If you know us, you know: we tell Florida stories. Though it sounds straightforward, this is a deceptively complicated task. In this editorial, we make the case for breaking down barriers around yourself during this divisive time. We ask you to focus on what we all have in common: Florida’s environment.
If you know us, you know: we tell Florida stories. Though it sounds straightforward, this is a deceptively complicated task. Trying to tell the story of Florida is like trying to juggle a million balls: it’s simultaneously the state of unparalleled natural beauty, corrupt politics, Disney World, retirement homes, hurricanes, ranches, NASCAR, surfers, alligators, agriculture. You name it, we each have our own list. Florida resists being summed up, and our job is to grapple with the perceived “weirdness” and regional ambiguity of Florida as a result.
This quandary is something we at The Marjorie meet head on. It’s vital that we try to suss this out—it enriches not only our reporting but our understanding of what it means to be a Floridian and how that’s evolved over time.
This often means looking at statistics and trends to see how those data points might feel contradictory or complimentary, and why. A glaring example came with the most recent election: Florida went red in the presidential election, yet many local measures passed that seem to run in opposition to the Republican ticket: Eighty-nine percent of Orange County voters approved the Right to Clean Water Charter Amendment, becoming the largest jurisdiction in the nation to pass “Rights of Nature” legislation. More than 60% of Floridians approved a $15 minimum wage. And, 71% of Manatee County voters approved a land and water conservation tax referendum.
So what can we glean from that? How might those local and national political choices fit together?
One lesson: environmental concern is not defined by party lines. Over the past three years, we have prioritized the idea of finding common ground in our reporting. We work to foster communication about Florida’s environment across groups with contrasting values, backgrounds and opinions.
Once you strip off the politics, it is easy to see what we all have in common — a connection to our environment.
Most foundationally, we rely on our environment to survive. We rely on farms to feed us, we rely on natural spaces to give us a sense of wellbeing, and we rely on natural resources to sustain us and our communities.
On top of that, for many of us, the environment carries more than a utilitarian value. We value green spaces, the wildlife and natural resources that occupy Florida lands — not just for our own enjoyment, but for their own sake. We care about Florida’s environment because we are a part of it. What happens to Florida’s lands, emanates to us.
By starting there, we are all suddenly on the same side.
We take our role as public servants very seriously, and we work to make a real impact through our reporting by bringing communities together to work through seemingly intractable issues, pushing through to the other side with solutions in mind.
Luckily, we are not alone in using journalism to find solutions to today’s problems. There are many news outlets following suit with their solutions-oriented journalism. Journalists are banding together to help heal the growing schisms of our society. But all of their work, and ours, is for naught if the people don’t follow suit.
So that’s why we are asking you, dear reader, to take a pledge with us on this eve of a new year. Pledge that in 2021, you will help break down barriers around yourself as you find the strength. You will reach out to your neighbors, your loved ones and perhaps your enemies. You will seek to understand them. You will seek to be understood. And you will move toward building a better society for all of us by extending bridges and finding new pathways forward, maybe even creating solutions that have never existed before.
Credits: Cover photo by Hannah O. Brown