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On May 7, 2013, CEJ staff attorney Rob Williams and CEJ director Patricia Siemen wrote to Kenneth Kuhl of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, regarding the Draft BMAP (Basin Management Action Plan) for the Wekiva River, Rock Springs Run, and the Little Wekiva River. Their detailed analysis exposed serious flaws in the BMAP, including its failure to provide a detailed allocation of allowable pollutant loads to specific point sources and categories of nonpoint sources, and its failure to equitably allocate pollutant reductions to each identifiable point source or category of nonpoint source (in violation of the mandatory requirements of sections 403.067(6)(b) and (7)(a)2, Florida Statutes). They noted that the plan is not designed to achieve the pollutant reductions required under the Total Maximum Daily Load.
Williams and Siemen called the BMAP process and its resulting plan “a classic case of a regulatory agency being captured by those it was intended to regulate — instead of restoring an Outstanding Florida Water to ecological health, DEP is essentially licensing further pollution.” Despite millions of dollars and dozens of meetings, the only outcome seems to be postponing action until an undetermined date in the future.
To counteract this “business as usual” approach that favors the polluters over the health of the Wekiva Basin, Williams and Siemen raise the question of whether the citizens of the Wekiva Basin have the political will to bring forward a constitutional amendment recognizing the right of the environment to be healthy and the human right to a healthy environment. Over three dozen U.S. municipalities have enacted ordinances protecting the rights of nature and people in their jurisdictions. Such local laws may be the best defense against a state system that legalizes the slow but sure destruction of a healthy environment.
From the text of the letter:
Unfortunately, the Plan under consideration will do almost nothing to halt the further deterioration of the Wekiva. Unless other action is taken, the beautiful springs of the Wekiva Basin will be only a memory within the next decade. The plan proposes more studies and more monitoring of the Wekiva’s decline, but fails to identify management strategies or pollution reduction requirements that are necessary to achieve the restoration of the impaired waters of the Wekiva Basin. Totally lacking in the plan is any sense of urgency concerning the need to remedy the ongoing ecological harm to the springs before the damage becomes irreversible. The Plan says more studies are needed, but the Wekiva Basin has been the subject of scores of studies over the last twenty years. We already know enough to act. The real question is whether we have the political will to act in time to save the Wekiva Basin from ecological collapse.
. . .
What these agencies have done all too effectively is to create the illusion of regulation. On the surface, it appears that there is a lot going on—research, monitoring, and endless meetings with opportunity for public comment—comments which are almost invariably ignored. What is missing is any real action that could effectively address the problem. A real plan to meet the targets set in the TMDL would eliminate residential lawn fertilizer, strictly regulate septic tanks and require significant reductions in nitrate loadings by agriculture—that would be a plan.
We need not feel helpless in the face of bureaucratic inaction, but before we can act to protect the springs, we must disenthrall ourselves of the idea that the state’s regulatory agencies are on our side—or the springs’ side. If the Wekiva is to be saved, the answer will not come from DEP or the Water Management District. It remains for citizens who care deeply about the fate of these beautiful springs to come together and formulate their own restoration plan and then demand that their local officials take action.
We also need a constitutional change which recognize the right of the environment to be healthy and the human right to a healthy environment.
Once again Earth’s turning has brought us in the northern hemisphere into the season of vernal equinox. Shifts in light and temperature are apparent. Subtle and not-so-subtle adaptations in the habits of the winged, finned, furred, leathered, crawlers, four-footed, two-legged, leafed, flowered and fruit-bearers are visible for those with the curiosity and patient ability to see. Each being seems to be claiming its springtime identity with the hope that its habitat and food-chain are vital and flourishing.
Alas, as we know, many species and entire eco-systems are facing critical stressors as their natural environments are unduly devastated by relentless human impacts. Indeed, leading scientists say that now we are living in a new geological era, the Era of the Anthropocene. This term was first used in 2000 by Nobel Prize Laureate Paul Crutzen, whose work focused on chemical mechanisms that affect the ozone layer. According to Crutzen, the Anthropocene epoch marks the time when human activity is leaving an irreversible environmental impact on planet Earth that will be detectable thousands of years into the future.
Living in a geological era where the human species has become the main predator of life is a pretty heavy burden. How do we discover our deepest identity when our cultural identity is fed primarily by a belief in relentless economic and population growth, driven global markets and rising consumption? How do we shift the definition of the “Era of the Anthropocene” to mean humanity living in balance and harmony with Nature?
At the Center for Earth Jurisprudence we commit to keeping the “big picture” before us (the really BIG Universe Story) while claiming our identity as humans to live in right relationships and interdependence with the entire web of life. For the past year we have been focusing on the essential role of water, particularly Florida’s springs. This has led to richly blessed new relationships and networks with wonderful companions, friends, and advocates who are deeply committed to the health of Florida’s waterways.
