Tuesday, October 16, 2018

“The March”: A tactic that has lost its effectiveness in the modern era?

And whilst on topic, there hasn’t been a protest of any significance in this City of Lake Worth for over 2½ years but there have been a few marches to a Downtown park or to City Hall.

In the social media era marches and marching has become much more difficult with so many young people looking at their phones all the time walking in circles and bumping into each other, not to mention obstacles like trees, storm drains, and stop signs.

Plus the counting of marchers has always been a dubious process. Some try and estimate the number and others do too but to a factor of ten. That’s why news reports are all over the place from 10 marchers to 100 or what can also be called a rounding error.

And how many of you reading this remember the nationwide “March for the Ocean” last July with some scattered protests here in South Florida? One of those marches took place in Washington, D.C. and included Drew Martin and friends from the Loxahatchee Sierra Club, an environmental organization located right here in Palm Beach County.

Read more about that later in this blog post.

As to the question, are ‘marches’ effective any
longer in the age of social media?

If the Millennials and young people were running the show, would there be marches in the street or some other tactic to try and alter public opinion here in South Florida to draw more attention to the environment and other political causes?

The ‘banning’ of plastic straws here in Palm Beach County has raised some awareness but the idea of creating new ordinances and fining the public comes across as way too draconian and may have very well backfired with the public as happened just recently in Jupiter. Every City has littering ordinances and law enforcement has more important things to do is what the public and policy-makers are questioning.

Some have suggested the environmental movement in Palm Beach County focus on things like plastic water bottles, encouraging the use of canteens when going out for a walk, going to the beach, or whilst marching for a cause. No new ordinances. Just educating the public about the alternatives to plastic bottles.

The young adults and twenty-somethings back in the late 1960s to late 1970s starting out in the news business, public relations and those who dedicated themselves to issues such as environmental awareness and political change are now well up in age, in their 60s and 70s.

And many of them who succeeded in the news business, PR industry, and environmental organizations now occupy very high places of influence. Are marches just their way of reliving the past? Sitting back and thinking about ‘the good ole days’ wearing tie-dye shirts and tattered blue jeans?

Are marches cost effective any longer?

For all the funding, planning and resources necessary to create a march do marches actually achieve the desired effect or result? For example, after going through all the hard work to stage a march it only takes one individual to screw the whole thing up as was recently reported in the Shiny Sheet. Or what if a march is scheduled to bring attention to over-development and western sprawl and only twelve people show up as was recently reported in The Palm Beach Post? Not exactly the urgent “call for action” to grab the attention and motivate the public.

Florida history is about the history of economics, specifically the cycles of boom and bust. We’re in a boom cycle now. One that could last for decades. Or it could end next year. So whilst the critics of development, increasing population growth and western sprawl try harder and harder to make their voices heard is ‘The March’ the best use of available resources?

Let’s take for example Mr. Drew Martin and the “March for the Ocean” (M4O), a nationwide “Plastic-Free March”.

The M4O organized by March for the Ocean and Earth Conservation Corps was a nationwide march two months ago and there were a few scattered marches in Palm Beach County. One march was in West Palm Beach and “about 30 people” showed up, which means the number was probably between fifteen and twenty:

Attendees held up signs that read, “Plastic Toxic,” “Straws Suck” and “Save the Seas.”

Question: The March for the Ocean was held on June 9th. How many of you reading this remember that march? How much of an impact, if any, did those efforts have to change public perception here in places such as Central Palm Beach County?

Drew Martin is one of the most well-known and respected environmentalists in South Florida. He’s been part of the environmental movement, politics, and public relations for many years, a former member of the Palm Beach Soil, Water and Conservation Board, and a frequent attendee at public meetings about the environment including the County Commission and the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council as well.

Here is more information about Martin’s long and distinguished history working for environmental causes, in attendance speaking before a local advocacy group in suburban Lake Worth:

The excerpts below are from an article in the Coastal & Greenacres Observer last May with the headline, “Every Day is Earth Day”.

“Martin is in demand as a speaker because of his manner he shares the current conservation and environmental news.”

Martin is the Conservation Chair for the Loxahatchee Sierra Club. The Sierra Club was formed by John Muir in 1892. It is the “oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States.”
     The Loxahatchee Sierra Groups with approximately 3,000 members serves Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties. They are the voice of environmental issues.

and. . .

He [Martin] easily answered questions of current conservation concerns. Some of the topics Martin discussed were:
  • Property development and loss of open space in western Palm Beach County. [emphasis added]
  • The pollution problem with plastics at home and in our oceans. “Eighty percent of the marine trash, plastic, and debris comes from urban runoff.”

More from the Coastal & Greenacres Observer,
about the first “Plastic-Free March”:

Of great interest are the causes of the ongoing destruction of the reef and the marine life associated with the reef as an ecosystem. There has been a decline of coral over the last decade by 80 percent. The coral reefs are called the unseen “backbone of the Earth’s ecosystem.”

So on June 9th were the marches, flotillas, and water celebrations all across the United States and in Washington, D.C. and everyone was asked to “Wear Blue for the Ocean!” Do you live in Central Palm Beach County? Do you recall any of the marches? What other tactics do you think would have been more effective. . .

“March past the White House and around Lafayette Square before returning to staging area (60–90 minute walk or approximately 1½ mile loop). Wear comfortable walking shoes, blue clothing (Wear Blue for the Ocean), a shade cap, ocean-safe sunblock and carry a canteen.” [emphasis added]

Why a canteen?

No plastic bottles are allowed!

As to the question: Is it time for ‘The March’ to go away?

Are there more effective ways that advocacy groups can use to bring more attention to the environment? Ways that are more cost effective and reach more of the public? Certainly something to think about, especially so for all the Millennials out there waiting for the old guard to retire and make way for all the new voices in the environmental movement.

Briefly, back to Mr. Drew Martin. One of his latest endeavors to bring more attention to the environment was an ill-fated run for mayor in the City of Lake Worth.

Mr. Martin’s election loss to now-County Commissioner Dave Kerner in 2015 didn’t stop Martin. He just
set his sights on a smaller goal:

Martin successfully raised $7,383 in his race for mayor. But unfortunately, Sarah Malega may have been the collateral damage, the theory being all the grandstanding swung the deciding votes to the incumbent, Commissioner Scott Maxwell.

In conclusion. . .

Have ideas to improve public outreach, communicate better with the public and draw more attention to things like open space, stopping western sprawl and promoting environmental education and stewardship at places like the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge right here in Palm Beach County?

It was in that wildlife refuge that the Loxahatchee Sierra Club (LSC) — in partnership with the South Florida Management District — recently scored a major victory in the fight against the plague of Lygodium. The LSC encourages everyone from the public to visit the refuge. To plan a visit to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge click on this link.

How many of you reading this have ever been to that wildlife refuge right in our backyard in Central Palm Beach County, located to the west of Boynton Beach?

Doesn’t that delve into the topic of communication and engaging the public? So take some time this week and reach out to your local environmental organization or contact the LSC and share your ideas, suggestions and concerns, especially so all the Millennials out there, the ones who will be in charge in the not so distant future.