Category Archives: Our Children’s Trust

Sleight of Hand: Florida’s Magician Governor Rick Scott

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I love a good magic show and have been fooled by some of the best. When street magician extraordinaire David Blaine made ¾ of a deck of cards disappear in front of my eyes just prior his show here in Miami last year, I was stunned. By any measure, David is an amazing artist and makes his craft look, well, like real magic.

But as wonderful as he is, you know that he’s an expert at deception, at sleight of hand, of making uncomfortable, often impossible things appear normal. Right before your eyes.

Carter The Great

The longer I follow Florida’s Governor Rick Scott the more I become convinced that he’s also a world class necromancer, a magician of sorts (apologies to real magicians). In fact, David Blaine has nothing on our Governor and if you were to wonder why I think this, you need only to consider a few of the tricks he’s pulled on Floridians and our environment in recent years.

Alakazam: Making “Climate Change” Disappear

Houdini

Houdini would blush at how Governor Rick Scott made our climate crisis and phrases like “climate change”, “sea level rise” and “global warming” disappear from state records and reports during his terms in office as was widely reported in the media and press (click here to learn more).

Rather than deal with the issue in a direct, decent way, the Governor has insisted that those who work for him should avoid using these terms and others as if the problem does not exist. You can learn more about his tricks and even see him perform by watching the short video produced by Ahead of the Tide entitled Chapter Three: The Political Climate.

The Amazing Power Plant Vote Vanish

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Conjurer, I mean Governor, Scott pulled an especially big rabbit out of his hat in Broward County last month by making a long-expected vote in support of a gigantic new power plant disappear. Scott’s largest corporate donor (giving a reported $ 500,000 to his U.S. Senate campaign), Next Era Energy’s Florida Power & Light (FPL) plans to build the new power plant in Dania, a facility it describes as world class. Unfortunately, we’ve also learned that the planned “Dania Beach Clean Energy Center” plant will produce a “net increase from some pollutants”.

The Governor did not, of course, use his magic to require his friends at FPL make the pollution disappear. Doing that would have been rude considering the price they’ve paid ($ 500,000) for tickets to his “show”.

No, what he did was postpone the long-planned September 11th hearing to approve the plant until after the upcoming election, likely deciding it better that news of the plant, its vote, his support and especially the news that it will actually increase pollution disappear until after the polls close. It’s like watching that age-old trick where the magician asks you to find where the ball is hidden under a set of cups, reliant upon the notion that the hand is quicker than the eye.

Florida’s Climate Change Litigation Levitation

Kellar

And that leads me to this week’s long planned legal Hearing in Tallahassee for the climate change lawsuit that seven other Florida children and I have brought against the State, our Governor and others. We filed our case (Reynolds v. State of Florida) in April (you can read about it here).

Late Monday, just three days before the October 4th Hearing and many months after the Judge was assigned the case, Judge Cooper announced that he was recusing himself due to a conflict of interest, turning the case back over to the Chief Justice and, thus, requiring that a new Judge and Hearing date be set. You can read about the Judge’s recent decision in the article from Politico below:

Key hearing in climate change lawsuit delayed after judge steps aside

By Bruce Ritchie

10/01/2018 05:49 PM EDT

A state judge today removed himself from a lawsuit challenging Florida’s inaction on climate change, indefinitely delaying a key hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday.

Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper, in an order recusing himself from the case, said he had a conflict of interest and asked the chief judge to assign one of his colleagues to the matter.

Cooper provided no details about led to the decision and did not respond to requests for comment. He had scheduled the Thursday hearing to consider the state’s motion to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit, filed in April, alleges state officials ignored a constitutional policy requiring Florida “to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty.”

Briefs filed in July on behalf of Gov. Rick Scott several state agencies argue the state constitution is not self-executing and that the court is being asked to involve itself in policy decisions and executive branch functions.

