Monday, September 04, 2017

Juanita Greene ... by gimleteye

The Miami Herald noted the passing of Juanita Greene, former Herald environmental reporter and conservation chair of Friends of the Everglades. I write the following as a board member of Friends. We met while she was still a reporter, and I got to know Juanita after she had retired and we served together. I joined the board because Juanita asked and occupy the position, conservation chair, she once held.

Juanita was a personal hero. On first appearance she was soft-spoken, but her frank, open demeanor belied a tough and tenacious spirit. She was petite and fierce and efficient. I think, like so many environmentalists, disappointment was neutralized by a reservoir of dry humor; self-protective, cost-effective gear that was never far from sight. In a quick, her soft drawl and ready smile could turn terse and acerbic. Juanita never suffered fools gladly, and as she got older she suffered them less.

I hold special respect for reporters on the environment who later become advocates. We have examples in South Florida like Juanita -- who eventually became conservation chair of Friends, founded by Marjory Stoneman Douglas -- and Martha Musgrove, a former editor at the Miami Herald. After retirement, they turned their expertise to excellent and good use: voices for fact and against injustices played out in South Florida.

Juanita was special for those reasons and more. She believed in her heart that Big Sugar should be held fully responsible for incalculable damage its pollution caused to Florida's Everglades.

In 2005, Juanita and John Childe, then attorney for Friends of the Everglades, invited me to lunch at Green Street Cafe in Coconut Grove where they explained the importance of federal litigation they had launched -- with able participation of Dexter Lehtinen and the Miccosuccee Tribe -- against changes to the 2000 federal state agreement advocated by Big Sugar and promoted by then Gov. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and the Florida legislature.

I was reluctant, because I had already served many years with Florida Sierra Club, but Juanita persuaded me of the vital role that Friends of the Everglades was playing as a plaintiff in important federal Clean Water Act litigation. In 2010, federal judge Alan Gold ruled in favor of Friends and the Tribe. Although Gov. Rick Scott finally acceded to the judge's ruling, claiming victory in the state commitment to an additional $890 million of taxpayer dollars to clean up Big Sugar's pollution, the state and Big Sugar continue to appeal that ruling today.

The heart of the state and Big Sugar's objection is "federal overreach"; a claim that is the worm in the heart of Republican politics, the administration of Gov. Rick Scott and President Trump. Both are willing to relegate science to the interests of corporate polluters.

Juanita Greene was steadfastly committed to the principle that federal protections offer taxpayers and the environment more safety and assurances than the states or, in particular, local legislatures beholden to special interest campaign contributors.

Juanita fought for natural resources like the Everglades like many brave souls before her. I believe she would have said this in summation of her contributions: if all we succeed in doing is illuminating the betrayal of American values embodied in the destruction of rivers, estuaries and Everglades, then so be it: future generations will need examples of leadership and clear thinking to distinguish fact from fiction in storms ahead.

The Miami Herald
Juanita Greene, pioneering environmental reporter and activist, dies at 93

SEPTEMBER 03, 2017 7:57 PM

Juanita Greene, a former Miami Herald reporter who slugged it out first with male journalists who didn’t see a need for women in the newsroom and later with corporations and government officials who didn’t see a need for environmental protections, died Sunday after one last and unsuccessful bout, this time with Alzheimer’s. She was 93.

“With her passing, I feel that I not only lost a mother but that the world is missing a force of nature,” said Helena Sims, one of her daughters. “I already miss her.”

Greene was the Miami Herald’s first environmental writer, a beat she bullied the newspaper’s publishers into creating in 1969. And many of the reporters who held the job later considered her the best, churning out stories on everything from backdoor political deals to disappearing wood rats.

“For all the Herald environmental reporters who followed her — and there have been many — it was a routine experience to pull archives and clips on some issue or another and find that Juanita had written about it decades earlier,” said Curtis Morgan, a Herald assistant city editor and former environmental writer. “And written about it better.”

Born on a rice plantation near Lake Charles, Louisiana, Greene became interested in journalism while in high school. Attending Louisiana State University during World War II, she took advantage of the absence of so many of the male students — they were off in combat — to rise to editor of the student newspaper, a job that would almost certainly have gone to a man under ordinary circumstances.

After graduation, she worked at the Tampa Times and the Daytona Beach News-Journal before getting what she would later call “the most exciting phone call of my lifetime” from editors at the Herald. She joined the paper in 1956, when female reporters mostly covered tea parties and fashion for what were known as the women’s pages. Instead, Greene battled her way into covering city hall and the federal courthouse.

But it was while she was covering a Florida cabinet meeting about whether the state should buy some land amidst the sugar industry’s vast South Florida holdings that she found the real inspiration of her career: a talk by pioneering Florida environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Soon Greene was a regular visitor to the offices of Herald publisher James Knight, lobbying for regular coverage of environmental issues, a beat that was unknown at either the Herald or most other newspapers. “She was a warrior,” said family friend Virginia Perrod, who recalls that Knight finally “sort of grudgingly admitted that Biscayne Bay, in front of [the newspaper’s old offices at 1 Herald Plaza] wasn’t the way it used to be, and more attention needed to be paid.”

Greene’s ferocious approach to the beat sometimes bordered on activism — she sometimes even wrote Herald editorials on environmental issues, unusual for a reporter — and when she retired from the paper in 1987, she was ready to stage a frontal assault on corporate and political forces she believed harmful to the environment.

She helped establish the group Friends of the Everglades and encouraged it to file lawsuits when the state began altering the terms of a plan to restore the Everglades. The legal action finally forced a settlement that resulted years later in Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to spend $880 million cleaning up the Everglades.

Plans for memorial services — perhaps in Miami where Greene lived half a century, perhaps in Tallahassee where she moved in 2007 as her health began to fail — are pending. Those interested in attending can email Greene’s daughter Helena Sims at Her survivors include Sims and another daughter, Monica Mathis, both of Tallahassee, and a granddaughter, Catherine Johnson, of Washington D.C.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to Friends of the Everglades.

Read more here:


Anonymous said...

She helped establish Biscayne National Park.

Cindy Lerner said...

Juanita Greene was an incredible, strong advocate for the environment, who inspired and mentored many of us to speak out and fight for investments to protect our Everglades over the past few decades. She recruited me to join the Board of Friends of the Everglades back in 2002 as I left the Fl Legislature, and I served on the Board for the next 5 years. I always admired her commitment to educating the public about the potential impacts of failure to act, and to fight in the courts when government failed to act. She also inspired many others to join Friends of the Everglades. May her legacy be for Friends to continue to educate, inspire and litigate when necessary. RIP Juanita.