Category Archives: Governor Rick Scott

Why I’m Suing the State of Florida & Governor Rick Scott

On Monday April 16th I sued Florida Governor Rick Scott and the State of Florida (click here to read the lawsuit) along with seven brave children from all over the state to demand that the promises made to us in the Florida Constitution and The Public Trust Doctrine be kept and that our Public Trust Resources including our atmosphere and waters be protected from man-made carbon dioxide pollution caused by fossil fuels. Here are some of the reasons why I feel that we have a moral obligation to try and change things before it’s too late and, therefore, why I’ve sued our State and Governor.

I am the fourth generation of my family to live in South Florida and was born here in Miami. I love the state of Florida and its incredible diversity including the vibrancy and natural beauty of Miami and Miami Beach, the serenity of places like Matheson Hammock, and natural wonders such as the Florida Keys, our state’s amazing coral reefs and, of course, the Everglades, the only habitat of its kind on earth.

But I am deeply worried about Florida’s future. The carbon dioxide that is being pumped into our atmosphere and oceans from petroleum products made from fossil fuels place parts of Florida that I cherish at the very real risk of disappearing.

Of becoming extinct.

Of being lost.

Forever.

And those concerns, along with our State leaders total disregard for what is already happening, much less the threats that we face in the future, is part of the reason that I am suing our Governor and State of Florida.  Our climate change crisis is the biggest issue that my generation will ever face and it’s up to us, today’s children, to fix this problem. It is my hope that the court will rule to require that Florida enact and enforce laws to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions so that our state and citizens can have a future here.

I cherish my family home on No Name Key in the Florida Keys in Monroe County, an island that’s in the National Key Deer Refuge and the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge. No Name Key is filled with amazing, magical, creatures like the tiny Key Deer who make their home there but in a County whose average elevation above sea level is less than 6 feet, I wonder and worry about whether the Florida Keys, and my home, the deer and their habitat will survive a future where seas are projected to rise between at least two and six feet, or more, unless we take action now.

But when I wrote to the State of Florida’s Department of Environmental Resources to ask what they are doing about our climate change crisis and my sea level rise concerns and our overall region their response upsets and scares me. Here’s what they wrote in response:

To Delaney Reynolds; 

Unfortunately the response to both of these questions is “Not much”. The Governor has not supported climate related legislation and as a result not much is getting done at the State level. 

Sr. Administrator / Department of Environmental Resources, 

State of Florida

That response, the state’s “not much” response, is unacceptable and is another reason why I am suing Governor Scott and the State of Florida.

IMG_2675

This is me at 2 years of age at Matheson Hammock Beach. Unless we take action now, future generations will not be able to enjoy this special place like I did. 

And speaking of special places, Matheson Hammock is a wonderful public park that’s a short walk from my Miami home. It has an incredible path that winds its way through miles of mangrove forests as well as a marina and beach with a salt water swimming hole that overlooks downtown Miami and the ocean beyond. It’s a place that generations of South Floridians have enjoyed, a place where I learned to swim and where my father before me did too.

But it breaks my heart to see sea level rise covering the park’s paths, roads and beaches more each year and to know that someday soon, unless the State of Florida takes action to protect us, Matheson Hammock and places all over Florida like it will forever disappear. And that’s a tragedy that we cannot tolerate and yet another reason why I am suing the Governor and State.

Communities large and small all over Florida are already being forced to take action to address our climate crisis and when it comes to sea level rise, South Florida is literally ground zero for what’s happening here in the United States. Billions of dollars of real estate, as well as the tax revenue that goes with it is at risk.  Millions of people face the very real risk of being forced from our region and becoming climate change refugees. Much of our environment is literally at risk of extinction and yet our state’s political leaders avoid and deny the reality that our citizens increasingly face and leave it to locals to try and address this enormous issue. Examples include:

1. Miami Beach is spending nearly half a billion dollars to begin addressing the flooding from sea level rise that already consumes their community.