The lawsuit was filed by eight Florida residents ranging in age from 10 to 20 and is supported by the Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, which has been involved in similar lawsuits in other states.

A copy of Cooper’s request can be viewed by clicking here.

 

 

The immediate reaction by many was to ask whether the Governor and politics have played a role in this surprise news just days before the Hearing. Lawyers tell me this type of decision this close to a planned Hearing is unusual but not unprecedented. And, of course, there is supposed to be a separation between our Executive and Judicial branches of government but the recent Supreme Court deliberations in Washington illustrate that that politics and the courts interact in strange and mysterious ways.

Whether the Governor performed some sort of sleight of hand to not face our concerns (and us) just before the election, I can’t say, but as a well-known climate change denier and someone who has spent two terms avoiding the topic he’s likely not unhappy with the news. Having to publicly answer tough questions about his total lack of action on an issue impacting millions of Floridians, one that local communities are already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on to mitigate could and should hurt his chances on November 6th, so the postponement could be seen as welcome news the same way delaying the polluting power plant vote might help.

Political hocus pocus?

Perhaps.

But you can rest assured that our Hearing will be rescheduled and that we will have our day, likely many days, in Court. My young friends and I are resilient, we will NEVER give up until we solve the climate crisis and our society shifts to sustainable energy solutions. Doing that will not require magic but hard work and perseverance to break through established politics and special interests.

Until then, please keep in mind that the real magic this Fall takes place in the voting booth where the Governor can be made to vanish from office and, I hope, disappear from politics all together faster than you can say Sim Sala Bim. The magic wand to make that happen is in your hands and appears on November 6th. I sure hope you use it wisely. Florida’s future depends on it.

Step Aside, It’s Our Turn to Fix What’s Wrong

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“I haven’t seen a movement like this, period,” Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, whose district includes Parkland, said last week after an estimated 1 million U.S. students walked out of class. “I think it can be a critical turning point in the politics of this country.”

Some say that the children that are speaking up and out are too young to voice their views, but I beg to differ.

My friends and I, my peers, youth all over the world are connected to one another, literally wired to one another, like has never been possible in all of history.

The only world we know is a wired one and within it we have a world of information, of answers, in our pockets. We’ve grown up accessing information and connecting with one another at the speed of light our entire lives. And when we have questions, or want something, you might have noticed that we are not particularly patient. And that’s especially true when it’s something that common sense tells us needs to get fixed. We are the most informed generation in history and we have the tools to make transformational change at our fingertips.

When our parents and grandparents fiddle with their own phones and tablets and computers to the point of frustration, it’s us, their children and grandchildren, that you turn to and ask us to fix whatever’s wrong. We are the fixers you’ve been turning to since we were young and we’ve not let you down yet.

And now the time has come for young people all over the world to fix the messes we see and sense all around us. Those problems that adults before us created or keep overlooking as they tolerate the pollution, murder, apathy and something, that for some reason they call a political ‘system’, that permeates our society.

“The power of the youth has been displayed,” said Minisee, the Youth EMPOWER organizer, “and we are going to be reckoned with.”

I am incredibly inspired by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students from Parkland, their strength, their will and their passion. We can agree that it’s unconscionable that you had to be placed in this position in the first place but you are well armed, yes armed, to change the world. And you are already making a breathtaking difference and are political forces setting an example for our generation to run over any and every one who stands in our way of fixing what’s broken here in the United States. I proudly stand with the MSD children and children all over our country and the world who demand sensible gun laws including a ban on automatic weapons and devices that turn ‘semi’ automatic into automatic machine guns. It’s just common sense to outlaw these weapons of war.

#Neveragain

Likewise, I am inspired by the young people all over America that comprise Our Children’s Trust, kids that are taking on our state and federal governments in court by suing them to demand that they protect our environment for future generations. The fact that we must wage such a legal fight is unfortunate but it’s a fight that we will gladly spend our lifetimes fighting so as to fix what’s broken. Carbon from fossil fuels has no place in our environment and eliminating it while fighting the global climate crisis is the biggest challenge that my generation will ever face but it is one we must and will overcome. Yes today’s youth will fix our climate crisis and we will not allow anyone to stand in our way.

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To consider how truly different things are today, how kids in my generation will not settle for ‘politics as usual’ I hope that you will please consider reading an excellent article by David Smiley entitled Youths Mobilize for Change After Parkland that can be found here.

Please also consider sitting down and having an ‘adult’ conversation with your children or grandchildren about their thoughts on gun violence, the need for an automatic weapons ban or the fact that we must stop pumping fossil fuel pollution into our oceans and atmosphere and shift to sustainable energy such as solar before it’s too late. You might be surprised by how engaged and enraged we are over the fact that these issues exist as well as how committed we are to fixing them.

And speaking of fixing things, please consider supporting your children and grandchildren by voting with them or, for those too young to vote, by voting for them, and for their future. I would hope that today’s adults will step up and set their bias aside by applying common sense to fixing things while they are still ‘in charge’ but in the event you choose not to help then I promise you that my generation will do it ourselves.

Don’t believe me?

Just watch how quickly we elect new leaders that truly support common sense solutions or how fast we move to enact the laws we need to fix what’s broken.

My connected, compassionate friends and I, are ready to fix things, and this time I’m not talking about helping you with installing your latest phone update. No, this time I am talking about fixing what’s wrong in our world. So either help us or step aside because our time, my generation’s time, has arrived.

How Will We Fill America’s Most Important Offices?

DickJacobs300x300I have only ever written the blogs that you have read here at The Sink or Swim Project, but I am delighted to say that changes today. I am honored to introduce to you a guest blog from my good friend Mr. Dick Jacobs. Dick is a lawyer by education and today, as a man in his eighties, continues to thankfully practice law with a focus on our environment. I met Dick as a result of his amazing work with Our Children’s Trust, a group of inspired youth that are fighting for climate justice in state and federal court all over the our country. If you have not learned about Our Children’s Trust, please click here and keep an eye out for news about my future involvement in the organization’s pursuit of climate justice here in Florida.  

What today’s guest blogger really is, is an explorer and a photographer and a writer and a very passionate man when it comes to our planet. Dick Jacobs has traveled the world many times over and has visited all seven continents from Africa (where I will be heading in a few weeks) to Antarctica, from North America to the Himalaya Mountains. Dick’s book, Wonderlust, is a gorgeous coffee table size reflection in story and photographs of his life, as he says, “wondering while wandering,” that I highly suggest. 

So, without further adieu, allow me to share with you Dick’s latest blog; a piece that is most certainly topical given the changing climate of American politics and the fact that, as Dick says, “democracy is not a spectator sport.”

 

HOW WILL WE FILL AMERICA’S MOST IMPORTANT OFFICES?

 

Sunrise or Sunset?

Sunrise or Sunset?

Chapter 26, the final chapter of Wonderlust, Where Will Our Stories Lead Us: Sunrise or Sunset?, poses the question:

“Where will the stories we’ve gathered on our Wanderings and fixed within our belief systems lead us?”

And makes a suggestion:

“What must we do? Create the right stories for our inner self that will lead to the right actions by our outer self. Our choices of stories will carry us on a journey of illuminating Sunrise or a journey of darkening Sunset.”

As 2017 is now upon us, and we consider our “new beginnings” and reflect on 2016, I could not help but consider the Chapter 26 question.

For 2016 will surely go down as the “Year of the Stories” – the year shaped by invented truths and fake news, with yet-to-be-determined real-world consequences.

A few weeks after our 2016 election, Story Hinckley wrote Why fake news holds such allure, pointing out that for many voters, “Fake news sites are essentially the only outlets these readers say they can trust.” When what’s going on, or being advocated, in our world challenges our deeply-held beliefs, fake news that’s in sync with our attitudes and propensities insulates us. It reaffirms our world views and validity. It’s the comforting theme underpinning fake news, not the accuracy or inaccuracy of the facts it touts, that resonates with us.

