diversity

Creating a Haven for the Creatures of the Florida Keys

 

Taken by: John D. Ivanko/ecopreneuring.biz

Taken by: John D. Ivanko/ecopreneuring.biz

As my family drove our rental car along the unfamiliar Florida highways, I looked out the window. When we arrived where we staying, I got out of the car.  I stood still and the animals popped out. It revealed to me that you have to slow down to truly see nature at it’s fullest. You see more of nature in the middle of a hiking trail, standing still, than driving by.  What really struck me when I got out of the car was the sheer diversity of the plants and animals surrounding me. In the marina behind our rental house, there were pelicans, cormorants, anoles and so much more. It was not only the diversity of animals but also the diversity of plants that amazed me. I saw everything from coconut trees to mangroves (and in the rental next to us they even had a cactus).  Filled with this wonder of the nature surrounding me, I slept that night with my dreams filled with amazing plants and animals. The next morning my parents woke me up and we went out to an island. As we sped our boat out to the island, I looked in the water and I saw nothing. As I looked at the island from a distance, I saw no living animals. But as soon as I got off our boat and slowed down, it was like my vision had changed.  There were pelicans in the mangroves and anoles climbing around and little Sergeant Major fish swimming around the shallows of our island.  I learned from my trip to Florida that to enjoy something to its fullest, you have to slow down.  Just like eating chocolate bars, you slow down to get the deep flavors.

 

Unfortunately, some animals in this amazing ecosystem have problems:

• Turtles

The turtles have problems because a large part of a turtle’s diet is jelly fish. A turtle can very easily mistake a plastic bag for a jelly fish and eat the bag and then have stomach problems and possibly die.

• Cormorants

Cormorants are a small, one-and-a-half-foot tall bird (only slightly larger that a duck) . It waddles along road in search of food.  A hungry cormorant is a determined one. If it spots a fish in a pond across the road, the cormorant will waddle across the road only to be hit by a car.  Since cormorants are so short, drivers can’t see them and accidentally hit them.  I learned a lot about what I know about cormorants from Kelly Grinter, founder of the Marathon Wild Bird Center.

• Gulls

Gulls are a nuisance to fisherman because they eat the bait off of their fishing poles. Some fishermen get mad and throw rocks at the gulls. The stone could cause serious damage. Gulls also swallow hooks and fishing line from fishing poles when they steal the fish.

But there are people and organizations out there that are working to help these poor injured animals.  The Marathon Turtle Hospital is located on Marathon Key in Florida.  They work to help turtles that have been injured in the wild.  They have an operating room, a physical therapy room and even a lab. They save over a hundred turtles every year. Not content with just saving turtles, they also give lots of educational programs to help people understand how to protect turtles.

It’s not just turtles that people are working to help. The Marathon Wild Bird Center is working to help heal injured birds. Kelly Grinter and her volunteer staff are constantly working to help get these injured birds back into the wild.

But you can also help make life a safer place for these animals!  Just doing simple things like picking up trash and using reusable water bottles can save an amazing animal’s life.  If you are a fisherman, and you have broken fishing line, be sure to dispose of the line properly so it does not end up in the water.

If we all work together we can create a safe haven for the amazing creatures of the Florida Keys and animals everywhere!

Liam is eleven years old and lives in Wisconsin. He likes to read books and go on adventures with his friends. He also likes to have fun with his family. Liam enjoys exploring nature, writing about it and, most of all, helping protect it.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Reclaiming Your Environmentalism

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By Fred Tutman

People ask me almost everyday why more African-Americans are not environmentalists. My usual answer is, “who says we are not?”  Yet everyday I meet people who seem to think that being an environmentalist of color is some sort of novelty. Nothing could be farther from the truth! My heritage with the environment like many other people of color sets a strong foundation for environmental stewardship. To my great fortune, I grew up in a rural stretch of Maryland’s Patuxent River corridor. The four corners of my world, and my playgrounds were collectively the wind, sun, sky, the forests and of course the nearby river. As a boy I gigged frogs, hunted imaginary wolves with tobacco sticks, and I collected and sold Japanese beetles to my great grandfather at a penny a bug. Among my warmest boyhood memories were at dusk with my great grandfather where he and I walked through the gloom of the woods, or sat on fallen logs waiting for deer; where the silence was a sort of like being in a church.

