Category Archives: Miami

Why October 2018 Is Critical To Climate Change Cases

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I am pleased to share two important legal updates with everyone related to both the historic Florida and Federal climate change lawsuits that youth are bringing against our State and Federal government and that are progressing through the courts.

Here in Florida the case Reynolds v. Florida, in which I am involved in suing Governor Rick Scott, Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam and the State of Florida along with seven other children, we seek that the State uphold its legal duties outlined in the Florida Constitution and Public Trust Doctrine to protect our environment and current and future generations from the impacts of climate change.

As expected, the State responded to the lawsuit we filed in April by asking that the Court dismiss the case and on October 4th we will have a hearing in Judge Cooper’s courtroom in Tallahassee. You can read our lawsuit by clicking here and the Governor/State’s initial responses by clicking here.

We look forward to our day in Court and all of the children are excited about the opportunity to continue to seek justice here in Florida so as to protect our State and planet for future generations.

“The breadth of (the youth’s) claims is striking”

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The folks at Our Children’s Trust, the people helping with my Florida case, are making fantastic progress with their Federal case: Juliana v. United States. President Trump and his Administration have been aggressively trying to stop that case but the Federal Courts, and most recently the Supreme Court, have sided with the children (and our environment) time and time again. Most recently, here’s what’s been happening in this critically important case:

  • On May 25th, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin issued an order denying the Trump Administration’s motion for protective order and a stay of all discovery.
  • On July 18th, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken heard oral arguments and considered the Trump Administration’s attempt to avoid a trial, something called Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings (MJP) and a Motion for Summary Judgement (MSJ). I am pleased to report that supporters of the children’s case filled the Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse and three overflow rooms in Eugene, Oregon.
  • On July 20th, Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas and Circuit Judges Marsha Berzon and Michelle Friedland of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump Administration’s second petition for Writ of Mandamus.
  • And most recently I am pleased to share that just this past Monday, July 30th, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the 21 youth plaintiffs. The Court denied the Trump Administrations application for a stay and, thus, preserved the U.S. District Court’s trial start date of October 29th, 2018. The Supreme Court also denied the government’s “premature”, that’s the word the Court used, request that it review the case before the district court hears all of the facts that support the children’s claims.

The Supreme Court wrote, in part, in rendering its judgement on MondayThe breadth of (the youth’s) claims is strikingThe Court then went on to order the District Court to take the federal government’s “concerns into account in assessing the burdens of discovery and trial, as well as the desirability of a promote ruling on the Government’s pending dispositive motions.” To read more about the Supreme Court’s recently ruling please consider reading an article in the July 31st American Bar Journal that you can find here of from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Blog of July 30th that you can read here.

It is, I believe, unfortunate that anyone has to sue another entity, much less children having to sue our government, to protect our natural resources but I am incredibly proud of my brave co-plaintiff’s here in Florida, as well as the children all over America involved in the Federal case. There is no more important issue to my generation, much less future generations, than the health and safety of our environment, starting with our climate change crisis.

Our concerns related to the global climate change crisis grows by the day and, while broad in their impact to the health and well-being of people, economies and our environment, it is critical that our society significantly evolve in sustainable ways before it’s too late.

The children and I humbly place our concerns into the hands of the American legal system in hopes that the Judges will have the wisdom to remove politics and special interests from the discussion, to focus on the overwhelming facts that support that human use of carbon emitting products such as fossil fuels is causing our climate to warm and to take action before it’s too late.

You’re 18 Years Old… You’re A Little Young & Naive

Today is the last day that you can register to vote if you want to vote in the upcoming August 28th Florida Primary, and the good news is that registration is super quick and easy. I know this from experience because I registered to vote yesterday online, and on an iPad, while traveling. It took less than 5 minutes so if you’ve not yet registered please do so today. You can register online at http://dos.myflorida.com/elections/for-voters/voter-registration/register-to-vote-or-update-your-information/ and, again, the deadline is today, July 30th, so if you plan to vote in the August 28th Florida Primary it’s now or never to register.

Florida has nearly 13 million registered voters of which 37% are Democrats, 35% Republicans and 28% have no party affiliation. Florida’s primary election allows either registered Republicans or Democrats to vote (those with no affiliation or a minority party affiliation can go online to the same link above, change your affiliation, vote in the primary and then go back online and change it to whatever you want for the general election).

