2020 has presented many challenges for FCV Education Fund as an organization and for each of us personally. But despite the disappointment of canceled events, being away from loved ones, and staying isolated within our limited “quaranteams” or pods, COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to adapt, persevere, and prosper in new and exciting ways.
Here are some accomplishments that FCVEF is celebrating this year, all made possible because of Conservation Voters like you:
1. Adapting with Resilience
When COVID-19 started to spread throughout Florida in March 2020, we were just coming out of a challenging Legislative Session. Suddenly, we had to adapt. Staff started working from home, we cancelled fun events, and we re-evaluated our strategies for engaging our members. We quickly adjusted our events to be held virtually and used the opportunity to spark more fun chats with our partners. You may have watched one of our educational Facebook Live videos such as our Sea Turtles and Coastal Conservation with Sea Turtle Conservancy, Environmental Justice with New Florida Majority, Springs Protection with Florida Springs Council, and Climate Chat with “Disposable City” author Mario Ariza. We even celebrated our 5th birthday virtually on Facebook Live!
To further connect our members, we launched a book club! With input from participants and our supporters, every six weeks we choose a new book to read as a group. We meet virtually via Zoom to discuss the book. Virtual events keep us connected even as we remain socially distanced.
2. Igniting Chispa Florida
In the fall, we hired three new staff to launch an exciting new program called Chispa Florida. Maria Revelles, Krizia López Arce, and Jesus Reynoso are our newest team members. Maria, Chispa Florida’s Program Director, is a legend in the organizing world, with a background in global and international labor and faith organizing. Krizia (Communications Manager), is a radio co-host and understands the importance of educating communities about climate change and social justice. Jesus (Digital Organizer) has been involved in community advocacy since he was young and whether it’s helping the homeless or getting out the vote, Jesus loves to help his community.
Maria, Krizia, and Jesus are working to launch and support FCVEF’s brand new Chispa Florida program! This community organizing program will build the power of Latinx, Black, and communities of color to protect our rights to clean air and water, healthy neighborhoods, and a safe climate for generations to come. FCVEF looks forward to invigorating the environmental movement with new leaders, increasing voter participation, and holding elected officials accountable to the communities they serve.
Since our soft launch in November, Chispa Florida has already been building community power around important environmental issues. Over the last two years, FCVEF has amplified the voices of concerned parents and communities in demanding that the hundreds of millions of dollars our state is receiving from the VW settlement be used to upgrade Florida’s aging fleet of toxic diesel school buses to zero-emissions electric buses. Now, Chispa Florida is taking the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign to the next level by working to support school board leadership and faculty as they apply and receive new clean, electric school buses. The Chispa Florida program has also already begun educating communities and about the impending utility disconnection crisis brought on by COVID-19. Using the power of community, we are connecting to those in need, providing information and resources, and sharing residents’ stories with the goal of bringing more awareness to this COVID-19 response failure.
3. Connected In Crisis
This year we helped form the Connected In Crisis coalition, a group of more than 10 statewide non-profits that are advocating for immediate action to help keep the lights on for hundreds of thousands of Floridians who are at risk of being disconnected from their utilities due to COVID-19. Collectively, we believe that no family should have to choose between essential life-sustaining services during a national time of crisis. Clean energy and climate justice partners around the state are asking Florida’s Governor and lawmakers to do the same. Thanks to Conservation Voters like you, we’ve sent 3,000+ emails advocating for a moratorium on power disconnections for non-payment. We have also asked the Governor and Florida Legislature to require utilities to waive fees, fines, and service reconnection costs, commit to offering debt-forgiveness for customers most in-need, provide payment plan structures that meet the needs of Floridians, and invest in bill-lowering measures like energy efficiency and solar energy.
4. State and Federal Public Lands Funding
This year, the U.S. House and Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act! The Act will address conservation and recreation needs at our beloved national, state, and local parks. Its passage is a culmination of decades of work by Conservation Voters and conservation allies who have been fighting for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Together, we sent 1,000 emails to Florida’s federal leaders – thank you! At the state level, FCVEF’s Gems Report was delivered to every lawmaker at the Capitol. With this informative and easy-to-read guide in hand, conservation advocates were able to educate lawmakers on conservation issues and advocate for Florida Forever funding. And your legislators aren’t the only ones who love our Gems Report. Conservation Voters have purchased 202 copies, helping fund our efforts to continue advocating for water and land conservation. Advocates like you were so vocal in your support of Florida Forever that during the final budget conferences, Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) said, “We are funding Florida Forever at $100M so you can stop the emails!” Great work, Conservation Voters!
5. Putting the Breaks on the Roads to Ruin
As a member of the No Roads to Ruin Coalition, we’ve continued to speak up on behalf of Florida’s land, water, wildlife, and public health at M-CORES Toll Road Task Force meetings. To help stop the three proposed roads, we have continuously held the Governor, Legislature, and the Florida Department of Transportation accountable for the sham planning process shrouding these destructive roads. Conservation Voters like you have submitted over 9,000 emails, Tweets, and petition signatures – and they listened! To reiterate the importance of your voice, our partners in the No Roads to Ruin Coalition tabulated all FDOT public comments and volunteers recorded your sentiments (anti, unclear, or pro roads), and found that 93% of comments submitted were in opposition to the toll roads. We know that Floridians simply do not want or need 300+ miles of new toll roads and we will continue to educate lawmakers and the public on the dangers of paving over natural Florida.
Despite 2020’s challenges, I am proud of our team’s adaptability, resilience, and steadfast dedication to Florida’s land, water, climate, and democracy. But of all FCVEF’s accomplishments, I am most honored by our partnerships. Whether it’s in the Connected In Crisis coalition, No Roads to Ruin coalition, or our partners in public lands conservation advocacy, we know that our cause is made strongest with people power. I am so thankful for our partners who work every day to make Florida a more just, equitable place, and I am thankful for you, Conservation Voters, for your ardent support and action. You make a difference and together, we will engage people in our democracy to protect our environment and healthy communities for everyone.