The following is a guest post by Laura Huffman. Laura oversees all aspects of The Nature Conservancy of Texas. She is one of The Nature Conservancy’s most trusted voices and speaks regularly on subjects including freshwater protection, the Gulf of Mexico, conservation easements and other pressing environmental issues. Laura earned a Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.Sc. in Political Science with a minor in History from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. She lives in Austin with her husband, Kent, and their four children.
As we desperately await fall weather in Texas, I felt compelled to send a tweet the other day:
Dear Summer, we’re done. No encore needed. Send Fall (and rain). #OverIt
If you’ve spent even a moment reading the news, you know Texas is hurting. We are contending with the worst single-year drought on record at a time when our population is rapidly increasing. Right now we have 25 million citizens in our state – think of it as 25 million straws in our lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers. That number is expected to double by 2060. In that same time period, our water resources will dwindle by nearly 20 percent. Yet we have a conservation-minded water plan that sits on a shelf, unfunded. On top of that, a recent article in the Austin American-Statesman puts Texas’ drought-related agricultural losses in excess of $5 billion.
It’s clear how important it is for Texas to adopt strategies that encourage responsible water stewardship, and here at the Conservancy we think America’s youth will ultimately be the ones driving those strategies. A recent poll we commissioned surveyed the attitudes of teenagers with respect to nature and many of the findings were to be expected: 88 percent said they spend time online every day, but only 11 percent of youth reported spending time regularly outside in nature. The study found proof, however, that the amount of quality time youth spend in nature directly relates to their concern and commitment to solving environmental issues. And there was one noteworthy nugget: musicians are among the top three most powerful influencers on environmental issues for America’s youth.
To put it another way, music really does have the power to change the world. More than 80 percent of teens said if their favorite musician encouraged them to spend more time outdoors, they would listen. Those findings are particularly exciting given the Conservancy’s new partnership with C3 Presents, the producers of the hugely popular Austin City Limits Music Festival, slated for Sept. 16-18 this year. ACL regularly commands crowds of 200,000 and showcases more than 130 artists from every musical genre. This year, the Court Yard Hounds – comprised of Martie Maguire and Emily Robison of the Dixie Chicks – are slated to play and the Conservancy is excited to team up with them to convey the importance of conservation in Texas.
In addition, we’ll have a booth in the ACL Cares section every day of the festival so if you’re planning to be out at Zilker, we hope you’ll drop by! We’ll have some awesome limited edition ACL/Nature Conservancy t-shirts and be giving away a brand new kayak. Staff will be on hand to give you a little info on water conservation, too.
The partnership between the Conservancy and C3 is a natural fit, as both organizations have a history of working hard on behalf of Austin. If you’ve ever been to ACL, you’re no doubt familiar with their greening efforts. They’ve created a Rock & Recycle initiative to reward attendees for recycling cups and cans (and encouraging others!), and they’ve eliminated bottled water in favor of sustainable, recyclable cartons. They also offer free water stations to keep fans hydrated; in 2010, they dispensed more than 111,000 liters of H2O to thirsty festival-goers. At the same time, the Conservancy has been in the trenches to protect the very water resources that feed Zilker Park. Over the last 20 years, we’ve worked with the city of Austin to protect nearly 30,000 acres of land around Barton Springs and the Edward’s Aquifer, including a transaction earlier this year that protects more than 600 acres in southwest Austin atop the aquifer’s highly sensitive recharge zone.
The Conservancy is excited to be a part of ACL and is looking forward to more innovative partnerships in the future. We’re calling on everyone to dive in and protect our water resources. The stakes are too high to stand simply on the shoreline. Everybody in the water!
(Image: Zilker Park, Austin City Limits Festival. Image credit: ©Ashley Garmon)