2. Last year City of Miami voters passed the Miami Forever Bond including $200 million towards sea level rise mitigation. Of course they did, flooding from seal rise has become a way of life here.

3. The City of South Miami passed a historic solar power law last year, the first of its type in Florida, a law that I proudly played a role in conceiving and helped to write, that requires residential solar power as a step to reduce carbon emissions.

4. Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties have banded together to create the South Florida Climate Change Compact because of the dire risks that our entire region faces.

In each of these cases concerned citizens and local leaders have come to realize that we must take action if South Florida is to have a chance to have a future. And yet, Florida’s Governor mocks us by denying that human caused climate change and sea level rise is an issue by saying that he has no view on these topics because, as he likes to say, he’s “not a scientist”.

Well, most of the people in our region are not scientists, but they do have eyes and can see that the water and temperature are rising, and that climate change is already affecting their ability to live a happy life here.  The science and facts related to human induced climate change and sea level rise are indisputable and you do not need to be a scientist to see this and, thus, another reason I am suing is to help those communities, and the people who live in them, all over Florida that are desperately fighting our climate crisis without help from the Governor or State of Florida.

And I am suing the State and Governor on behalf of those who can’t but will be highly impacted by this growing catastrophe including:

1. Our natural environment and the unique habitats and creatures that will be lost or displaced without action. Take, for example, a place that’s hidden from most people’s view, our underwater environment including the Florida Reef Track, a 360-mile-long ancient coral reef that runs from the St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County to the Dry Tortugas National Park, West of the Florida Keys. It’s the third largest reef in the world and home to millions of marine animals but it IS at risk of extinction from ocean acidification caused by man-made carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.  Why would any of us allow that to happen?

2. Millions of people who face a future where they are at risk of becoming climate refuges unless we take action. People who will be forced to move from places they love and, in many cases, where their forefathers have lived for generations.

3. And people whose health will be severely impacted, especially the youngest and oldest in our society, as temperatures continue to climb.

4. And people too young to speak out today, as well as those not yet born but who have the undeniable right to enjoy a safe, clean, natural environment. A right that the State and our Governor are stealing from all of us by not taking action before it’s too late.

The good news is that there are solutions and the sooner we begin widely implementing them the better chance we have to save Florida and the less costly it will be to fix the problem. The bad news is that the State of Florida and our Governor have done little to nothing to begin solving the problem and that’s another reason why I am suing.

For example, experts predict that solar power can produce HALF of Florida’s energy needs by the time I’m 45 years or so old if our State would just become serious about sustainable energy and stop playing politics by protecting the established, polluting power companies.  My local power company in Miami, Florida Power & Light, has been in business for nearly 100 years in a place nicknamed ‘The Sunshine State” yet produces less than half of 1% of its power from solar. Now that makes NO sense.

For a Governor who likes to campaign for office by touting job creation it also makes no sense that he’s not embraced growing solar power for Florida. Experts predict that transitioning Florida to a renewable energy system would create over 300,000 good, well paying, long term jobs.

And, of course, let’s not forget that widely expanding solar power everywhere will save consumers a LOT of money while also helping save our environment.

So, while the Governor and State of Florida appear dedicated to the polluting ways of the past, I am hoping that our future will be filled with sustainable power and that The Sunshine State will become THE Solar State.

Allow me to end by sharing how much I enjoyed Ms. Hamann’s Civics & History class in 8th Grade.  Not only was she incredibly engaging, entertaining and nice, but I learned many important lessons from her about the three branches of our government:

1. The Executive branch where our Governor and his Cabinet are located,

2. The Legislative branch where Representatives and Senators serve,

3. And the Judicial branch where our state’s legal system operates to help protect us.

I am suing the State and our Governor because the Executive and Legislative branches have miserably failed to protect us and our environment from the climate change crisis. They have failed to honor their legal duties in the Florida Constitution and The Public Trust Doctrine by not protecting our Public Trust Resources and it is my hope that the Court will:

