On October 7 Dream in Green staff attended a press conference in Miami Beach which brought together key stakeholders in the Miami community to talk about the reality and impact of sea level rise in our community. The event was put together by eyesontherise.org, a collaboration of four journalism professors from FIU, hundreds of college and high school students, and a dozen Miami area scientists, media and technology professionals, and the CLEO institute.
The rally begun early in the morning as high school students measured the salinity, quality, and depth of potential flood waters expected on King Tide Day, the day when tides are the highest around the world and which have, in the past, led to massive flooding throughout parts of South Florida.
Elected officials in Miami-Dade County and other governmental officers kicked off the rally by stating facts about climate change and motivating all of us to take action in order to become part of the solution. Two of these officials, Cindy Lerner, Pinecrest Mayor and Philip Levine, Mayor of Miami Beach are leading the conversation on climate change and action. Other officials who participated in the press conference include Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Florida Senator Bill Nelson and EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy.
Some lessons can be learned from their opening speeches.
Ms. McCarthy apologized on behalf of her generation and let us know that the time for action is now, as we are no longer projecting but experiencing climate change impacts. She revealed that a foot of sea level rise would cost $15 million spent on pumps and raises the question of how we are going to pump our way out of this challenge. She also said that we cannot condemn our children to repair what we created and confirmed that we have the means to take action now, to embrace the challenge and to speak up so that our kids can inherit a healthier world than what we were given.
Mayor Levine left us thinking that the ocean is a precarious resource and although we are a long way from solving this fight against the climate, Miami Beach has risen to the challenge and now serves as a model for other coastal cities to follow.
Senator Nelson confirmed that the United States has to lead the way as 75% of its population resides in coastal areas. With a projection of 2 to3 feet rise by the end of the century, most populations will be inundated in Florida. Senator Nelson also said that with so much at stake we need to work together to prevent the earth from warming further.
Mayor Lerner brought her wellington boots in case of flooding, but was fortunate not to have to use them thanks to the City of Miami Beach’s leadership in helping to mitigate the effects of climate change. She confirmed that her job was to ensure community members understand the challenge we are facing regarding climate change. She also mentioned that our work will not be easy as we live in a state with legislators that are climate deniers and are not taking steps to fund and implement solutions.
With the talent and the knowledge to solve this problem, South Florida residents will witness changes as cities begin to embrace the challenge and organizations, like Dream in Green and the CLEO Institute, work to raise awareness through education.
by Karla Utting