Lake Mary Jane, located close to Orlando, Florida, in Orange County, is suing to halt a development which “would convert nineteen hundred acres of wetlands, pine flatlands, and cypress forest” into town houses, commercial spaces, apartment buildings, roadwork, and office buildings,” according to The New Yorker.
The lake, alongside co-plaintiff, Chuck O’Neal, filed its case with the Crosby Island Marsh, Lake Hart, and two streams that would also be negatively affected by the changes.
Unfortunately, the story of the potential destruction of Lake Mary Jane by Beachline South Residential, is a story we are far too accustomed to hearing.
About 30% of the Earth’s surface is covered by forests but they are being destroyed at a very rapid pace. Cargill, Walmart, and IKEA are just a few of the responsible companies at the top of the deforestation list.
New Scientist published an article in 2019 called “Destruction of Nature is as Big a Threat to Humanity as Climate Change.” In 2020, The Guardian published an article named “Humans Exploiting and Destroying Nature on Unprecedented Scale.” There are plenty more headlines and stories that depict the negative effect that humans are having on the Earth every day. The New Yorker’s 2022 article, “A Lake in Florida Suing to Protect Itself,” is just one more example.
On average, the population of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles worldwide decreased by 68% between 1970 and 2016, the decrease being linked to human activity and habitat destruction.
The development that threatens Lake Mary Jane, would also disrupt a nearby forest which is home to species like the Gopher Tortoise and Florida Scrub Jay. The development, according to Attorney Steven Meyers, “would restrict the natural flow from the streams into the lakes, thereby wreaking havoc with the local ecology and threatening the lakes’ right to exist.”
You might be surprised to find out that Attorney Steven Myers is not an environmentalist lawyer.
The story goes that after watching a gruesome video of Black Bear hunting in Canada, he was extremely moved to do something to stop it. Meyers read that O’Neal had filed a lawsuit to stop the hunting of bears in Florida, and so Meyers immediately got in contact with him to figure out how he could help, and the rest is history.
Co-Plaintiff O’Neal is not a stranger to environmental efforts though. He once wrote up a “bill of rights” for the Wekiva and Econlockhatchee Rivers, and in November 2020, voters were asked at the polls if Orange County’s waterways should have protection against pollution.
89% of voters approved the amendment, which was more successful than almost anything or anyone on the ballot in Orange County at that time.
Now O’Neal and Meyers are making history together as they work to protect Lake Mary Jane.
While there have been animals and even entire species to sue over issues of neglect and endangerment in the past, “Mary Jane’s case is a first,” says The New Yorker. “Never before has an inanimate slice of nature tried to defend its rights in an American courtroom.”
We know this won’t be the last time we see Earth’s precious resources in the headlines and their protection play out in the courtroom.
We, at HomeWorks Energy, will be keeping an eye on this story, and we hope that you do, too!