With summer approaching and South Florida temperatures once more reaching a boiling point, water consumption will be even more crucial.

Water consumption in South Florida is dependent on the Everglades, a wetlands preserve that spans over one million acres throughout the southern part of the state and provides drinking water to over seven million Floridians. Although the Everglades provides the source of life for people, its ecosystem has experienced threats since 1882 when Pennsylvania land developer, Hamilton Disston, attempted to drain the Everglades to construct the first canals in the area. Though unsuccessful, efforts to decrease the size of the Everglades for land development has steadily taken place since then. However, these enterprises have been met with opposition.

In 1947 Miami Herald freelance journalist and conservationist, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, authored the non-fiction book, “The Everglades: River of Grass.” Douglas was well known for her defense of the Everglades against efforts to drain it for land development. A question that she would often ask was, “What are you doing to save the Everglades?” One group in South Florida who has answered the call and is working to motivate people to respect and care for the Everglades through education is the Love the Everglades Movement.

“Water is Sacred and Water Unites Us” is their core message as they bridge talents, imaginations, and energies of diverse South Florida residents from every background learn more about the Everglades. The movement operates through a series of actions, events, workshops, prayers, and excursions into the heart of the Everglades with the goal of revitalizing community participation for global action to protect sacred land.

On a Love the Everglades Movement excursion, one can find themselves on board an airboat journeying deep into the heart of nature with a diverse range of guests. Along the journey the excursion is narrated by organizers who inform guests not only about the ecological background of the land, but also the spiritual background as the Everglades is sacred homeland to the Miccosukee people.

“We started this work by way of field trips and developed a framework of storytelling with an itinerary of places to visit so people could see the vast landscapes, walk over the muddy tree islands, and interact with some of the animals in the River of Grass,” said Houston Cypress, who serves on the board of directors for the organization.

Cypress, a two-spirit Miccosukee poet and activist from the Otter Clan says that out of everything that people search for to use as a catalyst to unite communities, water has that power. “People are all intimately linked to the water cycle.  The water that we take for granted, flows so effortlessly from our taps.” Cypress maintains a number of traditional villages located on tree islands scattered throughout Water Conservation Area 3A, the area known as the historic River of Grass, and called “Kaahayatle,” by the Miccosukee community, which is translated as "shimmering waters."

Cypress says that they work in solidarity with the indigenous communities who live in and depend on the greater Everglades to sustain their cultural practices. “When we respect the sovereignty of the Miccosukee and Seminole communities, and we are privileged to share in their spiritual philosophy of the Circle of Life.”

Cypress said that the ability for indigenous communities to thrive in the Everglades is key for all communities. “Thriving conditions benefit all other communities, through cleaner water, thriving economies that embrace tourism and entertainment, and the general feelings of inspiration and wonder that people can experience when they explore these places.” Cypress said that the excursions have inspired compelling artwork, research proposals, school lesson plans, direct actions in many communities, and beautiful prayers.  

Upcoming excursions, referred to as “heart-opening experiences,” will begin after the beginning of the New Water Year in May 2018. Cypress says about the experience, “you are going to be a very important person after you visit these remote places. We take guests to places that most people will never get to visit and a lot of information about the ecology of these places. We also highlight the cultural history and continued practices of the Miccosukee and Seminole communities. We hope to see you out there on an airboat with us one day soon.”

If you are feeling stressed out from the “hustle and bustle," you can go to the Love the Everglades Movement website at www.LoveTheEverglades.org and find an excursion to restore yourself in the Big Cypress Forest; or participate in one of their many other programs.