 
Untitled-1So my people and I were tied to nature and the earth’s rhythms on many levels. Were we environmentalists? Sadly, many do not regard indigenous people as such. But we had a heritage of self-sufficiency on the land, of growing our own food, of continuing a family tradition of being in grace with our surroundings. We were in a perpetually renewing contract with mother earth and thought of ourselves simply as those specially favored by nature.

Throughout my conservation career, I have worked around environmentalists eager to teach the rest of us how to live and love nature in their own image. And perhaps many of us from various walks do need to be reconnected to the earth—but there are just as many who happen to be absent from mass environmental causes who already have a rich heritage with the earth.

Truly we all have very different context for the environment. And it seems to me that is exactly what diversity means. There is no reason one must join a club or carry a membership card in order to claim status as an environmentalist. The many expressions of our individual environmental connections are as unique and as personal as our fingerprints and yet this truism easily gets overlooked. That is exactly why more ethnic and cultural inclusion is so desperately needed in the environmental movement. Because we each need to claim the full environmental heritage to which we are each entitled.

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The stories of our individual ties to the environment are rich, layered, textured, powerful and empowering.  Much more layered than the simplistic and very misguided notion that “black people don’t care or know about the environment.” So in my view, the environmental movement doesn’t just need to embrace “diversity.” Instead people need to understand first and foremost that the many faces of environmentalism actually ARE diversity. Only then can we look at relative social justice and fairness with an honest and appraising eye. Deeper respect for the environmental context held dear by people of all walks and ethnicities is the only way environmental movements will ever reach their full inclusive potential.

Fred Tutman has served for ten years as the Riverkeeper for the Patuxent, which is Maryland’s longest and deepest intrastate river. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Meaningful Work in the Pool of Diverse Ideas

By Andrew Chu

Hi there! Thanks for reading my blog. I’d like to share with you how much it means to me personally and as a federal employee to work at EPA.

EPA offers many opportunities to work with a diversity of interests and ideas. In the Permits Office of the Pacific Southwest Air Division, I work with businesses to process their applications to build new projects that create jobs and strengthen our economy. I also help them find clean technology to minimize or even avoid adding pollution to the air that we all share. I know that navigating the regulations is difficult, but when I work with the businesses to understand them, they find it easier to comply.

It’s important to connect with different communities to understand where they have been disproportionately shouldering environmental burdens. In the interest of fairness and equality, no community should be unjustly singled out to take more pollution than the next one due to differences in language or income. I was born and raised in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, and I understood the difficulties people faced with language barriers and not knowing where to turn with their environmental concerns. Today, it’s my role to make sure that each community is heard and that polluters clean up their act and follow the law. It’s about fairness and doing the right thing.

For example, when I accompanied our regional administrator to meet with community members in Richmond, Calif., I gained a better understanding of their concerns and where they wanted technical staff like me to pay closer attention. I also saw how some businesses have been making efforts toward the goal of a clean environment. These experiences confirm my belief that I’ve found meaningful work, and make me proud to work for EPA.

As an EPA employee, I work with colleagues from different cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. By participating in a range of activities here, from honoring Black History Month in February to Native American Heritage Month in November to LGBT Pride in June, I feel a stronger connection with my co-workers. Having learned more about their cultural values and heritages, I can communicate with more openness and on deeper levels. For all of these reasons, my EPA is a truly remarkable place to work.

About the author: Andrew Chu is an environmental engineer with EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region Air Division Permits Office. Andrew is a second generation Chinese American.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.