How to Become a Dynamic Activist for a Good Cause in One Easy Lesson
In a blog on Pure Ocean TV.com last week, Kendrick Chittock, who is studying in New Zealand, introduced us to the Maori concept of “kaitiakitanga”. Roughly translated, it is “local stewardship of places with ecological and spiritual value”. Native Americans had a similar understanding of the natural world and considered knowledge of the ways of nature . . . weather, plants. animals, and the heavens, as valuable academic wisdom. I suppose that in today’s modern culture there are those of us who feel the same way. It is wise to recognize the value of the beauty and health of our real natural resources. We hope to preserve and protect as much as we can. Kendrick Chittock joined Capt. Rodney Smith (previous blog) in a commitment to get involved. He encouraged us to all do the same.
I am all for that! Where do we start? Here it is in one easy lesson.
I went to a city council meeting. It doesn’t matter which town. It borders the Indian River Lagoon near the Sebastian River in Florida. It is a sleepy little place . . . or was. They have done a good job of turning their waterfront into a park, supporting the arts with zoning and festivals, and luring more visitors to stop and enjoy the ambiance of the classic little Florida town. The riverfront rows of restaurants and shops, the quaint village, and the landscape seem to be recovering well from the damage done by two direct hits by major hurricanes and the faltering economy.
Developers managed to build the equivalent of a major suburb around the little town before the real estate and building collapse. I often wondered who would buy all of these houses that were commissioned by speculators from every part of the globe. My suspicions about the flimsy, over-priced “units” were real. Most of the buyers were over-extended. So were most of the developers. With the crackdown on illegal labor (modern slavery), it became impossible to finish projects at “pre-construction” prices or by deadline. It all came to a screeching halt.
This is just a lull in our cycle of boom and bust around here. Watch. Soon they will be back at it.
Meanwhile, we are trying to take advantage of the situation. Our enemy, destructive development and degradation of the natural environment, has been stopped . . . almost. While those forces are regrouping for the inevitable massive assault, we have an opportunity to go on the offensive to defend what we hold dear. We labor for public awareness and regulations that will protect, preserve, and restore clean water, shoreline and the diverse, unique habitats that make Florida such a special place.
Florida is not alone in this. Everyplace on earth has attributes. We are taking our stand here, and we hope you join us in our regional approach, no matter where you live.
I was there with Capt. Rodney Smith from Anglers For Conservation (AFC). I will include a link to their website. I asked Rodney to drag me along. He was a key player in our grassroots effort to amend the state constitution and outlaw gill nets (destructive fishing practice). I worked hard and helped out, while Rodney spent a tremendous amount of time and money out of pocket to organize, influence and direct much of the effort. He has a knack for bringing princes and paupers together at the same table. He was now scheduled to speak to the town council about fertilizer. It is not a joke, or an insignificant matter to poo poo with party politics.
We have a problem. The St. Augustine grass that everyone is conditioned to, requires tons and tons of, chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and constant watering to stay lush, green and immaculate. Add in agriculture, industry, and thousands of square miles of black top and drainage systems. Now, you have a cocktail of chemicals, organic contaminates, road run off (petroleum, etc.), and nasty stuff of every sort gushing into the Indian River Lagoon estuary system and the porous aquifer.
This year, intermittent heavy rains and everything else came together to produce the most catastrophic algae bloom since Scots/Irish “Crackers” started cracking their corn on the bluffs. You heard that we had a fish kill. What we really had was a seagrass kill. The algae choked it out. This is alarming! Almost every species of inshore and offshore creature spawns, and starts life in the underwater jungle. Pelagic fish depend on the ocean bound food source. The water quality has steadily been declining for years. Now, the “Indian River” may be dying.
It was time for the town to set their local ordinances on what can be sold, distributed and applied. The political process requires patience to endure. I thought about the entire body of activists around today. They are almost all stuck in the embryonic stage of their pet movements. No, thanks . . . I don’t want to sleep in the park or shoot a gun in the air . . . been there, done that. Within ten years, all but two people will sell out to corporate or mainstream. Those two dedicated holdouts will still be sleeping in the park and eating at the Daily Bread Mission.
If you want to affect real, positive change that benefits everyone, it can’t be done by ramping up emotion. There is too much work left to do when the hub-bub dies down. Forget radical rhetoric and violence. Why create bitter, eternal enemies to oppose your cause? Why chance innocent blood on your hands? If you are willing to die, then surely you should be willing to work. I suppose dying is easier.
Listen, youngsters. I don’t need to quote another scholar. I have been hip since hip was hep. Here is how you change the world.
First, you have to sit through the excruciating formalities of the opening minutes. Government officials relish protocol. Then, you agonize through the city business, including the details of their new insurance options under the Federal Health Care Plan. You may have several zoning exceptions and other issues to sit through . . . plans for memorials or more parking for the new pavilion. You must struggle to maintain consciousness while insignificant groups with heartfelt concerns for petty matters give lengthy, passionate speeches. The uncomfortable seats are a big help to keep you awake.
I was proud of Rodney and the others who spoke out when their time finally came. What it boiled down to was the chemical companies, turf association, and application service providers versus the people. I was appalled that industry friendly speakers seemed willing to skew the truth. If not, they are frightfully ignorant and misinformed. The first deflection was when they feigned concern for water quality. One of the most influential spokesmen called the conservationist’s studies and data “bad science”. I remember the same hoop-da-la from gill net advocates, opponents to manatee laws and supporters of offshore drilling.
The industry representatives held up a state model of fertilizer regulation, that was heavily influenced by paid lobbyists, as the ideal guideline for community ordinances. Hey, it isn’t a law, but we are trying to change that, too. It is bogus. The one, token Florida “Cracker” on the city council aimed a few loaded questions that went off in the face of the representative from the turf industry. She caught him in a quick “Mohammad Ali” shuffle over phosphate and nitrogen levels. She knew that there is so much phosphate in the soil, that none need be added. Anymore at all is pure excess. The turf guy tried to play off the fact that their fertilizer is the main culprit in the algae bloom, and she knocked him out with local wisdom.
Should we be motivated by profits alone? What drives a person to accumulate too much, and deny others? The fact is, some of us need to reduce our intake and increase our outflow to others. Do we need laws for that?
So, for you budding activists . . . writing about federal politics, international issues, and macro theory on the internet will get you nowhere fast. Twittering on your way to the next rally is neurotic. Revolution? Settle down and think.
No matter who you are, or where you live, it starts at home. Get involved with local issues and people you know. Be tough, but not disruptive. It will grow from there. Nurture your cause. Most of the work will be left to do after the emotion subsides. Don’t let depression set in. Keep moving, but don’t waste time or energy. True revolution has nothing to do with control of the military. It has do with attitude and respect for your cause. I don’t care who or where you are . . . do right and excel in your community and region. People everywhere will take note.
People are starving for good, responsible, honorable, ethical, competent leadership.
Feed them well.
ECOSCAPE DAY – a good place to start
Website of Anglers For Conservation : http://www.anglersforconservation.org/