1. Affirm that our atmosphere is a Public Trust Resource,

2. Rule that the State has a fiduciary responsibility to protect our atmosphere, waters, land, marine resources, beaches and other Public Trust Resources from waste,

3. Affirm that the State has breached its responsibility to reduce Florida’s carbon emissions,

4. Rule that the State be forced to prepare and implement a remediation plan, and

5. Require the State to create the laws necessary to enact that plan so as to reduce Florida’s carbon emissions to safe levels that are based on scientific facts

As stewards of our state I believe that we have a moral obligation to solve our climate crisis and it is my hope that our legal system will help me draw a line in the sand so as to stop the damage and begin implementing solutions while Florida’s beaches still have sand on them.

Before it’s too late.

I want to end this blog post by congratulating my co-Plaintiffs, the seven children that are standing with me to fight our Governor and the State. Thanks to Levi, Isaac, Luxha, Andres, Oscar, Oliver and Valholly.  You are brave and passionate beyond words and I know that I speak for countless people when I say how grateful I am for your commitment and passion to helping me solve our climate change crisis.

I also want to end by thanking our exceptional legal team, our attorneys, as well as the incredible team at Our Children’s Trust for all your help.  On behalf of all the children, and the generations that will come after us, thanks to Guy Burns, Andrea Rodgers, Meg Ward, Caitlin Howard, Dick Jacobs, Mitchell Chester, Sandy D’Alemberte, Wally Pope, Jane West, Erin Deady, Deb Swim, and Matthew Schultz.

To learn more about the lawsuit and the organization helping Florida’s children seek justice, please visit Our Children’s Trust by clicking here or Youth V. Gov by clicking here.

Portugal. The Man: Trust the Native Alaskans

My friend John Gourley is, by his own admission, not a scientist. He is, however, a Native Alaskan and is today the lead singer of one of the most popular alternative rock bands on the planet: Portugal. The Man.

I had the opportunity to hang out with John after his recent set during Riptide Music Festival on Ft. Lauderdale Beach and I think his comments are some of the most important that I’ve ever shared with readers of my blog and am pleased to share part of my interview with you.

Before becoming the lead singer of a world famous rock band, John spent his childhood in rural Alaska. His childhood in the 80’s and 90’s was much different in many ways than for kids growing up in a big city like Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. While he did not have internet or Netflix or other modern devices, he filled his time skateboarding, snowboarding, exploring the outdoors, and tending to his family’s pack of Iditarod racing (mushing) sled dogs.

John knows and loves the Alaskan outdoors, but he is deeply concerned that it is disappearing before his and his friends very eyes because of climate change.

Alaska is a challenging state because it is filled with so much abundant nature and as John says, “it’s easy to overlook the impact of climate change while there is still so much rural environment remaining”.  It’s also challenging because the oil industry has a significant stake in producing and then transporting their products, but John knows that the Alaska that he loves is melting away and he told me that he worries about what will be left of that magnificent place when his daughter grows up as “more of the coastline melt[s] away”. Speaking of coastline, the state of Alaska has the largest amount of coastline of any state in the United States and Florida, including that beach where John’s band performed, has the second most coastline.

John’s message is a strong one and includes the suggestion that we listen to people in places like Alaska who are living with the impact of climate change right now, people like John and his friends, and especially indigenous people like Native Alaskans. As John explained, “It’s easy to be ignorant to this stuff or naive and just not see it, but trust somebody who’s been around it and grew up in a place that you think is cold. It’s not cold year-round anymore. Alaska’s not cold anymore. Trust the Native Alaskans. People who have been there for thousands and thousands of years.”

Almost two years ago I had the honor of giving a keynote address at the Florida Atlantic University Sea Level Rise Summit: Alaska to Florida after which I received a standing ovation and later learned that some in attendance actually cried while listening to my comments. At that time I could not fully understand the reaction or the emotion from the several hundred esteemed professionals that were in attendance – scientists, educators, and policy makers including many who had flown in from Alaska for the symposium. That is until yesterday when John portrayed so vividly what he has been seeing and explained it as if it were one of his songs.

