Even thought it’s summer, the last month and a half for me and The Sink or Swim Project have been very busy. A blur on most days really with so much to do it reminds me of a song from the play Hamilton, ‘writing like you’re running out of time’. In fact, as I type this blog entry I am sitting in the airport to head back to New York for an incredible project that I will be able to tell you about very soon.
But before I head back to the Big Apple, I just have to share with you one of the very best experiences I had at a school when I was fortunate to speak at iPrep Academy, a magnet school that focuses on teaching in a technology-rich environment., just before the end of the school year.
Based on the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few pictures from my wonderful visit at iPrep:
As much as I hoped to inspire the iPrep Academy students during my visit, the truth is, as so often happens, these children inspired me. Their passion and knowledge about climate change and sea level rise, about what is happening here to South Florida and what will happen in their (and my) lifetime was evident in their comments, questions and concerns.
The hope they gave me that day confirms that, together, our generation will solve our climate crisis.
So thank you Ms. Maria Thorne for having me at iPrep Academy and for leading a new generation of environmental stewards into the future to help fight climate change.
And thanks especially to your incredible students for their passion, as well as for giving me great hope that they will work with me to help solve our global climate crisis. As I always like to say, ‘Kids Get It’ and that was the case at iPrep Academy.
Something spectacular and very important happened last week at the City of South Miami’s May commission meeting and we all owe Mayor Stoddard and the visionary commission a debt of gratitude for helping lead Florida into a sustainable future.
Early last year I learned that the City of San Francisco had become the third municipality in California to enact an Ordinance requiring solar power to be installed in new construction, as well as significant renovations. San Francisco’s law (click here for a copy of their Ordinance) intrigued me and led me to write several local mayors a letter requesting that they consider implementing a similar law in their municipality. An example of one such letter, in this case to the Village of Palmetto Bay, following a lecture that I gave to a business group there at which its mayor was in attendance, is displayed below.
I’m happy to report that Mayor Stoddard eagerly responded. As a first step he asked me to find everything possible related to the cities in California that had a similar law and promised that we would work together to draft our own version for his city.
Our first meeting lasted nearly six hours, but it also laid the foundation of the Ordinance the South Miami City Commission passed with a 5-0 vote upon its first reading last week (Click here for the draft of the ordinance). Such a law holds the promise of having South Miami lead the State of Florida into our sustainable future and turning the Sunshine State into my dream that we one day become THE Solar State. I attended the South Miami Commission meeting and during the Public Comments portion of the meeting spoke in favor of the Ordinance and the benefits of solar power. You can watch my presentation in the video below:
Later in the evening when it was time for the commission to discuss and debate the Ordinance, Mayor Stoddard explained its history and the work that we had done together over the past year. To watch Mayor Stoddard discuss the Ordinance, as well as to see what just might turn out to be a historic vote, press play below:
Experts predict that 50% of Florida’s energy can be derived from solar power by the year 2045 if our State begins to get serious about this clean, abundant energy source. Sadly, Florida ranks 14th in the amount of energy we produce from solar power, but the good news is we rank 3rd in our potential to generate power from the sun.
At a time that our State and Country should be dramatically increasing its sustainable use such as solar power, these rankings are a bit discouraging, but not surprising. They are not surprising here in South Florida when one considers that after 92 years of being in business, our local energy monopoly, Florida Power & Light, derives less than 1% of its energy from solar power. Lately FP&L seems to enjoy touting its “dedication to solar power” in its advertising, but facts are facts and their own annual report concludes solar power produces less than 1% of the energy that they generate. Simply stated, FP&L is not committed to sustainable power.
I believe that the time has come to change things. 92 years is far too long to do so little and I think that the days where everyone must obtain their power from one source, from a monopoly, should soon come to an end. A reliance on fossil fuels and of old technologies is destroying our planet and that 1% figure screams that these established businesses are all too happy with the way things are.
When it comes to solar, there is lots of good news and it’s not just in South Miami. At a time when electricity prices are on the rise and our local power company (FP&L) has charged its customers nearly 300 million dollars for a nuclear power facility that may never be built or be many decades off into the future, the cost of solar power has dropped significantly as the chart below illustrates.
The cost of solar power has decreased over 99% since 1977 and is today the least expensive source of energy in America. Now, all we have to do is implement solar power everywhere and let the sun do the rest.
South Miami is certainly doing its part and that process is to continue next with a review of the Ordinance by the Planning Board, followed by a second reading of the proposed new law by the City Commission later this summer, where they will have the opportunity to make history in Florida and in the United States.
Thanks to Mayor Stoddard and the entire City Commission for their leadership. I also want to thank the City Manager, as well as the City Attorney for their hard work in helping polish our earlier draft, as well as my dreams.
Let me end today’s blog with a challenge. If you have read what we are doing in the City of South Miami, then I want to encourage you, challenge you, to work in your own community to create a similar law. Our country faces many challenges in evolving from a fossil fuel economy to a sustainable one but, if we are to ever make that transition, I believe the solutions will most certainly begin in our local communities, including yours. Within this blog, you have the tools that you need including samples of the existing laws, the newly proposed one, even the letter that I wrote that started it all.
So, I implore you to approach your own local leaders and ask them to help you change the world for the better.
I am humbled and excited to share with you that the video for the TEDx Talk that I gave on sea level rise earlier this year has just been released and I cannot think of a better day to share it with everyone than Mother’s Day.
The reason that sharing this with you today is so appropriate is because of the wonderful support that my mother (and father and brother) has given to me is beyond anything that I could have hoped for and is part of the reason that The Sink or Swim Project has touched thousands of people in such a short time.
I sincerely hope that you will share this TEDx Talk with as many people as possible. The topic and the message are very important to South Florida, our country, and our planet. As you will see, the talk focuses on the fact that our planet is warming, seas are rising, that we must and can overcome political obstacles that protect old habits, and that the children of my generation “get it” and will demand solutions, as well as lead the way during our lifetimes to implement them.
Thank you to my mother for all of her love and support and happy Mother’s Day to your moms. The love of a mother is like no other and should be cherished, and that includes cherishing our environment and Mother Earth.