February 8 marked Class XXI’s Environment Day. The presentations began with Chad Crawford, host of popular TV show How To Do Florida, talking about his mission to spread appreciation for his native state. The morning was hosted by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. President and CEO, Rob Moher; Keith Laakonen, Director of the Rookery Bay Reserve; and Nick Penniman, the incoming board chairman of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, discussed the importance of the preservation of the Everglades, our mangrove and aquatic preserves and indigenous wildlife, and strategies to achieve this. All three presenters joined for a discussion of environmental questions.

The second part of the morning session consisted of presentations on the drainage of Lake Okeechobee, and the complexity of all the solutions, by Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds of the Army Corps of Engineers; Frank Jackalone, Florida director of the Sierra Club; and Judy Clayton Sanchez, director of corporate communications for US Sugar. A spirited but civil discussion of the complex questions around this issue then ensued.

Lunch followed at the Naples Grande resort, where Chad Crawford presented his new television show, Flip Your Yard, an energetic series about transforming conventional properties into self-sustaining oases of indigenous and Florida-friendly plants. The keynote speaker of the day, Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, gave a mesmerizing presentation on how thinking outside the box and emphasizing mutual benefits for all parties can change the grim outcome of sea level rise. Mr. Ovink was accompanied by Nathalie Olijslager, Consul General of the Netherlands and deputy Consul General, Mina Kallenberg.

Kathy Worley, Director of Environmental Science at the Conservancy, led an excursion to Clam Pass and discussed the effects of erosion, dredging, and pollution on mangroves, seagrasses, and oyster beds. Finally, the class returned to the Conservancy, where nature photographer John Brady presented his beautiful regional nature photos, and answered questions on his techniques and resources available to all of us.

Article by Thomas Lansen

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