Coordination Circle, Love The Everglades Movement
“The world isn’t all rainbows and ponies, but there are rainbows and ponies in the world” – Unknown
I think I can be way too idealistic, so much so that sometimes when I witness things that do not live up to my standards, I can become distraught. So working in Everglades matters has been a nightmare at times, because it is easy to become overwhelmed with grief and pessimism for the future once you start to uncover the intractable politics, the barriers to progress, and the logistical holes in the process (lack of coordinated effort and leadership, for instance).
How dreadful to start a blog post, no? Well, I take this approach because my struggle in Everglades matters has mirrored my personal/spiritual growth. Struggling with attachment, ignorance, anger, sadness, laziness, heart break etc. – in short, the human condition – is very much like struggling to restore the Everglades, because it feels like you’re ever-surrounded by hope, loss, gain, setbacks, contradictions, and opportunities. As it turns out – and to the dismay of my idealistic-self—politics, even those that have to do with such a no-brainer issue, is not so straightforward. But the sage in me can handle this at times, because, after all, it is what it is and it is what it can be: we can understand how things are and work within those parameters and even make parameters of our own.
The Everglades Coalition Conference can be properly understood if viewed through such lens and as part of a larger narrative (and not just an isolated weekend event). That is, judging the conference as either “good” or “bad”, or giving a rating of X out of 10, can be fruitless because it does us, the movement, no good to see it in such simplistic terms. Instead, we can see it as a multi-faceted event with problems and opportunities in a larger series of events geared toward fixing the Everglades.
The conference was set at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club in Naples, FL. Immediately I was struck by the wasteful opulence of the setting: resorts, strip malls, and golf courses. This sort of juxtaposition seems to be typical for the conference which was set in the Biltmore Hotel last year. Access to the conference is limited in part by the cost of the conference (it was $200 alone for all the meals available). The third day we were there, I found out from a Sierra Club member that a group of activists were dissuaded from protesting the conference because of inaccessibility the cost creates. As Laura Reynolds of Tropical Audubon and the Everglades Coalition explained, the resort is the sort of place that will be to the liking of high-profile politicians who have to take this issue seriously. I could tell she wasn’t very comfortable with the place, but that she also thought it was necessary to get things done.
While listening to the various speakers, there seemed to be a distinguishing factor in rhetoric. I’m not quite sure what it indicates, but there certainly were some people that spoke in very optimistic, energetic, and accomplished terms while there were others that spoke in terms that alluded to a dire state of affairs, where urgency was necessary, and the process was problematic at times. Anecdotally, if you’re in agriculture or project construction, you’ll say that things are going according to plan, and if you’re in activism, things aren’t looking so great. I think this is a careful balance to maintain, because we want a sense of urgency to stoke action, but also want to maintain support from congress and the public.
Being involved in Everglades restoration in any capacity means that you’re going to have to deal with really complicated issues on multiple levels. Fortunately, there are people that have identified problems and are working on them, even if those orientations and priorities are disparate and conflicting at times. We’re probably a big mess, but we’re a big mess getting things done. Such is the human condition, I suppose.