Honoring Mother Earth
The time is now to let the healing begin
“When life feels too big to handle, go outside. Everything looks smaller when you’re standing under the sky.”
That’s sage advice, particularly as we wrap a full year of mainly indoor living, from author L.R. Knost.
Looking toward Earth Day on April 22, we reflect on the world around us. Covering a number of topics honoring Mother Earth, we also offer expert ideas about how to help her age more gracefully.
In this chapter, we hear from organizations such as Growing Climate Solutions, One Tree, Calusa Waterkeeper and Collier County about efforts to remedy the assaults mankind has brought upon nature.
And we learn how to make our own nontoxic weed killer, so we can keep our landscaping beautiful without unintended consequences to Mother Earth.
It’s with urgency, too, that we offer these words, because we must take action now, one community member at a time.
As author L.R. Knost also said, “The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”
Let’s take care of Mother Earth. She’s the only one we’ve got.
in this issue
Rooted in the Topic of Trees
Environmental restoration takes a village
by Wil Revehl, OneTree.org
At this moment, America can feel like a fraying fabric, where every seam and stitch is staunchly debated, and every thread must choose a side — forgetting, perhaps, that the real strength of any textile is that it’s woven tightly together.
Of course, this country has been rife with conflict and contradictions from its earliest days. But we’re at a crossroads now.
Nowhere is this truer than in Florida, where tides have run toxic and trees have been torn from the ground to make way for tidy lawns and urban sprawl.
One would think there could be little controversy rooted in the topic of trees. As co-founder and executive director of OneTree.org, a Southwest Florida reforestation nonprofit, I have found that we all want clean air, but delving into discussions of environmental policy can quickly unravel into partisan spates.
But Mother Nature has no time for our bickering.
Some will argue that the planet doesn’t need saving, and find offense when characterizing Earth and the environment we share as “Mother.”
Such conversations fall by the wayside when you’re digging side-by-side in the soil for the purpose of saving the planet or even to beautify a well-traveled thoroughfare. Either way, when laboring together in the sun through sweat and aching muscles, that sort of friction fades.
As raising a child requires a village, so does the restoration of our environment.
Recently, OneTree.org hosted a large group of volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help with continued cultivation of a nature preserve behind Temple Beth El, a Jewish Synagogue in South Fort Myers. Many acres had been teeming with invasive growth, and the goal was to turn it into a space blooming with natural Florida beauty for all to enjoy.
Temple member Janelle Christensen served as host, working with LDS leadership to coordinate the effort. Together, they braved the heat and bugs, tearing up invasive plants and finally completing what has been a years-long endeavor to lay the foundation of a nature trail.
It’s not the first interfaith event at Temple Beth-El. Two years ago, the synagogue hosted a Unity Tree ceremony in observance of the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh. OneTree.org was honored to help facilitate the event that drew participation of at least half a dozen denominations and religions.
Together, we planted about 1,000 trees and shrubs in less than three hours. Humbled and heart-warmed, we celebrated with a feast under the expansive shade of mature oaks. There, we replenished our bodies and spirits and reveled in our shared connection. When faith differences were discussed, no one bickered a bit, and Mother Earth was rewarded.
Our greatest successes in the last decade have involved moments of togetherness with people from different walks of life. There’s never been a litmus test of faith or partisanship. Whether they come to care for God’s creations, help restore Mother Earth or simply because trees are pretty, people show up because they share a goal to get the job done.
This is what is needed in this increasingly volatile climate — whether we’re speaking of the actual climate or the fiber of this nation. We don’t necessarily need to sing “Kumbaya,” but we do need to cooperate.
I’m grateful to have found there’s more common ground in communities coming together to plant trees than on most other fronts in our culture.
Maybe this is where we can start sewing ourselves back together.
Wil Revehl is the co-founder of OneTree.org, a Fort Myers, Florida based Environmental Restoration nonprofit organization.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES:WATER REPORT
Report exposes turbulent water trends in Southwest Florida
by Kathy Grey
Calusa Waterkeeper recently released a 16-page report chronicling declining trends in the quality of Southwest Florida’s waterways from 2018-2020.
The study, authored by Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani, with the assistance of Chris Shinouskis, co-leader of the Calusa Waterkeeper Estero Zone Ranger Team, covers Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hendry and Glades counties.
