Tag Archives: fires

A River Kid Grows Up – Naia Mader

-Naia Mader co-founded River Kidz in 2011; today she is a  junior at UC, Berkeley .This week, as part of my River Kidz series, I proudly feature Naia Mader. Naia, the daughter of Nicole and Donny Mader, co-founded River Kidz in 2011 with friend Evie Flaugh.  Naia was only ten years old at the time. Today, she is twenty and earning a bachelor’s degree in Society and Environment, College of Natural Resources, University of California, Berkeley. Right in line with her River Kidz training, Naia is also completing a minor in Public Policy.

I had not spoken in depth with Naia since she left her hometown of Stuart, Florida, three years ago. I was happy to hear that Naia feels River Kidz helped prepare her for her studies. Last week, I interviewed her briefly by phone while she was in between classes.

JTL: “Hi Naia.” My having been born at Travis Air Force Base in California, in 1964, makes me feel like we have something in common. How do you like it out there in the Golden State in 2021?”

N: “Well, it was a shock in many ways. It is very different from Stuart. Now I love it.”

JTL: “What was the first thing you noticed was different?”

N: “Mmmm, the mindset of the people I think. Like when I think back on how those adults  were against us at the CRC. I think there is more support here for youth and the environment. People are more hopeful, less divisive. For everyone, there’s more of an eco-consciousness. It’s not negative.”

JTL : (Laughing) :Naia that was incredible. Those were not just adults, those were very powerful Gunster lawyers -working against what you and Evie spoke in favor of “A Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment“- at the Florida Constitution Revision Commission in 2017. You and Evie learned a lot at a very young age. Water is the big issue here. What are some of the big environmental topics facing people in California?”

-River Kidz co-founders Evie Flaugh (11) & Naia Mader (10) 2011.-Evie & Naia, Tallahassee 2017. River Kidz  advocated before the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, the Florida Senate, members of the House of Representatives in Washington DC, and various Florida county and city commissions. There have been over 600 members of River Kidz since 2011. Today’s generation is writing the U.S. Dept. of the Interior and politicians to get the ailing manatee back on the Endangered Species List.N: “Water too. But it’s water shortage, along with drought and fire.”

JTL: “Yes, we read a lot about the fires in California. Can you compare them to hurricanes in Florida -where it’s sometimes a little bit scary, and you hunker down and wait for it to pass?”

N: “It’s a different kind of scary. In a hurricane there is time and you prepare for this big storm, but with these fires they are always kind of looming over our heads. It’s more of an eerie feeling- it’s a constant thing…”

JTL: “So it’s more pervasive….”

N: “Yes, don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely beautiful here most of the time, but still. I’ll send you some pictures I took last year in September.  Due to distant fires the sky was glowing completely orange. Its was like I said, eerie more than scary. And we are very aware of the AQI (Air Quality Index) out here and check it daily.”

JTL: “What’s the AQI?”

N: “The air quality index.”

JTL: “Wow. I take that for granted!”

N: “Two years ago we couldn’t go to class for four days because the AQI was over 270. It was strange; my roommates and I stayed inside. Sometime we don’t go out to exercise.”

JTL: “Well thank you for sharing about that Naia. I know people back in Florida are interested.”

-In 2020 Berkley had twenty days of red flag warnings. Photo Naia Mader “outside” Sept. 2020.JTL:  “Naia, like you said, drought is a big environmental topic and linked to the fires affecting people and wildlife. Clean water and stopping the discharges from Lake Okeechobee was the mission of River Kidz, so what is it like dealing with drought – not enough water? How is it  affecting people you know or yourself?”

N: “It is also pervasive. And yes a shift. So I for instance, I had class with fellow students two days ago, who, you know, they have water caps imposed by their local governments. They can only shower with the full strength of the water for an allowed period of time per day and the other part of the day has to be on half pressure.”

JTL: “Your’e kidding? Wow. I practice conservation, but I can’t imagine having a government cap on my showering time! Has this affected you too?”

N: “No, Berkeley is not in that situation. But other places not far away from here are, and some of my friends experience it when they visit home.”

JTL: “Water is everything…”

N: “Yeah, and another thing about drought, like here in California, it “never” rains, which is such a foreign concept to me because it rains all the time in Florida. For many of my classmates’ families that are from California, the effects of drought are far reaching and they talk about it a lot and are very conservation oriented. But don’t get the wrong idea, not everything is dry here, there are a lot green places too!”

JTL: “Yes, California has always been considered one of the most beautiful states desert or forest. It is a very special place. It think it’s great you are going to school out there.”

-Naia walks trails around Berkeley, always a tree hugger! JTL: “Naia, I know you have to go to class. Before I leave you,  if you had something to say to next generation of River Kidz what would you say? Thank you so much for your time today.”

N: “I would tell them to be totally encouraged and to keep on fighting, to keep on getting involved, to use their voice. I think that’s the most important thing we can do right now.”

JTL: “Last question. Did River Kidz help prepare you for – life – basically? Can you explain?”

N: “Oh, I think ten-thousand percent. Like I’ve actually spoken to Evie about this. I feel like the way I present myself in speaking terms, writing terms… How I see things from many different  perspectives…  I feel like on a global scale, it has totally stemmed down from River Kidz. It taught me to mature at a young age, not forced to mature but… being able to write speeches, understand adults, and know what was going on even if I was a kid.

