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Natural Awakenings - Alachua, Citrus, Marion, Sumter Co & The Villages, FL

Campaign for Clean Florida Water Continues

Oct 04, 2020 05:13PM ● By Linda Sechrist

The Nature Network (FRONN) and the Rights of Nature worldwide movement are collaborating to legally recognize the entitlement of ecosystems to exist, flourish and evolve naturally; the inalienable rights of human beings to clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems; and the constitutional authority of local governments to declare and defend these rights. Rights of Nature also recognizes that our current regulatory system, highly subject to corporate influence and changing political systems, is failing us and the Earth.


FRONN is a grassroots collaboration of local initiatives across Florida working in charter counties to protect nature's rights, people's rights to a healthy environment and home rule. LeeRON and FRONN assist and support citizens in amending their local city/county charter to create constitutionally framed environmental protections in their community. Joe Bonasia, director of education for LeeRON, works with Chuck O’Neal, president of FRONN, toward passing a Right to Clean Water Charter Amendment. Also known as the Wekiva River and Econlockhatchee River Bill of Rights (WEBOR), the proposed amendment to the Orange County Charter appears on the Orange County November ballot as Charter Question #1.


O’Neal notes, “The game is rigged in favor of corporations and against citizens and the home rule powers of local governments. The failure of plastic bag and sunscreen bans in Coral Gables and Key West due to preemptive state laws are glaring examples,” he advises.


The current regulatory system regards nature as merely property, therefore anyone with a title to the land has the legal right to harm it. “Human and natural communities that don’t have title to or a financial interest in the land lack legal standing to argue in court for protection. However, the individual or corporation that holds title of ownership does have standing. Granting legal rights to nature provides it and its human guardians the standing to defend the natural world in court. Rights provide the highest level of protection under law,” remarks O’Neal.


In March, the Orange County Charter Review Commission voted to place the Wekiva River and Econlockhatchee River Bill of Rights on the county ballot. This is a first for Florida and the nation. Once approved by voters, this amendment will establish the right of these rivers to exist and be protected from pollution, as well as the right of residents to clean water.


“While our entire state is dependent on its hydrology, all rivers in Orange County and 75 percent of our largest lakes are listed as impaired. Now is the time for we, the people, to save our state from what appears to be this new but unacceptable normal,” says O’Neal.


Contaminants of concern are present in groundwater and drinking water from many sources, such as erosion of natural deposits, fertilizers, pesticides, septic systems, agricultural uses and improper disposal, as well as accidental discharges of hazardous waste and petroleum compounds.


Although there have been about three dozen cities and townships passing rights of nature ordinances, Orange will be the first county in the nation to do so. No longer can we afford to view nature as an endless resource to be exploited for human wants, profit and greed. RON laws are an expedient method to bring change to stop and reverse destructive impacts.


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