John talked, for example, about the city of Shishmaref, Alaska and how climate change there is obvious to the naked eye; I mean that’s where you really see the effects of climate change. That’s where you see the permafrost melting, you see the island melting… it’s just an island and you see it melting away into the water and you see houses falling into the water.”

Like John said, he’s not a scientist but that does not mean that he doesn’t have eyes or want to see the climate change crisis addressed for himself, his daughter, and future generations. When asked about climate change and sea rise, Florida’s governor Rick Scott also says that he’s not a scientist but he does this to avoid talking about what’s happening to our state. And yet non-scientist Governor Scott leads a state where places like Miami Beach ($450 million) and the City of Miami ($200 million) are spending huge sums of money to begin addressing the sea level rise problems caused by our global climate change crisis that people all over South Florida – most of which, I might add, are also not scientists either – see with their own eyes and leads me to ask and wonder why ‘leaders’ like Governor Scott avoid this so very important issue. It can only be because of politics and that, in my view, is terribly shortsighted given that the climate change crisis is likely the biggest issue that my generation will ever face.

Pretending to not see what’s happening does not solve the problem, because climate change is not about donkeys or elephants, red states or blue ones, it’s much more important than politics.

As John said about what he’s been seeing and why we must set politics aside and focus on solutions before its too late, “It’s not normal. It’s something that we’ve all seen. Just leave the political views aside and just look at science and just trust it. Science is based on fact. Politics are based on the guy down the street that paid me to give a speech. Don’t let politics be a part of it.”

As I said at the end of my interview with John, I can’t say it any better than that, nor agree more. Rock on Portugal. The Man, and thanks again, John, for being so passionate and public about this important topic.

To learn more about Portugal. The Man, please check out the Miami New Times article      and while you at it consider listing to some of their most excellent music.

If I Only Had A Brain

Scarecrow

“I could while away the hours
Conferrin’ with the flowers
Consultin’ with the rain.
And my head I’d be scratchin’
While my thoughts were busy hatchin’
If I only had a brain.” 

Let me start by stating the obvious. I’m only sixteen and I’m not old enough to vote. Heck, I do not have a political affiliation, but unlike the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, I do have a brain and my brain leads me to wonder if most of the politicians running for president either have one or are willing to use the one that they have.

Frankly, it does not matter to me if our next president is a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. What does matter to me is that whoever gets elected to the highest office in our government is dedicated to lead our country, and the world, to make the critical changes that are needed in order to both slow and stop global warming and sea level rise before places like South Florida disappear, underwater, forever.

The way the Presidential candidates are acting by avoiding this topic suggests they might not have or be using their brain. How else can one explain the lack of conversation in nearly any of the political debates thus far? The lack of questions from the mass media in these ‘debates’ also makes me wonder what they are thinking, or if they are thinking, or well, if they have a brain so to speak. How else can anyone explain so little discussion or debate or even questions on an issue that’s this important to our nation and the world?

In my view, the candidate that paints a vision for a future that does not rely on fossil fuels, a future where a place like the “Sunshine State” can become the “Solar State” (and in the process generate most of our power from solar power), a future where he or she inspires our country’s creative minds to find innovative solutions to our power needs like President Kennedy once did when announcing that America would find a way to put people on the moon in just a few short years, and someone that generally makes solving climate change and sea level rise one of his or her top priorities is a candidate that I am confident tens of millions of voters will be inspired by and vote for.

Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (L) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton debate duringthe first official Democratic candidates debate of the 2016 presidential campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada October 13, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RTS4CQD

Sadly, the presidential debates for both parties have had little to no discussion about the candidates’ views on climate change. This week, here in Florida, that must change for many reasons including:

1) Voters and children of voters, including children in my generation who will soon inherit this growing global problem, deserve answers and desperately want solutions.