“You’re 18 Years Old…You’re A Little Young & Naive

Scott Wagner

If you are unhappy with our political landscape and political leaders then now is the time to step up and do something to help change things. But if you need extra motivation (although I can’t imagine nearly anyone needs any given the assault being waged on decency and our environment in places like Tallahassee and Washington) then I would like to introduce you to Scott Wagner, a Republican candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, and his ever so ignorant and rude attack of 18 year old Rose Strauss who recently had the audacity to ask the candidate about our global climate change crisis.

Rose, you see, pointed out that two third’s of Pennsylvania voters believe that climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed by the government, but the esteemed Mr. Wagner shared his view that climate change is caused (as writer Dave Barry would say…”I am not making this up”) by people’s body heat and that if elected he does not plan to do anything to address climate concerns. Rose went on to ask Mr. Wagner whether his position has anything to do with his having taken $200,000 in donations from the fossil fuel industry (you go girl) and his answer illustrates most everything that we need to change about political leadership all over America:

“You’re 18 Years Old…You’re A Little Young & Naive

And what does the audience of, I would guess, mainly Scott Wagner supporters do to Rose after hearing his answer?

They laugh.

And what does Mr. Wagner do next?

He tries to change the topic, of course, by saying let’s talk about something else.”

That is until someone shouts out answer the question!”

Mr. Wagner then asks to no one in particular, Are we here to elect a governor, or are we here to elect a scientist?” (that’s similar to fellow Republican and Florida Governor Rick Scott’s “I am not a scientist” answer about climate change). Last March this same “non-scientist” addressed the natural gas industry and explained that the climate change crisis was, in his view, caused by the earth moving closer to the sun every year (science long ago proved that the sun has nothing to do with causing climate change).

Now if you still need motivation you can watch the entire exchange in a short video here: https://www.facebook.com/NowThisPolitics/videos/2177218115643000/.

Whether you are young like Rose and me (we are both 18 and 2018 will be our first time voting) or a seasoned veteran of many elections, now is the time that we can start to change things for the better. No matter if your concerns relate to immigration, global affairs, equality, our environment or something else, NOW is when we can start to elect the type of leaders that are dedicated to beginning to fix what is horrifically broken.

I hope that you will join Rose and me and other “young and naive” people all over America who believe that the “American Dream” includes every American, who believe that protecting our environment is a patriotic endeavor and who are certain that transitioning our economy from fossil fuels to sustainable energy will lead to American invention and innovation unlike anything in the history of our great country.

Yes, if you want to make things better then please be sure to register and then go out and vote in the Primary (08/28) and General Election (11/06). Rose and I are counting on you to help us defeat people like Scott Wagner and Rick Scott so that our generation can start to work on fixing what’s wrong.

The Summer of Sharks

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The SRC team releasing a nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) back into the Atlantic Ocean

As I have written here before, I love sharks.

Every size and type of shark intrigues me and the more I encounter these amazing creatures, the more I want to learn. In fact, one of my goals this summer has been to spend at least 30 days aboard research vessels catching, tagging, collecting scientific data on and releasing sharks. I am happy to report that I expect to accomplish or exceed my goal and that my summer of sharks has been incredible.

Thankfully I live in a region of the world that allows me to study these amazing creatures and that’s particularly the case because of my college. I’m fortunate to attend one of the leading marine science schools in the world, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and am deeply honored to be part of the small team that makes up Dr. Neil Hammerschlag’s renowned Shark Research and Conversation (SRC) Lab.

From nurse sharks, like the one above, and great hammerheads to black tips and tiger sharks to just about everything in between that you can imagine, we see them all in our work with SRC. In my own work this summer, over the course of almost 30 days in the field on board research vessels, I have been fortunate to have helped catch, study and tag at least 10 different species of sharks through my internship with SRC and as a student of the Field School’s Elasmobranch Course.

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Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

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Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

My summer began with a week-long trip out of Key West where we traveled to the Dry Tortugas and lived aboard the Field School’s Research Vessel Garvin. I was honored to have been selected for the trip and work with the incredible people from the Field School, as well as members of the SRC team so as to study the Tortuga’s Gulf of Mexico shark population.

During our week offshore, not only were we able to dive some exquisite sunken wrecks covered in all sorts of colorful tropical fish species and sea turtles, but we also caught, tagged and collected biological samples on 27 different sharks (8 species total) before gently releasing them back into the wild. The SRC and Field School teams also spent another two weeks in the Dry Tortugas where they caught and released 51 more sharks for a total of 78 over the three weeks of research we performed there in May and June.

