Tag Archives: public

“Playing Dead” Like an Opossum–SFWMD, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Opossum plays dead to ward off attackers. As soon as attackers leave the area, the opossum will walk safely away. (Public photo)
Opossum plays dead to ward off attackers. This is where the expression “to play opossum” comes from. As soon as attackers leave the area, the opossum will walk safely away. Most animals will not pursue carrion. This seemed to be the strategy of the SFWMD Governing Board at yesterday’s meeting in West Palm Beach. (Public photo.)
2015 board of the SFWMD. The board did not respond to the public's request for the purchase of US Sugar option lands south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, 3-12-15.)
2015 board of the SFWMD. The board did not respond to the public’s request for the purchase of US Sugar option lands south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, 3-12-15.)
Governing Board, SFWMD, 2015.
Governing Board, SFWMD, 2015.

There are really just a couple of things you can do when you are “attacked” or “think you are  being attacked.” You can fight back, or you can “play opossum–play dead.”

Sometimes, the game is over faster if you “play opossum,” and simply don’t respond.

This happens in my yard a lot with my dogs and opossums here in the Town of Sewall’s Point, and it in my opinion, it happened yesterday at the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board Meeting in West Palm Beach.

Opossum in a tree in my mother's yard. (Photo Sandy Thurlow.)
Opossum in a tree in my parents’ yard. (Photo Sandy Thurlow.)
Opossum pretending it is dead in our ferns. (Photo JTL, 2011.)
Opossum pretending it is dead in our ferns. (Photo JTL, 2011.)
Opossum feigning death...(Public photo)
Opossum feigning death…(Public photo)

Although the front page of the SFWMD’s agenda read:

“The Governing Board may take official action at the is meeting on any item appearing on the agenda and on any item that is added to this agenda as a result of a change to the agenda approved by the presiding officer of the meeting pursuant to Section 120.525, Florida Statutes.”

—no action, not even a comment in response to the 80 public speakers was given at the end of “public comment.” The board remained quiet and simply “moved on…”.

Yes, approximately one hundred members of the public: housewives, grandmothers, activists, veterans, a River Kid, scientists, “River Warriors,” government employees, and politicians from many different counties, (but mostly from Martin and St Lucie Counties), made the long drive to come before the District, a board appointed by our governor…to speak, to exercise their right to speak, and to plead for the life of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Calooshatchee by asking the board to exercise the right to purchase US Sugar option lands south of Lake Okeechobee, or at least to “allow discussion of this item on the agenda.”

This was not achieved….

Thankfully though, Board Chairman, Dan O’Keefe, did allow the public to speak, however, they were told if they clapped, or were disruptive they would be “removed by a deputy….” The public, for the most part, followed the rules, and was “allowed to” raise their hands to show support for each other….Mr O’Keefe empathetically noting hands raised….

It was excruciating…

As a public official myself, who has led and sat through many meetings with an angry public, my eyes actually teared up at one point. Watching the American process in action as the foot of authority stood on their neck…

The underdog in this scenario is certainly “Team David,” of the Indian River Lagoon whose river, the St Lucie, flows with the gushing putrid water of altered area canals and the redirected waters of Lake Okeechobee….

Perhaps the board felt the people weren’t “thankful enough” for all that has been done recently…

It is hard to be thankful when you’re dying….C-44 Reservoir monies and Senator Joe Negron’s Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, yes, these state “wins” have been bonanzas of cash in one small area, our county…

We are thankful…

….unfortunately, so much water comes into the SLR/IRL system, the public is educated and knows that more land for storage is needed for all that water or “death is immanent.”

Yesterday, the river movement of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon chose not to play opossum, giving it their best fight…the government on the other hand, simply rolled over….

Even baby opossums "play opossum," it is genetically wired...(Public photo/real experience.)
Even baby opossums “play opossum,” it is genetically wired…(Public photo/real experience.)
In front of the SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
In front of the SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
Skeleton mermaid of the  SLR/IRL, Linda Curtis. (Photo 3-12-15.)
Skeleton mermaid of the SLR/IRL, Linda Curtiss. (Photo 3-12-15.)
80 members of the public signed up to speak before the governing board. (Photo 3-12-15.)
80 members of the public signed up to speak before the governing board. (Photo 3-12-15.)
People held signs before the SFWMD. (3-12-15, JTL)
People held homemade signs before the SFWMD. (3-12-15, JTL)
Hannah, a River Kid, from St Lucie County, read her "speech" to the Governing Board." She did receive positive reinforcement for her efforts from board Chair, Dan O'keefe. (Photo JTL)
Hannah, a River Kid, from St Lucie County, read her “speech” to the Governing Board.” She did receive positive reinforcement for her efforts from board Chair, Dan O’keefe. (Photo JTL)
Hannah's speech.
Hannah’s speech.
Sign
Sign: BUY THE LAND.
Sign
Sign, WATER IS LIFE.