And I feel like I’ve carried that sense of self over to being here a Berkeley. In class, I can speak much more eloquently. I know how to do presentations, speeches – I feel like I kind of have that down on lock. 

I feel like River Kidz really prepared me. I also feel that on the environmental scale I have been learning about these big environmental  issues from a young age. It’s actually funny, one of my friends at school was learning about the toxic algae blooms in the St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon. So I was like “oh my gosh- that’s my home!”

It’s so far reaching…It definitely prepared me.”


Ironically, today parts of California are experiencing torrential rains. I will be interviewing more grown River Kidz in the future.



Jupiter Lighthouse, a Magical-Historic Place, Loxahatchee/Indian River Lagoon

The Jupiter lighthouse, built in 1860 and still looking beautiful.
The Jupiter lighthouse, built in 1860 remains a stunning landmark as one passes over the confluence of the Loxahatchee River and southern Indian River Lagoon. (Photos by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2014.)

This week I have been watching a high school friend’s seventh grade daughter, Hannah, so I have been particularly “adventurous,” taking advantage of sharing some of  the cool places to visit, right in “our own backyard.”

One such place visited this past weekend was the Jupiter Lighthouse. The first time I toured the Jupiter Lighthouse I was five and attending  St Mary’s Kindergarden in Stuart. The teacher and guide walked our class up the hundreds of twirling stairs to pop out at the top and see a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and Loxahatchee watershed.  We were awed!

I can still remember this experience. In fact for whatever reason, as a child, I believed the lighthouse could talk and that people sat up in the lighthouse in black leather chairs, men with cigars I recall, and  together with the lighthouse “invented words.” This childhood idea has stayed with me through out my lifetime and every time I drive past the lighthouse, I remember it…

But I never actually went back until last weekend.

So 45 years later, attending with Hannah, the lighthouse still held its magic.

Hannah and I at Jupiter Lighthouse.

The lighthouse was built in 1860 to guide sea captains along the Atlantic’s treacherous waters. Its “Fresnel lens” shines 23 miles out to sea. The land around the lighthouse is located on a military reservation that was designated during the Indian Wars. Today the lighthouse  is the region’s “oldest active building.”

Original Fresnel lens.
Original Fresnel lens.

It’s light was quickly snuffed out during the Civil War, 1861-1864, but thereafter put back in place and still shines today as the only lighthouse in Florida using its original lens.  The lighthouse has been through fires, an earthquake, multiple hurricanes, the Indian Wars, and World War I and II. It has seen the entire growth of modern-day Jupiter. In 2000 it was restored and today, honestly, looks almost  brand new.

View of Atlantic from inside Jupiter Lighthouse.
View looking east of Atlantic Ocean and confluence of Loxahatchee River and S. Indian River Lagoon –from inside Jupiter Lighthouse.

For Hannah and I it was most interesting to note that the lighthouse sits atop an 45 foot sand dune/Indian shell midden lending to its prominence. Another interesting thing we learned afterwards from Facebook exchanges was that the Jupiter Inlet today is not in its original location.  When the lighthouse was built the inlet winded through today’s Carlin Park about a quarter-mile south of today’s ACOE’s straight shot into the Loxahatchee River.

The Loxahatchee River, along which the lighthouse sits, was Florida’s first designated “Wild and Scenic River” and translates as “river of turtles” in Seminole. (There used to be hundreds of Green turtles in the area.) Unfortunately for the native peoples the turtles were over harvested and according to local historian Bessie Wilson DuBois, 300 of the local Seminoles were trapped right at the mouth of the Loxahatchee and later sent west during one of the Indian Wars.

The remnants of the original native peoples who lived in the area for thousands of years before their destruction by Europeans, can be seen in their earthen mounds under, and around the lighthouse. (Most famously, under the DuBois Pioneer Home across the river.) These shell mounds, formed by thousands of years of shellfish consumption provided high sights for these ancient people to take watch and a place in some cases to bury their dead.

Native American tribes.
Native American tribes.

Most of these sacred places were used by the expanding European culture to make roads. Today they are protected historical sites reminding us of a culture that lived more in harmony with nature rather than trying to overpower it.

The highlight of our visit was when Hannah and I walked to the top of the lighthouse with our tour group which included kindergarten aged kids. I thought about how much time had passed since I myself walked to the top of the lighthouse at that age, I thought about my friend’s daughter growing up in a different but somehow similar world to what I grew up in….

At the very top, Hannah and I were exhilarated. Inspired! We walked all the way around in amazement.

Then it was time to go…

On the way down, I said “Hannah you don’t mind if I say a few word to the lighthouse before we leave do you? She smiled.

I turned my head, held tight to the railing, and whispered: “Good to see you agin Mrs Lighthouse, you are looking pretty good for 154 years old.”

I was silent, and then I swear,  I heard her say: ” You don’t look so bad yourself for 50, but please, don’t wait another 45 years to say hi.”

Jupiter Lighthouse sits a top an ancient Native American shell midden.
Jupiter Lighthouse sits a top an ancient Native American shell midden.


Jupiter Lighthouse: (http://jupiterlighhouse.org)

Native peoples of Florida: (http://trailoffloridasindianheritage.org/florida-indian-trial-jupiter-midden-2c.html)