OSFR advisor Dr. Robert Knight has an article in today’s Gainesville Sun, July 16, 2017 about saving Florida’s springs. Please consider a dontation to the Florida Springs Council legal fund to help defend our springs.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Robert Knight: Joining hands in support of springs
Posted Jul 14, 2017 at 2:00 PM
I am frequently asked if I think Florida’s springs will be saved. My standard answer is simple, “Only when enough people understand and care about springs (and the rest of Florida’s environmental woes) to affect true political change.”
Perhaps you are already aware of the army of individuals who have dedicated themselves to achieving this challenging goal. We write newspaper op-eds. We teach civic-minded advocates about the challenges and solutions. We conduct the science documenting the declining springs’ health and devise techniques for springs’ restoration. We give dozens of lectures and interviews each year around the state to political leaders, state agencies, non-governmental groups, reporters, churches and schools.
But, despite additional taxpayer money being spent, more empty promises coming out of Tallahassee and numerous attempts to clean up our waterways through the ever-confusing alphabet soup of regulation (i.e., FDEP, TMDLs, BMAPs, BMPs, MFLs, etc.), the health of Florida’s springs continues to decline.
Luckily, with a worthy goal in sight, there is always a way to overcome obstacles in the path. In the case of our springs, the worthy goal we are all striving for is a sustainable and prosperous human economy, living in harmony with a restored and protected Florida environment. That goal can be attained by reducing excessive reliance on free groundwater for almost all our water uses, taxing pollutants such as nitrogen fertilizers at the source to reduce their use, and visioning a future Florida where quality of life is more important than quantity.
These ambitions will not be achieved without the combined will and support of the voting residents of Florida, and a new state government that is responsive to the public’s long-term best interests. I believe these changes will only be made through education and eventual adoption of a new water ethic that instills enhanced civic pride in all citizens.
The question before us now is, “How many Florida voters must be educated and ultimately stand together to change the anti-environmental political system currently in power?”
Google tells us that there are about 9 million voters in Florida, and that about 50 percent, or 4.5 million, turn out for a statewide election. If we assume that there are enough candidates who will represent the public welfare over corporate profits, we will need about 2.3 million voters to elect a majority of legislators who might reverse the fate of dying springs. Can that many Floridians join their hands for a common cause?
In 2015, the Florida Springs Council was formed for this specific purpose. The Florida Springs Council is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Any group or association can join the Florida Springs Council by committing to share their common goals to, “Ensure the restoration, preservation and protection for future generations of Florida’s springs and the Floridan aquifer that sustains those springs and provides our drinking water”. In less than two years, over 45 environmentally-focused organizations have joined the Florida Springs Council, and those organizations already represent more than 350,000 individual members in Florida. This is what might be called a good start!
To advance the goals of aquifer and springs protection, the Florida Springs Council provides technical input to the state of Florida on water use permit decisions, regional water supply plans, minimum flows and levels and recovery plans, and basin management action plans. When state environmental agencies adopt plans that are not protective of springs, the Florida Springs Council supports both legal and non-legal challenges to improve those plans.
The Florida Springs Council also works to develop and promote legislation that prevents further degradation or pollution of Florida’s water resources. And, the Florida Springs Council continually endeavors to educate the public about our precious springs and the actions needed to restore and preserve them for future generations.
For individuals who feel powerless to effect social and environmental change, the Florida Springs Council is a beacon of light in the darkness. Many hands uniting in support of a common cause can and will make lasting changes for the better.
— Robert Knight is director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute in High Springs and a member of the executive committee of the Florida Springs Council. More information about the Florida Springs Council is available at www.floridaspringscouncil.org.