We have written several times lately about the Young Leaders For Wild Florida, directed by Oscar Psychas, from Alachua County. The following are transcriptions of their speeches delivered to the commissioners at Bradford County on June 17, 2019. The group consisted of 15 people, but only four were allowed to speak.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Good evening. My name is Naomi Richards, I’m 15 years old and I am a citizen of Gainesville, but more importantly of Florida. I’ve lived here my whole, relatively short, life. I’ve been fortunate to witness beauties idiosyncratic to this wonderful place. This includes La Chua trail, Blue springs, and, of course, the Santa Fe river and all of it’s beautiful features. Unfortunately, it has become apparent that due to factors out of my personal control, some of the most beautiful places, and the delightful people who live in this great state, have become threatened. While I understand that I am not a part of this county, I am part of the community of north Florida. The plight of the concerned citizens seen here is one that extends beyond the immediate area and timeline. It is evident, from previous instances of neglectful, immoral, and at times illegal, behavior on the part of large phosphate mining companies in other parts of Florida, in combination with the vulnerable location of the proposed land, that this issue is not one to be overlooked, or dismissed by those who believe that its assumed benefits will outweigh the costs. These costs entail water contamination, decrease in property values surrounding the mine, and of course, destruction of beautiful land, a known and loved trait of Florida. Allowing this to occur will directly deteriorate the quality of life of your constituents, and young members of your community, like us, who will be voters in just a few short years, and residents for life. I urge you to not allow for a company to dictate the job market and moreover the lives of the members of this county. Thank you for your time.
Hello, my name is Ellie Pfahler, and I’m a Floridian. However, what made me a Floridian wasn’t me moving here are the age of four, but the next twelve years I’ve spent exploring our beautiful and unique creeks, rivers, and springs. I live here, but I also love it here, and that’s why I stand before you today – to speak up for what I love.
Phosphate mining provides a great source of income for Florida and supports booming agriculture. But phosphate mining is also incredibly detrimental to our waters, wildlife, and wellbeing. Phosphate is also a non-renewable resource. Phosphate is temporary. Phosphate mining will eventually be a dying business. Is a temporary industry worth immense destruction of our land and water that will forever be needed?
As the Cree Indian Proverb says, “Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish has been caught, and the last river poisoned, will we realize we cannot eat money.” I would like to rephrase this relevant quote to become even more relevant for this moment. Only when the last ounce of phosphate has been mined, the last local species has been displaced due to excessive stacks, and the last spring and river poisoned by toxic waste water overflows, will we realize that we cannot eat money that so desperately drove us to phosphate mine.
I ask that you see farther than temporary gain. I ask that you make responsible decisions about your future, my future, and my future’s future. I ask that you see the worth of Florida’s unique resources, before it’s too late. Thank you.
Hello my name is Mia Borkoski, I am 17 years old and I live in the county of Alachua. I come from a Christian background and I’m truly blessed to have the opportunity to be surrounded by the wonderful environment God has gifted to us. There is an abundance of beauty outside just waiting to be explored and appreciated. Environmental exposure can sculpt and build an individual. Nature teaches essential qualities humanitarians possess:
When students silently wait in Gilchrist Blue Spring to capture incredible images of the aquatic life. They practice patience.
When educated, young leaders freely choose to broaden their followers’ minds about the economic and ecological importance of the Santa Fe River; by offering their valuable time and knowledge. They practice generosity.
When a group of teenagers take on the task to protect and restore the ecosystem so that future generations can experience God’s creations. They practice responsibility.
Patience, generosity, and responsibility are honorable virtues that the Young Leaders Of Wild Florida possess; we hope others practice these virtues and join our cause.
We wish to ensure our communities DO NOT have a contaminated aquifer, catastrophic losses of wildlife, and an increase rate of deadly diseases such as lung cancer and leukemia due to the presence of these phosphate mines.
If you truly love thy neighbor you will not endanger them to the risks listed above; please vote against the HPS II mines.
Thank you and God bless.
Hello commissioners, my name is Anna and I’m from Alachua County, Florida. Like all of my friends here I traveled here today to ask y’all to oppose the construction of the phosphate mine on the New River.
I spent much of my childhood here in north Florida, swimming, kayaking, and fishing along the banks of our many rivers and springs. I love Florida, as I’m sure you do too, but I worry about it. Projects like this phosphate mine threaten to destroy all that makes it special, essentially taking our state away not only from us, but also from generations and generations of future Floridians.
I have a little brother who just turned a year old and I love him to death. Even though he’s just a baby he already loves spending time outdoors, like a true Floridian. I will never forget the first time we took him to the springs. His wide eyes filled with wondrous curiosity and his smile radiated pure joy as he splashed in the cool water, laughed at jumping fish, and stared up at the birds circling above. I can’t wait to take him to the springs again when he’s a little older, so I can teach him to swim, teach him to appreciate and care for all of God’s creations, and most importantly teach him about how lucky he is to live in a state as beautiful as Florida, the way my parents taught me, the way I’m sure you all taught your children. What breaks my heart, though, is that I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to do these things. It is very likely that by the time my brother is old enough to truly appreciate the nature that surrounds him it’ll be gone, replaced by mines and quarries that will dry up our springs and release chemicals into the environment. The only way my brother might be able to experience wild Florida is through the stories of others or through the pictures he finds on the Internet .
Now I want you all to think not just about me and my brother, but about your own children and grandchildren, as well as the rest of the young people who will one day inherit Florida and who deserve to live in a state as wonderful as the one that existed in the past and continues to exist in the present. The children of today and tomorrow deserve to live in a state with beautiful rivers, springs, and forests. We deserve to live in a state with nature parks, where we can work or spend time with our friends and family. We deserve to live in a state where we can breathe clean air and drink clean water.
Simply put we deserve a bright, happy future in our lovely home state of Florida. And right now this phosphate mining company is threatening to take that future away from us. On behalf of my brother, your children and grandchildren, and all the young Floridians who will lose everything if this phosphate mine is built, I am asking you to please do everything in your power to prevent this from happening.