One Earth’s Winter on the Road, Part 3: Last FL Report!
We’ve wrapped up our winter on the road in Florida and are back in Indiana! Here are the highlights of One Earth’s February in Florida! If you didn’t catch our earlier trip reports, here are Trip Report 1 and Trip Report 2 ????.
We started the February trip at the Holmes Beach Arts & Crafts Fair and enjoyed seeing friends from other shows we’ve done with TNT Events. Next, another show in Ave Maria gave us the chance to meet Georgie LeHoop, drumstick artist and hiker extraordinaire. George paints with drumsticks on a canvas stretched across a drum and uses rhythm to create his designs.
Other highlights of Marco Island were seeing gopher tortoises and burrowing owls (although they were isolated in tiny islands in yards and empty lots).
Gopher tortoises are a keystone species whose underground burrows (which average ~15 feet long x 6 feet deep) provide a home and habitat for more than 350 other species of invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals! The burrow provides protection from temperature extremes, fire and drought. Less than 5% of their original habitat remains. Gopher tortoises have threatened status, and females need up to 20 years to mature before they can reproduce.
I wonder how the small protections these species are given will enable them to survive long term. How can a few square feet of habitat roped off around their burrows be enough, when their average foraging area covers a radius of at least 150 feet and females must wander (and often cross roads) to find nesting areas?
Burrowing Owls are the only bird of prey in North America that nests underground. They can dig their own burrows, but they’re happy to use burrows created by other species such as gopher tortoises or prairie dogs. Like the Gopher Tortoise, Burrowing Owls are a threatened species in Florida due especially to habitat loss. Despite their relatively simple habitat needs, relentless fragmentation and human-driven change in the landscape makes it hard for these birds to live in peace. The City Council of Marco Island is trying to help. They recently started a program to help home owners host Burrowing Owls in their yards. Wildlife crews help dig burrows in suitable yard habitat areas and provide T perches for the owls.
After Marco Island, we vended at a show in Five Points Park in Sarasota, and then took a few days off to go back to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary with my parents Nancy and Chuck who happened to be in Florida at the same time.
Corkscrew is a great place to see abundant birds and other wildlife, and to be immersed in and appreciate the beauty of trees that have been standing since before westerners arrived on the continent. The swamp and surrounding protected areas are crucial for Florida’s fresh water supply. However, the rampant development all around threatens to draw down the water table to a level that won’t be able to sustain the swamp or the people living in the region for much longer.
Our final show in Florida was the Punta Gorda Seafood & Music Festival. It was a great way to end the trip – we met great people and sales were strong! We had a corner booth and were set up next to our friends Sue and John of Beaded Soul Jewelry – awesome people with beautiful jewelry made by a Fair-Trade women’s coop in Indonesia.
Takeaways from our time in Florida…
We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to Florida for sales events as well as to see friends, family and Nature there. We took time to explore protected areas and to get a feel for the landscape. We learned a lot about festival sales and booth setup, we expanded our customer base and vendor network, and we introduced our product demonstration station! We met people we hope to have lasting connections with.
On the less cheery side, we witnessed the voracious maws of destruction happening across south and central-western Florida. Of course this is happening elsewhere too. The unchecked spread of human “development” and consumption across the planet is knocking the life supports out from under us. Do we stand and watch the beauty, heritage and wealth of life that has its own right to exist and that will make future life possible disappear? All around us, the race to gobble up unpaved land and natural areas is sucking the oxygen from the air and the soul from Life. Here are some suggested antidotes:
Support organizations like the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast in their efforts to conserve remaining land on Florida’s Gulf Coast. This doesn’t just matter to Florida wildlife and people, it matters to the planet. Our species must conserve land everywhere in connected networks of habitat. Let’s support people and organizations doing good work in the fight to ensure a livable present and future!
Read Surviving the Future by David Fleming, edited by Shaun Chamberlain. This book is rich with ideas about creating sustainable local communities in the face of disruptive global changes.
Love the Earth and find ways to connect with Nature every day. Remember, we’re a part of Nature, and our lives can be greatly enriched by nurturing the natural connections that link us to all of Life. Take time to observe close up, the small things around you. Then zoom out to the big picture of how it all fits together.
Step back from the rat race and sit under a tree for a while. You may laugh, until you try it!