2) By the time that I am about 60 years of age, in about 45 years, scientists predict that seas will rise three feet, if not higher, here in South Florida. Three feet of sea level rise in a place like South Florida that is already close to sea level will be catastrophic in places like the Florida Keys, Key Biscayne, Miami Beach, the Everglades, and others.

3) Many local communities including Pinecrest, South Miami, and Miami Beach are forced to lead the way in seeking solutions while our state’s governor and many of the people running for president stand by and do or say absolutely nothing. Miami Beach, for example, is in the process of spending $ 450 Million on a pumping system to remove the salty sea water that has covered many of its streets in recent years, and yet that is only the start of the solutions that that island community will need if it is going to survive.

If these local communities and their thoughtful leaders understand that we can’t wait to start seeking solutions and changing, then how is it that these supposedely educated people running for President avoid and deny the topic? I apologize for being so direct, but I have to ask whether they are stupid or just protecting the same industries and approaches that have caused this problem by pumping carbon into our atmosphere and oceans? And while we are at it why is the media not making a bigger issue of all of this for all of us?

Does Marco Rubio, for example, a former City Councilman from the City of West Miami, not care about this in his own community? Does he not care about his children’s future here in South Florida? How else can you explain how often he deines the role man has played over time in causing sea level rise or his lack of a vision to address this problem in a meaningful way? He’s either protecting his special interest supporters or not using his brain, but either is unacceptable.

4) According to the Army Corps of Engingeers, it is predicted that within 29 years the City of Key West will be subject to 15 inches of sea level rise above today’s levels and that it will suffer from flooded streets covered in salt water 300 days per year.

5) According to the World Resources Institute, Miami has the largest amount of exposed assets and the fourth-largest population vulnerable to sea-level rise in the world. Most experts estimate that updwards of $100 Billion (and growing) of property in South Florida is at risk from sea level rise over the next few decades.

6) According to NOAA, 2015 was the warmest year on record in 136 years of data breaking the record set just one year earlier in 2014.

I could go on and on with more scientific facts and figures, but the point is that the world’s climate is changing, that humans have played a significant role and in a place like South Florida sea levels are rising more each year. Our country and the world desperately needs a leader that understands that this is a serious issue that is not going away and is, in fact, accelerating to the point that it will soon change entire communities, enviroments and lives forever if the citizens of the world don’t act and if our leader’s don’t lead. Republican Debate

This week’s Republican debate on the campus of the University of Miami, as well as the Democratic debate at Miami Dade College, offers each candidate and the media a unique opportunity to take a deep dive into the topic of climate change. There is nowhere in the United States of America where the topic of global warming, and especially sea level rise, is more important than here in South Florida.

The time has come for the media to demand that each candidate express their views on global warming and sea level rise, whether it is a concern that they will address if elected, and if so, answer how they will lead our country and our community in the future as we strive to solve the coming catastrophe. Voters and viewers of all ages deserve nothing less than a robust debate so that we can all understand the candidates views and decide who is best able to lead our country and the world on this very important topic.

Here’s to hoping that CNN and Univision will demand real answers about what each candidate will do to help America address our planet’s warming climate and rising temperatures before it’s too late and in doing so that some of the candidates will stop acting like the Scarecrow who sings…

“I’d unravel every riddle

For any individual

In trouble or in pain. 

With the thoughts you’ll be thinkin’

You could be another Lincoln

If you only had a brain. 

Oh, I could tell you why the ocean’s near the shore. 

I could think of things I never thunk before

And then I’d sit and think some more. 

I would not be just a nothin’

My head all full of stuffin’

My heart all full of pain. 

I would dance and be merry

Life would be a ding-a-derry

If I only had a brain. 

Gosh, it would be awful pleasin’

To reason out the reason

For things I can’t explain. 

Then perhaps I’ll deserve you

And be even worthy of you. 

If I only had a brain.”

Lyrics from The Wizard of Oz‘s If I Only Had a Brain, written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg