Citizens can make Florida the “clean water state.”
We have been witness to the overall decline in our state caused by out-of-control growth. At least 2,440 waterways in Florida are officially impaired and polluted, which has produced repeated blue-green algae blooms and red tides and massive marine life die-offs (800 Florida manatees had died this year as of June 11).
In the past 50 years, there have been 23,000 state-issued permits to pollute our waterways; powerful special interests continue to dictate environmental regulation in the state Legislature; and, through state pre-emptions, Tallahassee is also stripping local governments of their home rule rights to pass commonsense laws to protect citizens and waterways. The system has been rigged.
Floridians have lost faith in a state government and a regulatory system that have failed to protect the basic rights of people as well as the natural world. Granting legally recognized rights to nature is the cutting edge of environmental law and protection. If nature doesn’t have rights, it can’t be protected adequately against corporations that do. Rights of Nature laws compel us to live sustainably within nature’s laws and limitations.
The natural world is as we are: Everything is connected in community. This is what ecology teaches and what Indigenous peoples have always known. But our Constitution and our legal system treat nature as mere property, the way it once treated Native Americans, women, and Black Americans as property. We were dead wrong then, and we are wrong now.
Last November, 89 percent of Orange County voters passed their historic Right to Clean Water Charter Amendment. In addition to granting citizens the right to clean water, it granted all the waters in Orange County the right to exist, flow, be free of pollution, and have access to healthy ecosystems. It is the largest jurisdiction in the U.S. to pass a Rights of Nature law and the first in Florida. Using this new charter amendment, a first-of-its-kind lawsuit in the U.S. was recently filed to stop a developer from destroying 114 acres of wetlands, streams, and two lakes in Orange County.
Floridians can now sign a petition at FL5.org to place before voters in 2022 a state constitutional amendment modeled upon the Orange County law, so all citizens and waterways in Florida can have these rights. It is, after all, our constitution, and we have the power when necessary to amend it.
At the website FL5.org, you will see four additional proposed amendments that deal with more specific elements of our natural world: Iconic Species protection; Captive hunting ban; Wetlands protection; and Toll Roads ban.
Remember: Go to the FL5.org website, type in your information, and a PDF of the petition will be emailed to you.
Print out the petition, sign it, date it, mail it.
Thank you from the waters.
For more information: fronn.org
— Jim Durocher is East Central Regional director of the Florida Rights of Nature Network.