Two special artists come to mind: Jim Draper and his “Feast of Flowers” exhibit currently at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville and John Moran with his “Eternal Springs” exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in Gainesville (in collaboration with Lesley Gamble and Rick Kilby) are just two of Florida’s outstanding artists who bring their commitment to showing us Florida’s natural wealth.Just since January we have participated in programs such as the Orange County League of Women’s Voters’ “Imperiled Waters of Florida,” the Florida Conservation Coalition (and partners’) “Speak-up Wekiva,” our own CEJ’s “Rights of Springs,” and the Florida Springs Institute’s “Springs Conservation Summit.”
In addition, we have weighed in with comments to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection hearings on the Basin Management Action Plans for several Florida springs—demonstrating that the proposed plans to reduce nitrate pollution are too little, too late. The proposed BMAPs have no enforcement teeth and basically repeat regulations and best management plans that are already on the books.
However, we remain committed to working with others in preserving and conserving the springs, the waterways and the common good—and the good of the commons. We want the Era of the Anthropocene to become an era when humanity takes responsibility for protecting and conserving water and the natural world for future generations.
Personally, I think the core of human identity lies in our ability to discover ourselves as we serve the common good of the community. As individuals we need others to help us understand who we are. Those others are the people around us, and also the other beings who reveal to us our deepest capacities to be creative, compassionate and caring.
Recently Rev. Peter Sawtell, Director of Eco-Justice Ministries, outlined six essential qualities for the development of a transformational ecological identity and spirituality. I found them insightful, and I leave you with them for your own musing. They reflect an interiority that seeks right relationship and a capacity for reflection, receptivity and transformation. They are: awe, listening, lament, confession, imagination and commitment.
I submit they are qualities in which the natural world would delight, if they became essential components of the Age of the Anthropocene.
The Center for Earth Jurisprudence is pleased to host a Democracy School, presented by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), on April 5-6, 2013.
Democracy School is a stimulating and illuminating course that teaches citizens how to reframe grass roots environmental work (such as protecting Florida’s springs) to confront corporate control on a powerful single front: people’s constitutional rights. Visit the CELDF Democracy School web page and see our Democracy School flyer for more information.
Space is extremely limited, so please register ASAP to reserve your seat, using the Democracy School Registration Form.
Because we are committed to hosting this course at the most affordable price possible, CEJ is absorbing a significant portion of the Democracy School’s costs. The registration fee of $125 reflects our commitment. Lunch on Saturday is included, but to help keep costs low, we ask that you bring a brown bag dinner on Friday night, and supply your own beverages for both days. Ice will be provided. Snacks and beverages are available for purchase on campus.
We are looking forward to seeing you at this inspiring and empowering program!
Upcoming CEJ EventsSister Pat Siemen: Advancing Rights/Rites of Ecosystems
May 17, 2013 ~ 12:50 p.m.
During the Florida Native Plant Society 2013 Convention, themed Celebrating La Florida, The Land of Flowers
University of North Florida
Read more details here.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~Sister Pat Siemen: Awakening to Earth's Rights: Transformative Shift
May 26, 2013 ~ 10:30 a.m.
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of St. Augustine
St. Augustine, FL
Contact: (904) 471-2047
~ ~ ~ ~ ~Sister Pat Siemen: Planting Seeds of Earth Jurisprudence
June 4, 2013 ~ 7:00 p.m.
Tarflower Chapter, Florida Native Plant Society
Other Upcoming EventsJohn Moran: Springs Eternal: Florida's Fragile Fountains of Youth
March 23 - December 15, 2013
Photographs from the recent and distant past combine with contemporary views to create a then-and-now narrative of Florida's springs.
Florida Museum of Natural History
Contact: (352) 373-9718
Read more details here and please visit
John Moran's website.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~Florida Native Plant Society: Celebrating La Florida, the Land of Flowers
May 16 - 19, 2013
University of North Florida
Read more details here.
Learning to See Naturally ~ Nature Journaling WorkshopsVisit our nature journaling blog, Learning to See Naturally, for poems, photos, stories and other nature-inspired creative works from our workshop participants.
- Agriculture and Livestock Remain Major Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions May 8, 2013New Worldwatch Institute study examines the agricultural sector’s impact on global greenhouse gas emissionsWashington, D.C.—Global greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector totaled 4.69 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), an increase of 13 percent over 1990 emissions. By com […]Maddy Traynor
- Agriculture and Livestock Remain Major Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions May 8, 2013