You can be a voice for the Santa Fe River

An appeal from John Moran

Friends of Florida,

Our waters are a mess. That’s not news; that’s the new normal in Florida.

Our world-class springs—once stunning and blue—are now murky, polluted, and green. How did we get here? There are many factors but under state and federal law, corporate profits are prioritized over the health of our rivers and springs. The results are plainly visible in reduced flows and increased algae growth. These conditions are harming our public waters and the Floridan aquifer, which is the drinking water source for millions of Floridians. 

The Santa Fe River Bill of Rights campaign (SAFEBOR) is part of a visionary global movement to fundamentally change our relationship with Mother Earth. We’re a local grassroots political action committee working to amend Alachua County’s Home Rule Charter to recognize the right of the Santa Fe River to naturally exist and flourish, and to assert our community’s right to a healthy river ecosystem and aquifer.

 If voters approve, Alachua will become the first county in the state to enact Rights of Nature into its County Charter. Other counties are poised to follow. The eyes of Florida will be upon us—but first we must collect 18,094 signed petitions by Feb. 21 to get on the ballot. That’s a tall order but with your support we can accomplish this goal. Let’s Protect the Santa Fe River: Here’s how you can take action now…

  • Sign the petition to put the SAFEBOR initiative on the 2020 Alachua County ballot
  • Volunteer to ask friends and neighbors to sign the petition.
  • Donate. Political campaigns are expensive. If you love the river, please put your money where your heart is.

People have a voice. Corporations have a voice. Why not the River?
Our public waters are a public trust. Protecting them is the right thing to do. Let’s all be a Voice for the River! 

And please share this message with your friends across Alachua County and beyond.

2019 Summer of Slime Photo Tour

A photo essay by John Moran

Nature is speaking. Are we listening?

The Stillheart Declaration (2013)

As humanity fast-tracks towards the collapse of our planetary systems, we sought to articulate a shared vision toward a new economy based on living in balance with natural systems; where the rights of humans do not extend to the domination of nature. We questioned the viability of a global economy whose jurisprudence places property rights above all; recognizes corporate rights as the most sacred of property rights; subordinates human rights and the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples to corporate rights; and where Nature is not recognized as having any intrinsic rights at all. We discussed the power and possibility of an emerging body of law—recognizing legal rights for ecosystems to exist, flourish and regenerate their vital cycles—as a necessary part of placing our human laws in alignment with Nature’s laws, and our human actions and economy in an appropriate relationship with the natural order of which we are part.

The entire Declaration can be read here. Necessary elements of an economic system consistent with the Rights of Nature include the following:

  • Immediately reducing production and consumption levels to within the carrying capacities of the planet, and the equitable redistribution of available resources/wealth;
  • The full restoration of ecosystems, primarily allowing nature to heal itself;
  • The relocalization of primary production, distribution and use; the abandonment of economic globalization models as inherently wasteful and inequitable;
  • Full recognition of non-monetized labor;
  • Governance through ecologically informed, democratic, participatory, engaged and empowered decision-making at all scales;
  • Elimination of economic systems and strategies that prioritize economic growth, and profit, and private acquisition of resources and wealth, above all other values;
  • The elimination of substances that are toxic, persistent, and bioaccumulative;
  • Zero waste systems for production, use, and decomposition known as cradle-to-cradle living;
  • Recognition of sacred relationships with place;
  • In all economic decisions and human activities, the wellbeing of Nature is primary.

All must speak out for the needs of nature and our Mother Earth as a whole. It is our responsibility to live within the natural order that is sacred to all life on earth. We must redraw the boundaries of the economy to bring them into line with ecological limits and the common sense science of planetary boundaries. Nature’s needs are also our own and must be elevated and protected by legal rights, and maintained through life-sustaining systems of exchange and reciprocity.

SAFEBOR–A six word story

The “who, what, where, when, why how”

If you missed our launch events, you may have questions. Here’s a summary of what you missed, and several ways to get involved at the end of the post.

The Who of SAFEBOR

Why are we attempting this in Alachua County? Seven counties are in the Santa Fe River basin, and six counties actually border the river, but only two of those counties have county charters that can be amended and of those two, Alachua county has the most environmentally active voters, so it is a better choice to attempt passage.

Who benefits from this, and who is it harmful to? Obviously the people of Alachua County and the economy benefits through protection of our commons. This amendment would shift the power away from large business entities who are attempting to extract or pollute our commons, the Santa Fe River bioregion.

Who started this? The steering committee consists of Lu Merritt, Merrillee Jipson-Malwitz, David Moritz, and John Moran.

The What of SAFEBOR

What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach? The strengths of this are that it approaches the issue of environmental justice from the perspective of Mother Nature rather than an anthropomorphic one. The biggest weakness is that we are still forced to work within the system, even though we are attempting to flip the legal narrative on its head.

“The debate around the rights of nature is one of the most active frontlines in the fight for a non-market-based point of view. It’s a reaction against our society’s commodification of everything.”

–Gudynas, Aug. 2019

Why this, why now? We have tried working within the legal box/framework of lobbying and advocacy, and it is not working because the corporations have too much power.

What is the best case and worst case outcome of this charter amendment? The best case scenario is that this passes and we enter a phase of legal challenges. The worst case scenario is that it doesn’t pass, yet we will still then have moved the narrative forward regarding our place in Nature rather than commodification.

The Where of SAFEBOR

Where else has giving rights to nature been used? Giving Nature rights has been used in many other countries, with Ecuador, Bolivia, and New Zealand at the forefront of the movement. Bangladesh just gave all of its rivers rights. A number of places in the US have too; most recently Toledo Ohio/Lake Erie. Currently there are at least 3 other regions in Florida currently attempting this—the Wekiva River, Caloosahatchee, and Kissimmee River groups.

Where can we get more information? Here at the website under Additional Reading, and @Facebook@Safebor

The When of SAFEBOR

What are the deadlines for gathering the petitions? If we gather enough petitions, when does the charter amendment get on the ballot in Alachua County? We need over 18,000 signed, valid petitions from Alachua County voters by Feb. 22, 2020 (6 months from now). Achieving that allows us to place the amendment request on the Nov. 2020 ballot in Alachua County for voters to decide on.

How will we know if we have succeeded or failed? We will know that we have succeeded if we move the narrative forward, whether this passes or not. Think of all the high-quality conversations that you will engage in regarding this topic as a petition gatherer! We will know we have failed if the narrative in this county does not move forward and citizens continue to allow entities to extract the life from our life support systems.

The Why of SAFEBOR

Why is this relevant to me? Because we want to leave something for our children and grandchildren.

Why has this been this way for so long? Our American society has grown and thrived under capitalism, but our system prioritizes wealth over well-being. That has to change if our life support systems (and us) are to survive.

The How of SAFEBOR

How does this play out/disrupt things? Nature has no money, she has no rights. While this amendment is not working completely outside the system, it shifts the power and the perspective on its head, so that Nature has legal rights. This charter amendment gives citizens the right to speak for the river in lawsuits, thus leveling the playing field between powerful organizations and the river and the people. So perhaps the first legal challenge if this passes might be something like speedboats on the river, or water withdrawal. The decision from that lawsuit then sets precedents for successive lawsuits, and that is how the law evolves.

So if you like what you are hearing, get involved! At the links above, you can submit a query at the About Us page. You can donate under the Take Action menu. You can talk about this issue with your friends, family, and community. We are going to need a lot of petitions signed–you can sign up to gather petitions at the menu above: Take Action/Volunteer for SAFEBOR. Thank you!

“Come on in, the water’s fine!”

–the santa fe river bioregion’s 6 word story