Cynthia Barnett Comments on John Muir and Pens Essay on the Supreme Court’s Florida vs. Georgia Water War Ruling
Cynthia Barnett, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Environmental-Journalist-in-Residence, was quoted in “Don’t Cancel John Muir: But Don’t Excuse Him, Either,” part of the new series “Who Owns America’s Wilderness,” published in The Atlantic on April 12.
Barnett talked about confronting the prejudices in John Muir’s famous 1,000 Mile Walk to the Gulf in CJC’s Environmental Journalism course during the class’s overnight trip to the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. The course explores conservation’s racial reckoning from its earliest American history to the present.
“There’s this great irony,” Barnett said. “During his walk to the Gulf, he develops his egalitarian philosophy of nature—while expressing prejudiced views of the Black people he meets.”
In addition, Barnett was the author of “Why America’s Water Wars Are Futile,” published in the Tampa Bay Times on April 9.
Her essay follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Florida v. Georgia, the “water war” that has been fought between the states for more than 30 years. The Court ruled unanimously against Florida, finding that not only Georgia’s water use, but “confounding factors” including climate change have led to ecological collapse in Apalachicola Bay.
Barnett, who has a long-running public records request for legal fees spent on the case, wrote that climate change and other complexities “underscore the futility of the water wars.”
According to Barnett, “Twentieth Century America viewed freshwater as a prize to be won rather than a treasure to be shared. Our warming, beleaguered water and wildlife need the kind of common-pool water management championed by the late economist Elinor Ostrom. She won the Nobel Prize in 2009 for challenging the conventional wisdom of the ‘tragedy of the commons,’ that natural resources are doomed to be over-exploited. She showed how water can be managed when people come together—without the litigation, secrecy and political theater that have harmed Apalachicola’s people and oysters and the freshwater they rely on.”