When you see things floating by and algae blooms, you wonder "what is that?" I wasn't aware of how bad it is and what I could do about it.
Rose Young & Ricki Howie
Retired school teachers and fiber artists
Rose Young & Ricki Howie


Rose Young & Ricki Howie

Rose Young & Ricki Howie
Retired school teachers and fiber artists

Little did Rose Young realize when she watched the four-part "Water Woes" series on PBS television station WGCU that it would change her life forever. The show awakened her to the dire need for water quality improvements and inspired her to act in a big way.

Rose recruited fellow fiber artist and friend Ricki Howie in "Blue Waters. Banners for a Better Environment." Their grass-roots program is striving to enlist community members to create 80 banners to grace the walls of businesses, libraries and schools in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers areas to raise the level of awareness about deteriorating water conditions and possible remedies. So far, the two have involved more than 500 people in their project, including many children; and those volunteers have painted more than 50 banners, which can be seen in the Art Miles Murals: Clean the Waters of the World video.

Ultimately, the two retired school teachers and hand weavers want their creations to inspire fellow citizens to get involved in affecting legislative change to improve local water management policies and practices. They want others to view the "Water Woes" series -- now available in local libraries and schools thanks to their advocacy efforts -- and take action.

The 36" by 60" cloth banners the two have created thus far feature swirling masses of intricately painted fish swimming in red, blue and purple water. The artists then cut each banner into sections and stuff, quilt and embroider on top of the brilliant scenes they've painted. The result is a unique and attention-commanding cry for community activism to save our waters and the life that depends upon their health. Their first creation appropriately features adapted words from the 1800s nursery rhyme "Little Tommy Tittle Mouse," which tells the tale of Tommy, who is unable to fish because the fish have died due to poor water quality.

As news of Rose and Ricki's work has spread, businesses have stepped up to offer support. Scotties Canvas and Marine on Tamiami Trail in North Fort Myers is providing grommetted cloth banners at cost to residents who wish to create a banner for the "Blue Waters" program. Fishing stores have given Rose and Ricki advice on water pollution off boat such as plastic bags and fishing line, knowledge they've incorporated into their artwork and educational efforts.

Fifty of the "Blue Water" banners were sent to Egypt in 2010 for display on the great pyramids at the "Art Exhibit of the Century." The display was part of the international Art Miles Mural Project that is collecting large-scale murals from around the world to promote peace, heritage, environment and the spirit of our global village. Started in 1997, the project has had more than 50,000 participants from more than 100 countries.

"Blue Water" banners also are posted in local government offices, libraries and other public places; and Rose and Ricki loan banners for display at community festivals and events, including an Irish festival in Cape Coral and a Town Hall meeting presented by the News-Press on the state of the Caloosahatchee River and designed to draw attention to a clean water mandate. The two activists say even more efforts are needed now as they fight for less pollution, better environmental stewardship and more involvement by concerned citizens.

So what started with Rose and then Ricki viewing a television documentary has grown to a rallying cry for the local community and a widespread outreach to an international mission for environmental awareness. It's just one simple yet profound example of how local citizens are acting to protect our waters for themselves and for future generations.

Note: Anyone wishing to help Rose and Ricki by creating a banner or by displaying banners at local public events can contact them at bryoung2@comcast.net and rickihowie@aol.com for details. Subjects to be featured on the banners can include the impact of pollutants on people and habitats, the impact of boating, ways to improve local waterways, needed legislation to affect change, and good environmental stewardship practices.

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Related Links

South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force:
http://www.sfrestore.org

South Florida Water Management District:
http://www.sfwmd.gov

More Links

Glossary

Phosphorus [P]:
An element or nutrient required for energy production in living organisms; distributed into the environment mostly as phosphates by agricultural runoff and life cycles; frequently the limiting factor for growth of microbes and plants.

Blue-Green Algae:
A type of algae natural to our area that blooms in the climatic and nutrient conditions it finds favorable.

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