“Understanding factors contributing to water quality impairment in Florida is important for determining sources and eventual restoration planning,” Cassani says. “Assessing water quality impairment on a geopolitical basis, for instance, by county, is relevant, as most state-mandated restoration programs … are implemented primarily by local government stakeholders.”
The report reveals that Lee, Collier, Manatee and Charlotte counties experienced the greatest increase in water quality impairment. The most frequent impairment in six of the nine counties examined in the report, including Lee County but not Collier County, was fecal bacteria, a significant public health risk and threat to ecosystems. Nutrients represented the highest proportion of impairments in Collier, Glades and Hendry counties.
From highest to lowest, overall impairment trends ranked as follows: Manatee, Lee, Hillsborough, Collier, Charlotte, Sarasota, Hendry, Glades and Pinellas counties.
“Southwest Florida’s waters are impacted by multiple types of pollution, and the Calusa Waterkeeper summary provides a county-by-county understanding of impairment prevalence across nine counties,” says Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s Everglades and Water Policy Manager Marisa Carrozzo.
Waterkeepers Florida chair Jen Lomberk agrees, stating, “This report … shows decreasing trends in water quality over time. It uses scientific data to show that our current approach to dealing with water pollution is not working and something needs to be done.”
We reached out to Cassani for ways concerned citizens can help. See the “What You Can Do” box below.
The full 16-page report can be viewed by visiting https://calusawaterkeeper.org/swfl-water-quality-report.
What You Can Do
Calusa Waterkeeper’s ranger volunteers compiled this list of things concerned citizens can do to improve the deteriorating condition of our waters here in Southwest Florida.
Support a clean water organization.
Participate in community cleanups of our waterways and beaches.
Become a clean water ambassador and spread the word to your friends and neighbors.
Learn more about water quality issues, including harmful algae blooms and fecal contamination.
Support plans to eliminate septic systems from our neighborhoods and local communities.
Advocate for clean water by attending town halls, and council, commissioner and agency meetings to let your voice be heard.
Contact your elected officials, asking them to help clean up the bacteria pollution in our waterways.
Ask elected officials and state agencies to notify residents of the potential health risks (e.g. signs).
Vote for and elect officials who support a clean water agenda.
Keep your boat in the channels to avoid seagrass scaring.
Crisis in Real Time
Growing Climate Solutions addresses the here and now
by Kathy Grey
The focus was to endear the people of Southwest Florida to climate issues that uniquely affect the region. And just as Growing Climate Solutions: Path to Positive Southwest Florida launched its initiative in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The organization, headed by Regional Director Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, Ph.D., established connections with dozens of education groups, nonprofits, professionals, elected officials, religious organizations, homeowners’ associations and anyone willing to lend an ear and a hand.
Despite the pandemic that affected every aspect of life for everyone, Puszkin-Chevlin and her team pressed forward, sidestepping obstacles and creating unique opportunities to draw public interest and build on the support of the community from its youngest members to its oldest.
The organization has expanded its reach to about 33 community partners “to develop a more positive public discourse and cast (climate issues) in a light where people can get to the solutions. Some are simple. Some are more complex,” Puszkin-Chevlin says.
The goal is to engage community members “who might be tepid about their interest,” she says, with perspectives that “bring people to the table who normally wouldn’t.”
Despite the homebound environment of the past year, the organization’s enrollment has been strong, and innovative outreach programs have been robust, including:
Partnering with Florida Gulf Coast University’s Water School to help facilitate the establishment of the SWFL Regional Resiliency Compact
Launching the SWFL Climate Compass Speaker Series, with the April 21 presentation featuring Professor Benjamin Keys, Rowan Family Foundation Associate Professor of Real Estate at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania
Involvement in the Volo Foundation’s Florida Climate Week April 19-24, featuring the Climate Compass speaker and hosting an April 20 SWFL Climate Ambassador Training
One budding endeavor is the development of an educational curriculum for Girl Scouts, so female leaders of tomorrow develop their roles as environmental advocates.
“Young women are our best spokespeople,” Puszkin-Chevlin says. “They’re the key to reaching our next generation.”
The organization is also working with tree-planting projects and developing a Climate Action speaker series for Florida clinicians about the health implications of climate change.
Puszkin-Chevlin, who will be a presenting panelist for the 2021 Southwest Florida Climate Summit organized by the Coastland Heartland National Estuary Program, urges community members to investigate the issues surrounding climate change. The organization’s free newsletter covers myriad environmental topics and ways for people to become involved and learn through ambassador training how to communicate about the issues and next steps toward a healthier Southwest Florida and world.
