How to Become a Dynamic Activist for a Good Cause in One Easy Lesson

by Chip Curry

“Crane Creek Netters” – Acrylic by WD Curry 111 (prints available)

In a blog on Pure Ocean, 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 have 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 American culture there are some who feel the same way. It is wise to recognize the beauty and value of our true natural resources. We hope to preserve and protect as much as possible. Kendrick Chittock joined Capt. Rodney Smith in a previous blog to commit 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 attended a city council meeting. It doesn’t matter which town, the lesson is the same. 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 from direct hits by two 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. The crackdown on illegal labor made it impossible to finish projects at “pre-construction” prices or by deadline. Predatory lending, the bloated market, rampant overbuilding, and shady financial practices combined for a “perfect storm” of economic disaster. 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.

Photo by Chip Curry

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 will join us in our regional approach, no matter where you live.

I was there with Capt. Rodney Smith from Anglers For Conservation (AFC). 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 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 scheduled to speak to the town council about fertilizer – not an insignificant matter to poo poo with party politics.

We have a problem. The endless carpet of St. Augustine grass that everyone in Florida is conditioned to requires 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, drainage and sewer systems. Now, you have a caustic cocktail of chemicals, organic contaminates, road run off , toxic waste, and nasty stuff of every sort gushing into the Indian River Lagoon estuary system and soaking into the porous aquifer.

This year, freezes, 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 mysterious fish kill. What we really had was a phenomenal seagrass kill. Some died from the cold, but most was choked out by the algae. This is alarming! Almost every species of inshore and offshore creature spawns, and begins 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.

Photo by Chip Curry

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 simply ramping up emotion with a public display. 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 Affordable Care Act. You may have several zoning exceptions and other issues to sit through, like 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 so willing to skew the truth. They have a powerful lobby and have hired professional persuaders to push their poison. The first deflection came 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 hypnotist held up a state model for fertilizer regulation as the ideal guideline for community ordinances. The authors were heavily influenced by well paid turf lobbyists. We are trying to change that model, too. Go natural! The lone, token Florida “Cracker” on the city council aimed a few loaded questions that blew up in the turf industry’s face. She caught their representative in a quick “Mohammad Ali” shuffle over phosphate and nitrogen levels. When the turf guy tried to play off the fact that their fertilizer is the main culprit in the algae bloom, she knocked him out with local wisdom.


Photo: courtesy Tom Choma – Sebastion River (North Prong)

Should we be motivated by profits alone? What drives a person to accumulate too much? 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 . . . blathering 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 passion subsides and the crowd goes home. Don’t let depression set in during the grueling process. Keep moving, but don’t waste time or energy. True revolution has nothing to do with control of the military or government. It has do with belief, attitude, respect, and the validity of your cause. 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 :


  1. central florida ESA
    08 August 13, 2:09pm

    thank you so very much for your thoughtful and well written piece. you are absolutely right that revolution must begin at home. we want change and this is how it must begin.

    • 08 August 13, 3:05pm

      Right on! Thanks for stopping by. I lived in South Carolina during the seventies when they wanted to restrict surfing around the popular tourist areas. The ESA sent a guy in a suit who talked the honchos into making a leash law instead. That’s when I started using one. Before that, I figured that if you couldn’t hang on to or swim after your board you had no business surfing. Of course, we didn’t know about getting air and all that, yet.

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