Back to Nature (Published on - April 3, 2008)
Where there’s hope
Gentle sunbeams filter through delicate, chartreuse, newly unfurled leaves, as if light striking multiple panes of stain glass suspended from the tree branches. Father cardinal is dressed in his very best red cloak to greet the morning, and his lady, in full song.

The martins are busily playing house while planning family reunions, swooping, circling, and singing joyful melodies. A lizard warms upon a bright yellow strawberry pot; sapphire jeweled tail sparkles. The sky is turquoise blue. The weather is temperate. The landscape is painted in a fresh glazing of green. The world seems new.

In spite of winter’s dropped leaves, fallen limbs, forgotten trails, and frozen-back branches, new buds are forming, new sprouts are pushing through warmed, damp soil, home and garden shelves are filled with potted herbs and petunias, while backyard mowers are being dusted and primed. A new season awaits us and it’s “green.”

Like a youthful whisper heard above the wind, there is hope in the air. Everyone is talking “green.” It’s the latest buzz and like the “word” spreading among industrious bees the message is finally being heard from large corporations and government efforts such as: the “Florida Forever Five Year Plan” conducted by The Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of State Lands in partnership with local governments; and the United States Navy’s “Keep Right Whales Safe Program” to smaller, just as important, efforts by individual consumers opting to take home groceries in reusable cloth bags or switching to using non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners in their homes.

Florida Forever has acquired more than 600,000 acres since 2000 and allocates $300 million annually to purchase land. Today, virtually all of the funding through 2010 is already obligated for anticipated land purchases, so efforts still need to be emphasized and funding maximized.

“Florida Forever is crucial to protecting habitat for the incredible variety of wildlife in our state. From bears to butterflies, and for people, too, Florida’s land conservation programs have saved precious, healthy natural resources for us all,” said Laurie MacDonald of Defenders of Wildlife, another Florida Coalition steering committee member group.

The United States Navy’s efforts are an integral part to the survival of the 350 to 400 remaining Right Whales on the eastern coast. The U.S. Navy reports: “The critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale migrates from waters off Eastern Canada to the safety of the Atlantic waters off the southeast coast, close to Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, and Naval Station Mayport, to birth their young. The annual calving season runs from Dec. 1 to March 31.”

To protect this endangered species, the Navy implemented Right Whale mitigations on ships and shore stations in the Jacksonville and Mayport operating areas.

“Whether it’s the operation specialists in Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility at NAS Jacksonville, or the deck seamen lookouts aboard ships like USS Doyle, the Southeast Region works with the Coast Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other mariners to save Right Whales.” Going “Green” couldn’t be “cooler.”

With hope in the air, consumers, educators, government agencies and conservation organizations, also realize this is the critical point of pushing the stone finally over the ledge. Keeping up the momentum and encouragement is integral to the success of all the efforts that have brought us to this “green” awareness of today. Florida Forever is scheduled to expire in 2010. There are less than 100 Florida panthers left in the wild, while the U.N. announced March 18, that the world’s glaciers are melting away at record breaking losses. ScienceDaily reported: “Prof. Dr. Wilfried Haeberli, Director of the Service said: ‘The latest figures are part of what appears to be an accelerating trend with no apparent end in sight.’”

We are standing upon a precipice. We can relax to the tasks ahead claiming it is time for others to take the lead or we can continue to inspire and motivate those that will carry on our efforts into the future. The stone is heavy, but the mountain is not insurmountable. There is hope ... back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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