About the same time, Nsikan Akpan wrote “The very real consequences of fake news stories and why your brain can’t ignore them.” Akpan notes that, on Facebook, links to “fake election news outperformed the real thing. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described this allegation as ‘a pretty crazy idea’ before ultimately announcing a move to deter misleading news.”

Akpan adds that humor disrupts our ability to scrutinize what we’re being told, and fake news, with its roots in humor and satire, turns out to be such a disrupter!

“But here’s where problem lies with fake news and the human mind. . . . [O]ur minds make value judgments about what to keep. Humor tips the scales in favor of being remembered and recalled, even when counterarguments are strong. . . . ‘When you have exposure to fake news or satire, or any content at all, as soon as those constructs have been accessed and brought into working memory, they are there. You can’t un-think them.’ This mental reflex may explain why caricature traits — ‘Al Gore is stiff and robotic’ or ‘George W. Bush is dumb’ — persist in the zeitgeist for so long despite being untrue.”

Of course, fake election news is not the only volume of incorrect news we experience. Fake news has shaped our thoughts and reactions about such important issues as: the safety of vaccinations, the virtues of smoking, the superiority of a race, and climate change being a hoax. In fact, fake news is an industry with high-paying jobs for those who master its persuasion. Oreskes’s and Conway’s Merchants of Doubt – How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, provides a sobering, unsettling look at the industry.

Were this year’s election winners and losers the products of 2016 being the “Year of the Stories?” The election results certainly reflect an uprising of “America’s Forgotten Class”, those living in small towns and cities, particularly in the Rust Belt.

Many of the Forgotten Class never voted before. Did fake news drive them to action?

It would be easy to criticize these energized voters for being swayed by the propaganda effect of false news. We could lament for the Forgotten Class being energized by impossible political dreams. Dreams about making America Great Again. Dreams about restoring jobs and ways of life displaced by global markets and automation. After all, Brookings and JP Morgan Chase’s reports in Redefining Global Cities:

“In the United States, a useful proxy for other advanced economies, already demonstrated technologies have the potential to automate 45% of the work activities in the United States.”

But I’ve heard arguments before that “naive” folks like those who are members of the Forgotten Class must be wrong and were misled when I was in Eugene, Oregon. I was attending the hearing brought by the fossil fuel industry and our Federal government. They were asking the Court to dismiss the lawsuit filed by 21 Gutsy Kids claiming they had a right to an unpolluted environment. Not included in my blogs about the hearing were comments in The Register Guard, Eugene’s local newspaper, in response to its article, Protesting for their future. Several comments were like this:

“Using children to press a high-profile lawsuit is a waste of public resources and a shameful exploitation of children who are largely incapable of processing the requisite amount of information and making the necessary calculations to understand climate science in the slightest.”

As you consider the validity of the comments about the 21 gutsy kids being exploited, check out:

• Earth Guardians, the webpage of a 15 year old, one of the teenagers bringing the federal suit.

• Our Children’s Trust “Meet the 21 Youth Plaintiffs.”

• Teenager Delaney Reynolds’ Ted Talk. Although not a Federal plaintiff, Delaney’s a Florida activist, whose theme is quite simple:

“Kids get it, why don’t adults?”

Yes, when it comes to what’s going wrong with our care of the environment kids get it. And the first-time Rust Belt and other red-state political activists are on to something we should be paying attention to. In Revenge of the Forgotten Class, Alec MacGillis quotes a Trump supporter:

“I wanted people like me to be cared about. People don’t realize there’s nothing without a blue-collar worker.”

Okay – so, how does all this affect the answer to our question: How Will We Fill America’s Most Important Offices?

Take three minutes and watch Texas Tech’s Pollitically-Challenged “educated élite.”

