By Cheryl Lasse, Right to Clean Water
I’m a water person. I love wakeboarding, surfing, boating, paddling, diving and fishing. Many of you probably do too. My love for water is why I moved to Florida 35 years ago and why I was dismayed to find that:
- Manatees are dying in record numbers
- Blue green algae blooms are now commonplace, toxic to those drinking water or breathing air nearby and linked to diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS
- Coral is dying throughout South Florida
- Nearly 800 of our 1,000 springs are “impaired,” according to the state. That means they are too polluted to meet standards for swimming and recreation, aquatic life, fish consumption, or as drinking water sources
- The duration and intensity of red tide has increased; in 2018 it cost Southwest Florida’s tourist economy $184 million
- Nearly 1 million acres of estuaries and 9,000 miles of rivers and streams are contaminated with fecal bacteria.
Fecal bacteria. Yes, poop. I don’t know about you, but the idea of wakeboarding or paddling in contaminated water is not at all appealing to me.
That’s why I joined Florida Right to Clean Water, a citizens’ initiative to amend the Florida Constitution with the “Right to Clean and Healthy Waters.”
Hopefully, you’re nodding your head as you read this. But you’re also asking yourself, “What can little old me do about it?” Glad you asked.
As an individual, you can go to https://www.floridarighttocleanwater.org/petition to download and sign the petition.
You can ask your friends and family who also like clean water (and who are registered voters) to do the same. If you’re a member of other groups in your community, including sports, networking, Rotary, church groups, or others, get them to sign petitions. If you physically go somewhere to work, you might ask your colleagues to sign.
Or you could volunteer as a Right to Clean Water ambassador, which basically means helping as you can. You might help gather petitions actively, work behind the scenes posting on social media, or write letters to your local newspaper.
If you’re a business owner like me, especially if you sell equipment or operate tours for fishing, diving, boating, or water sports, or if you’re in the resort business, you can become a petition location. That means displaying a small flyer for awareness.
Ask your customers during checkout or at events to sign petitions. Same with employees. Share your support by embedding a short message in your customer communication (e-newsletter, social media). This shows your employees and the customers you serve that you care about the community. I’ve encouraged my business contacts and clients to sign the petition through my e-newsletters and social media. The goodwill from that has built additional trust and loyalty.
If you’re a member of one of the hundreds of conservation groups in Florida who share the goal of clean water, engage your members to help achieve it. That means encouraging your members to sign petitions and getting signatures at your group events.
You can go to https://floridarighttocleanwater.org/uniteforcleanwater to sign up and get more resources so we can make you successful. Your goals are our goals.
We need 223,000 signed petitions by March 1 to trigger a Supreme Court review, and 900,000 by Nov. 30, 2023. We need your support.
Traci Deen of Conservation Florida said, “Floridians don’t always agree, but we do find common ground in the land and water we share.”
As an example, in 2020, Orange County had 89% approval of a charter amendment to protect natural resources. We can’t get 89% of people to agree on anything! But when it comes to the environment, we are all aligned. None of us want to swim in contaminated water.
Cheryl Lasse is an independent Florida business owner and Right to Clean Water Ambassador.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.