BBC Special on how animals “play dead” to survive:(http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00z2mcb

Governor appointed, Governing Board SFWMD: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20about%20us/governing%20board)

SFWMD: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/sfwmdmain/home%20page)

Go here to watch the video of the SFWMD Governing Board meeting; it should be posted within 48 hours of 3-12-15: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20about%20us/gb%20application)

HBOI’s Indian River Lagoon Symposium, Great Minds Collaborating to Save Our Greatest Resource, SLR/IRL

Central Indian River Lagoon (Photo Ed Lippisch, 2013)
Central Indian River Lagoon. The entire lagoon spans 156 miles from Volusia to Palm Beach county. (Photo Ed Lippisch, 2013)
HBOI IRL Symposium, 2015
HBOI IRL Symposium, 2015

Today, at the FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute is the “Indian River Lagoon Symposium.” (http://www.indianriverlagoon.org/Symposium.html) that is part of “Love Your Lagoon,” sponsored by the Harbor Branch Foundation (http://www.indianriverlagoon.org/Love-Your-Lagoon-Dinner-.html).

This symposium consist of one full day of presentations, and poster displays, and is then followed by a day including “public meeting and interaction” going forward. The symposium is a collaboration of many, but is led by beloved, Dr Dennis Hannisak of Harbor Branch, who specializes in seagrasses and has written many valuable publications on the subject. (http://www.fau.edu/hboi/meh/mb.php)

Dr Dennis Hannisak, HBOI.
Dr Dennis Hannisak, HBOI.

I would be remiss if I called the HBOI Symposium, the “4th annual,” as Harbor Branch (http://www.fau.edu/hboi/has a very long history of ocean, and thus estuarine research, here on the Treasure Coast, and has had a number of important symposiums over the past 40 plus years. (http://www.hboifoundation.org/p/28/history)

Nonetheless, the past four have been consistent and coincide with the recent crisis and super-bloom “crash” of the Indian River Lagoon’s northern and central seagrass health, and the 2013 “lost summer,” from devastating polluted releases from Lake Okeechobee on top of canals C-23, C-24 , C-44 and C-25 in the southern lagoon.

Since that time, there has been a public outcry for research, funding, and understanding. These symposiums provide an incredible opportunity for the scientific community, government agencies, youth, budding scientists, and the public to collaborate sharing  knowledge and questions regarding our treasured and ailing Indian River Lagoon. Harbor Branch, founded by Steward Johnson and Edwin Link in 1971 is the perfect place. 

 

Sunset , Indian River Lagoon. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow Lippisch, 2014.)
Sunset , Indian River Lagoon. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow Lippisch, 2014.)

The overview for the symposium states:

“The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) Symposium is the result of a multi-institutional, multi-agency effort to provide a forum for discussing IRL science and its application to management of the lagoon. The symposium is open to scientists, decision makers, students, education and outreach professionals, and the interested public. The intent is to help facilitate better communication among these groups so that the gaps between research and its application can be narrowed.”

Here is a summary over the past four years:

2102, “Looking Forward:” (http://www.indianriverlagoon.org/IRLS_2012_Program.pdf)

2013, “Health of the Lagoon:”(http://www.indianriverlagoon.org/IRLS_2013_Abstracts_of_Presentations.pdf)

2014, “Lagoon Bio-diverstiy:” (http://www.indianriverlagoon.org/IRLS_2014_Abstracts_of_Presentations_Final_copy.pdf)

2015, “Lessons, Challenges, Opportunities:” (http://www.indianriverlagoon.org/IRLS_2015_Abstracts_of_Presentations_Final.pdf)

SEE THIS LINK TO VIEW programs, and technical abstracts and more: (http://www.indianriverlagoon.org/Symposium.html)

Kudos to the Harbor Branch and to the steering committee and to the public.  Together, may we inspire each other, and our government to “Save our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!”

•Jeff Beal – Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission
•Patti Gorman – South Florida Water Management District
•Dennis Hanisak – Florida Atlantic University
•Chuck Jacoby – IRL National Estuary Program/St. Johns River Water Management District
•Sea McKeon – Smithsonian Institution
•Mark Perry – Florida Oceanographic Society
•Chris Wilson – University of Florida
•John Windsor – Florida Institute of Technology

To attend the public form, this year entitled: “Engaging the Public: Citizen Science, “please see link: (http://www.indianriverlagoon.org/IRLS_2015_Forum_Program.pdf)(http://www.indianriverlagoon.org/Symposium.html)