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We can laugh at the Texas Tech kids wrong answers about our government or their unerring knowledge about entertainers. But their responses tell us something important is missing: understanding necessary to make our system of government work. This brings us to those important political offices we have to fill in 2017.

The most important offices we have to fill for 2017 and beyond are not those occupied by our President, his cabinet or the Supreme Court. The most important offices we have to fill are what the late Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis called the “Office of Private Citizen:”

“The duties of the office of private citizen cannot under a republican form of government be neglected without serious injury to the public.”

Frederick M. Lawrence elaborated in the Key Reporter: “There are three sets of skills needed to perform the duties of the ‘office of private citizen:’ . . .

“First, a private citizen must be able to turn raw information into knowledge. Much of our information inundation comes to us without the benefit of curation, editing or vetting in any form. …

“Second, a private citizen must be able to evaluate arguments. Just as statements of fact must be proven, not merely asserted, arguments must be rational and logical and not simply propounded. …

“Finally, a private citizen must be able to engage in reasoned debate with others. Presenting one’s own rational claims, based on provable truths, as well as being prepared to listen thoughtfully to those of others, is the hallmark of liberal education.”

We can be concerned about the effect of 2016 being the Year of the Stories and about false news influencing the Forgotten Class.

But, we can’t ignore the legitimate concerns that underlie their populist revolt. In his New Yorker article about the Populist Revolt, George Packer writes the Democrats morphed from the “working class” to the “educationalist élites” and the main-stream Republicans to the very rich. Packer concludes:

“This new populism is no kind of blind rebellion …. It is rather an effort to bring our governing élites to their senses. … The great truth was that large numbers of Republican voters, especially less educated ones, weren’t constitutional originalists, libertarian free traders, members of the Federalist Society, or devout readers of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. They actually wanted government to do more things that bene!tted them (as opposed to benefitting people they saw as undeserving).”

And we can’t ignore that too many of the rest of us aren’t fulfilling our Office of Private Citizen. Consider:

• When it comes to voting, CNN reports that only 55.4% of eligible voters voted in the 2016 election. Trump won by achieving the support of 26.3% of the eligible voters. Apathy by the many empowered the few.

• Like the “educated élite” from Texas Tech, too many of us are Politically Challenged. We may be well-educated consumers, but we’re poorly educated citizens. UNESCO defines citizen educationn as “educating children, from early childhood to become clear-thinking and enlightened citizens who participate in decisions concerning society.”

The lesson? Democracy is not a spectator sport.

What must we do?

Take Lawrence’s three steps seriously: Develop a broad-base of knowledge so we can evaluate and engage in reasoned discussions across the political spectrum, not merely with those who “think” like us.

That requires careful listening and consideration of others, particularly their concerns and thoughts. It may require us to compromise and reconsider many of our prevailing beliefs, whether liberal or conservative. But, doing so will lead us to the right stories for us to operate our Office of Private Citizen. Armed with those stories, our inner-self will lead us to the right actions by our outer-self.

When we’re politically apathetic, disengaged and “challenged” as the Texas Tech kids are, we have no chance at all.

Hollie Russon-Gilman writes in Rebuilding Our Civiv Muscles: Maintaining a Democracy is Never-Ending Work: “the democratic process requires civic muscles, and that through robust and meaningful civic engagement, people can transform their relationships with neighbors, public officials, and even communities.”

Lawrence is right. Russon-Gilman is right. The stories we chose to frame how we operate our Offices of Private Citizen will carry us on a journey of illuminating Sunrise or a journey of darkening Sunset.

Choose thoughtfully.

That’s our hefty Office of Private Citizen responsibility!

Thanks, Dick, for your lifelong pursuit of justice and your passion for the environment, as well as for your friendship to me personally. Thanks also for a wonderful blog posting and for being the very first guest blogger here at The Sink or Swim Project. To learn more about Mr. Jacobs and his work, please visit Wonderlust Journeys.