Local artist, calligrapher and designer Joon Thomas helped curate Florida springs exhibitions at the High Springs Museum and the Florida Museum of Natural History; assisted the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute during its founding years; and most recently designed the BelovedBlueRiver.org website. Thomas is webmaster for the Ichetucknee Alliance.
1. Where did you grow up?
2. What is your academic or job training background?
History, fine arts, graphic design, culinary arts.
3. What is your “real world” job?
Calligrapher, artist, graphic designer.
4. What was the first Florida spring you ever visited?
5. What was the occasion?
6. Who were you with?
My spouse and friends.
7. What was your reaction?
It was my first time tubing, my first time seeing Florida so up close; it was amazing, beautiful, fun and a great adventure.
8. What impressions have stayed with you since that first visit?
Time slowed down (it did take a long time to do a full tubing float at that time, but time still slowed down).
The water was so clear and cold, the grass beneath emerald bright, each part of the river was different.
9. What’s your “home spring,” the closest spring to where you live or work?
Poe is closest but we most often go to the Ichetucknee.
10. What’s your “heart spring,” your favorite spring?
Ichetucknee and Silver Glen.
11. Why is it your favorite spring?
It has different parts to experience each time: the main spring, the blue hole, the trail down the river, the different views of the river. It is wonderful to visit regardless of the weather. It has the capacity to be wonderful even on a crowded day, but more often than I can believe I’ve been all alone in the middle of the beautiful headspring looking up at the sky.
12. How did you get involved in springs/aquifer/water advocacy work?
When I arrived in Florida I let those who loved this place be my guides as I learned to explore its unique environment. As an artist, I sought to understand the experience by portraying it. Along the way I met those who sought to protect Florida’s environment and grew into my role in the process.
13. How would you describe your role as a springs/aquifer/water advocate?
The direct, visceral experience of Florida’s springs is the root of my role. From that flows a sensual and aesthetic understanding, and only then a more scientific and policy-oriented analysis. As a graphic designer, my role is to help bridge these different layers of experience in order to bring people together to value and protect Florida’s water treasures.
14. What do you think are your major accomplishments in that work?
My latest contribution has been bringing the BelovedBlueRiver.org website to fruition.
15. What do you think are the three most important springs/aquifer/water problems right now in Florida?
The long-term increase in withdrawals from the Floridan Aquifer.
Housing development and associated demands on water resources and pollutants.
16. What do you think are the top three things that need to happen to solve those problems?
A culture of reverence for the environment.
Economic policies that create a consensus hierarchy of water needs.
State subsidies for rectifying persistent problems that are a huge burden for many people (e.g., replacing older septic systems)
17. If you could change one thing about how people in Florida are living with springs/aquifer/water, what would it be?
To understand that we benefit from what we value. The aquifer and the springs will flow and give us water and life and pleasure as long as we treat them as our most valued treasures. Abundance must be nurtured, not assumed.
18. What inspires you to keep on keeping on?
It is always beauty. Beauty and life.
19. What is your vision for Florida’s springs/aquifer/water?
Deep reservoirs of underground abundance.
Strong flow bubbling up from the aquifer.
Clean water flowing through our riverways.
More from Joon Thomas: Transform North Florida from extractive to creative economy
20. What advice would you give to people who want to help save our springs/aquifer/water?
Treat all people who use our water with respect.
Understand that water is essential to life and to making a living: it hits close to home for many of the people who are asked to make changes.
There are many ways to approach water issues. Policy and science often come after a much more visceral sense of how we relate to our environment.
Listen to understand. More listening. More understanding. Take time, trust people. Be slow to judgement.
It can be difficult to do two very different things: time seems short and constant vigilance and action is required on the government level; and yet on the person-to-person level we have to allow time and be more open and less judgmental.
This piece is part of The Sun's Messages from the Springs Heartland series.
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This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Joon Thomas answers 20 questions on Florida's springs, aquifer