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SRC quickly working up a great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran)

I then spent another week on the RV Garvin with the Field School staff as we sailed the waters off the coast of Miami out in the Atlantic Ocean. Each day we performed science on the sharks that we caught and released and learned about their role and importance within our natural environment as an apex species. During that week we caught and released some very cool species including bonnethead sharks, blacknose sharks and even a smalltooth sawfish that we quickly released back into the water before reporting our sighting to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as is required due to their highly endangered status. Protecting important species like the sawfish or the great hammerhead is critical to every element of our environment and the news out of Washington, which you can read here, that the Trump Administration wants to reduce those protections is deeply disappointing.

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Drawing blood from a nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

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Processing a shark’s blood in the on-board lab to extract plasma

In the event that you are curious about such scientific work, what we do when catching and releasing sharks, I’ve included a few pictures within this blog from this summer. When ‘working up a shark’, as we call it, we carefully and gently secure most of the sharks onto a special platform off the back of the boat (the stern) and in the short time it’s there we quickly collect all sorts of data including measurements, fin clips, muscle biopsies, blood samples and then we tag each shark using either a NOAA tag, acoustic tag or satellite tag.

Some species, such as the majestic and protected Great Hammerhead, never leave the water (I’ve included some pictures of our work this summer on these incredible animals as well) and in every single case great care is taken to respect the animal in every way and to release them as quickly as possible back into their natural environment.  The process is orchestrated like a symphony, a shark science symphony I would could call it, as each member of the team has a specific role for that day’s trip, has gone through extensive training and is supervised at all times by highly knowledgeable leaders with years of hands on field experience.

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Drawing blood from a blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)

I’ve also, of course, been aboard many trips throughout my first two semesters that SRC has conducted and it was on one of those trips that I have one of my fondest memories of my first year. It was the first time that I had ever been offshore with the team, meaning we were in 100 feet deeper water than usual and had to add extension lines to our gear. It was an amazing day where we caught two bull sharks, two great hammerheads, and one tiger shark. I should mention that it was actually my first time ever seeing a great hammerhead and a tiger shark in person. It was such an exciting (and exhausting day) that I fell asleep as I was telling my family about our adventures and good fortune!

As my Summer of Sharks continues, I want to remind everyone that Dr. Hammerschlag and the University of Miami’s Shark Research & Conservation Lab will be featured in three different Shark Week episodes this summer! Be sure to check out “Monster Tag” Monday July 23rd at 8:00pm, “Shark Tank Meets Shark Week”Wednesday July 25th at 9:00 pm, and “Tiger Shark Invasion” Thursday July 26th at 10:00 pm!

My friends at Field School will also be featured in “Alien Sharks: Greatest Hits” Sunday July 22nd at 7:00 pm and “SharkCam Stakeout” Wednesday July 25th at 10:00 pm.

You can catch these shows on The Discovery Channel so tune in or set your DVR to record all of the fun and excitement.

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Releasing a nurse shark after a work up (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

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Measuring a Great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran)

Thank you to everyone in SRC and at the Field School for making this summer so absolutely amazing and one full of sharks!

I want to especially send a shout out to Dr. Hammerschlag, Steve, Abby, Shannon, and Trish from SRC for supporting, teaching and encouraging me. I might be the youngest person in our Lab but no one is more honored to work with you and everyone at SRC. Thank you SRC.

I’d also like to very much thank Julia, Catherine, Christian, Jake, and Nick from Field School for embracing and inspiring me. My experiences offshore and on-board with you and the others on each of our trips this summer was life changing (so much so that I am now studying for my Captain’s license). Thank you Field School.

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Releasing a nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) after a quick workup

If you love sharks, or are just curious to learn more about these wondrous creatures, I have GREAT news for you. You, too, can go shark tagging or attend other educational trips with us. To learn more about Shark Research and Conservation, please click here or to learn more about Field School, please click here. I hope you will consider joining us on what I promise will be a once in a lifetime experience that you will never forget.

Okay, enough about my summer “vacation,” my summer of sharks. I am off on another two trips with the SRC team this Saturday and Sunday and hope you will tune in and learn more about sharks on TV this week or join us out on the water soon. Fins up and enjoy the rest of your summer!

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