“Everyone needs to understand what’s going on,” Puszkin-Chevlin says. “This is serious, and it has to be sooner than later.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Puszkin-Chevlin is pleased with the progress of Growing Climate Solutions.
“It’s been a challenge, but for a brand-new organization that just started chugging on March 10, 2020, people know who we are. People have discovered us and are looking to us (to help find) solutions.”
Growing Climate Solutions: Path to Positive Southwest Florida is a regional joint climate initiative of four of Southwest Florida’s most respected charitable, educational and environmental organizations — Community Foundation of Collier County, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, Florida Gulf Coast University and Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Supported by EcoAmerica, the organization is working to develop a network of local organizations, leaders and citizens who will work to build climate awareness, protect our natural assets and empower Southwest Florida residents, businesses and civic institutions to support and engage in climate solutions that advance a healthy, prosperous and resilient community.
To learn more, visit https://GrowingClimateSolutions.org.
Collier’s 2021 recycling initiative includes foam products
In January, Collier County began offering foam recycling collection at all recycling drop-off centers, where residents can now recycle polystyrene foam products. The four centers below are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
• Naples Recycling Drop-off Center at 2640 Corporate Flight Drive
• North Collier Recycling Drop-off Center at 9950 Goodlette-Frank Road N.
• Marco Island Recycling Drop-off Center at 990 Chalmer Drive
• Tim Nance Collier County Recycling Drop-off Center at 825 39th Ave. NE, next to fairgrounds
The drop-off centers accept clean foam from residents and commercial businesses, such as clean and dry polystyrene foam meat trays, cups, takeout containers, egg cartons and packaging foam used to protect TVs and other valuables during shipping. Most foam products with a “6” recycling symbol can be recycled.
Packing peanuts cannot be accepted for recycling, and foam should not be placed in curbside recycling containers.
This initiative will keep foam out of landfills and help preserve the environment.
Collier County’s foam recycling pilot program was made possible by a $50,000 grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition. The grant was used to purchase a foam densifier, a machine that compresses foam into blocks, which are then sold to a vendor for collection and resale.
For more information on foam recycling and how you can help keep Collier green, visit colliercountyfl.gov/recycle or call 239-252-7575.
DID YOU HEAR? TIP FROM THE EXPERT
New Apple study reveals you may have hearing loss and not know it
Timothy J. Roupas, Doctor of Audiology
A recent worldwide study conducted by Apple, in collaboration with University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, showed that 20% of the participants have hearing loss when compared to World Health Organization standards. Nearly half of the participants had not had their hearing tested by a professional in at least 10 years.
At The Center for Hearing, we’re committed to making sure you're living the healthiest and most vital life. Take a moment and watch the video below, which talks about the results of that global study. It has compelling information about hearing loss that you and your loved ones won’t want to miss!
LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE NEXTGEN SPEAKER SERIES
Getting What You Want
Bill Sanford, former CEO of STERIS Corporation, shares the secret to getting anything you want in life.
Continue learning from world-renowned entrepreneurs and CEOs with the NextGen Speaker Series. Register now for the April 23rd interactive virtual experience at www.nextgennaples.com/subscribe.
DIY Weed Killer
Help save the environment by opting for natural herbicides
Pulling weeds isn’t for everyone. But spraying the heck out of unwanted growth with chemical weed killers is not only toxic to weeds, it’s toxic to our bodies of water as well as our own bodies.
Because the use of chemical herbicides has wrought dire consequences to the environment, we present a couple of household hacks that can help you keep the weeds out without harming the environment.
1. Boiling water
That’s it. Pour boiling water on the weeds and watch them shrivel up.
2. Three-ingredient DIY weed killer
If hauling boiling pots of water around the perimeter of your home isn’t appealing, head to the nearest home improvement store and get a good-sized garden sprayer container, if you don’t already have one, instead.
This more natural alternative to toxic weed killer requires only three ingredients:
1 gallon white vinegar
2 cups Epsom salts (found at garden centers)
¼ cup dish soap
Combine the ingredients in the garden sprayer container and replace the lid. Gently swirl the ingredients without creating too much soap foam. Pumping the sprayer, wet the weeds with the solution. You’ll likely see a difference in the weeds within eight hours.
The soap helps cut through oils that protect leaves. The salt and vinegar dry out the weeds and kill them. Application on a sunny, dry day is optimal to ensure that the solution can soak in and do its job.