer invites us to live more deeply from an eco-centric perspective, one that respects the rights of all species and ecosystems to exist and flourish. Indeed, this is challenging. It requires consciously changing the way we think and speak. Language reflects our cultural paradigms and biases. Therefore we strive in our programs and Earth jurisprudence classes, our writing and presentations, our community engagements and advocacy, to advance the essential concept that nature has inherent rights to fulfill its purposes. We understand that our human rights are enveloped within those rights. When our laws and public policies miss this concept they create regulatory systems that continue to prioritize business interests over land health. Implementation of environmental regulations is easily co-opted by economic drivers that seek short term profit rather than long term health.
As we know, the ecological health of Florida did not fare well in this last state legislative session recently concluded in Tallahassee. Delaying comprehensive restructuring of water and springs legislation that would recognize water’s rights to be healthy, and to be freed from significant amounts of nutrient pollution and massive water consumption, does not bode well for Florida’s future. Instead, we envision a campaign that celebrates the beauty of Florida’s waters and fights to protect its diversity. We envision expanding the state’s trustee responsibility, through the public trust doctrine, so that the state has fiduciary duties to protect Florida’s publicly owned land and waters for the common good of future generations of all species.
To claim this vision–one of protecting the beauty and rights of nature—we need the artists and activists, the planners and the lawyers, the engineers and the economists, the seekers of beauty and the people of faith, to continue loving and protecting the natural systems of Florida. As one response, we join with other organizations that are supporting the Florida Water and Land Legacy Conservation Amendment on the ballot this November. Many other responses are possible—and essential, if Florida as we know it and as we envision it is to survive and thrive.
Let us know what steps you are taking to protect and love Florida’s natural beauty—for as Bill McKibben says, “Nature will never be more beautiful than today.”