Category Archives: Solar Power

Solar & Sustainability Lip Service?

I think solar panels are beautiful, and I am not just talking about the fact that they can help us shift from fossil fuel energy to a clean sustainable solution. I think they are beautiful to look at too, but some leaders in the City of Coral Gables appear to think otherwise and on Tuesday will consider legislation to essentially prohibit them being placed on the street side of one’s house in the so called “City Beautiful”.

In fact, Coral Gables wants to place their view of what looks acceptable, thus aesthetics, ahead of allowing a property owner to benefit from solar, ahead of placing one’s solar panels in the best possible location to capture the sun if that means they can be seen from the street, and such a limitation is short sighted if you truly want to help lead the way in solving our climate change crisis.

Much of the proposed law begins with a fight that Gables resident Daniel Martinez and his family, who have been battling the City over where he’s allowed to place his panels on his roof. Not only did the City tell Mr. Martinez that his family could not place panels on the part of his roof facing the street but we’ve now learned that the City, while pretending to be supportive of solar and sustainability, has made decisions that led to at least 30 other homeowners to abandon their solar permit plans for seemingly similar subjective reasons.

I am incredibly disappointed in the City of Coral Gables’ Mayor and Commission for the roadblocks you have allowed residents to be subjected to, as well as for allowing the proposed limitation to be in your 2019 Legislative Priorities. You can read about what’s happening in the City of Coral Gables here:  https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article223187560.html.

And, on this Tuesday the City will consider passing legislation that says they “support” Florida’s Solar Rights Act, but goes on to say that they oppose any law that would inhibit the Gables’ “ability to regulate aesthetics as it pertains to the installation of solar panels“. Should Coral Gables pass that law they will have shown their true colors and make clear that they are in favor of solar but only if they subjectively like the way it looks and have a say over where panels should be placed no matter what the sun and physics deem best.

Here is a summary of the city of Coral Gables’ ridiculous Legislative Priorities Memo and their Legislative Priorities Resolution highlighting their true view related to solar power (I have marked the key wording in red):

SOLAR

Support the rights afforded under the Florida Solar Rights Act (Section 163.04, Florida Statutes). 

Oppose legislation that would limit the City’s ability to regulate aesthetics as it pertains to the installation of solar panels.   

  WHEREAS, The City of Coral Gables supports the rights afforded under the Florida Solar Rights Act (Section 163.04, Florida Statutes), but would oppose legislation that would limit the City’s ability to regulate aesthetics as it pertains to the installation of solar panels;

On Tuesday night the City of Coral Gables Commission gets a chance to redeem itself and decide whether it’s truly serious about sustainability and doing its part to solve our climate change crisis or, as resident Katherine Newman wrote in the January 6th, 2019 Miami Herald, just giving “lip service” to being “green”. Here’s what Ms. Newman wrote:

GABLES’ LIP SERVICE

The Dec. 26 article “Rooftop solar panel rules frustrate homeowner,” is exactly what most of us in Coral Gables expect: A long, expensive, frustrating process to get any permit (which is why many residents do work without permits).

Coral Gables gives being “green” a lot of lip service, but it does not put our money where its mouth is. Overdevelopment, with massive high rises reaching to the edge of our main streets, is one example. The traffic already is unbearable. What will it be like when the 60-story behemoth on U.S. 1 is finished? The CO2 emissions from all the cars will continue to increase.

In Gables by the Sea, we have been begging for shade trees for 25 years and have been largely ignored. The EPA says that urban “heat islands” contribute to climate change. On our two main streets, the temperature gets to 119 degrees on hot, sunny days because there is no shade. We pay enormous amounts of property taxes and have been unable to get desperately needed shade trees.

We are not fooled by the green talk. Coral Gables needs to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to pay the unfunded pension deficit. Enormous commercial buildings that contribute to traffic and take away green space will hurt our environment, but will create tax revenue. A homeowner, trying to do the right thing and install solar energy, is irrelevant to the city.

– Katherine Newman, Coral Gables

Saying you are dedicated to helping solve the biggest challenge that kids in my generation will face during our lifetimes often makes adults feel good, but actually putting your money, or your vote, where your mouth and heart is, is another thing all-together. Tuesday night the City can show all of South Florida, and the world, whether it’s either serious or not.

Yale Climate Connections

YCC

I am honored and pleased to share with you that The Sink or Swim Project’s work has been featured on two national programs produced by the Yale Climate Connections (YCC). YCC is a project of the Yale Center for Environmental Communication (YCEC) and is directed by Dr. Leiserowitz of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies at Yale University.

YCC produces daily broadcast radio and web-based reporting and commentary about climate change and like me, YCC sees the threat of our planet’s changing climate as one of the greatest challenges our society faces. YCC’s programs are aired nationwide on about 380 radio stations and are also available through iTunes and iHeartRadio.

Youth all over the world are rightfully deeply concerned about our warming planet and the impact that it has on our future. Yale University and the folks at YCC certainly understand this and with this in mind have published two radio stories about my work that I am very pleased to share with you.

1. To listen to the first piece about The Sink or Swim Project in general, please visit this link: https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2018/01/south-florida-teen-speaks-out-on-sea-level-rise/

2.  To listen to the second piece about how a teenager worked with a local municipality to make history by creating a solar power mandate that helps move The Sunshine State of Florida towards becoming THE Solar State, please visit this link: https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2018/01/teen-gets-city-to-pass-solar-rules/

I do hope you will give them a listen or read and let me know what you think. And most importantly, please share these shows with others and ask that they become engaged in their own communities. Together, but only together, we can and will change the world, of that I am certain.

Thanks to Dr. Leiserowitz, Jan O’Brien, Eileen Mignoni, and the entire team at Yale Climate Connections for thinking of me and for your incredible work for our planet and society.

Righteousness or Reality?

Righteousness

Just when I thought I’d heard everything possible from the Trump Administration’s attack on our environment, including doing all they could possibly dream up to deny that man’s use of fossil fuels to power our cars and utilities and lives contributes to our planet’s climate crisis, comes this headline:

Energy chief Rick Perry says fossil fuels can prevent sexual assault

Wait.

What?

It will not surprise anyone that Perry, the former Governor of Texas and 2016 Presidential Candidate who is now President Trumps Energy Secretary, is a loyalist to fossil fuels given that his home state is filled with the stuff and that most of America’s biggest oil companies are based there. But now it appears that we’ve learned he is not only deeply biased but perhaps delusional too.

At an event sponsored by Axios and NBC News Perry explained that on a recent trip to Africa a girl there told him that electricity was important to her because she wanted to avoid using a lamp that produces noxious fumes to read at night, to study. He then went on in the interview to say:

“electricity also was important from the standpoint of sexual assault. When the lights are on, when you have light that shines the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts.”

When I read the word righteousness I immediately think of its use in the context of religion or morality. To hear the United States Energy Secretary, a member of the President’s Cabinet, use it to tout the use of fossil fuels or to seemingly suggest that fossil fuels serve a righteous purpose is alarming. Could he be trying to suggest that God supports the use of fossil fuels? Or that the distribution and use of fossil fuels hold some moral purpose? You can decide for yourself by reading the article that caught my attention here but such a statement is troubling on any level (sickening really) and to read his comments that there is a link, or what he called a ‘positive role’, between fossil fuels and preventing sexual assault, is deeply disturbing. 

REAL NEWS FLASH To Secretary PerryElectricity is generated all over the world by all sorts of power sources other than fossil fuels including clean, sustainable sources such as the sun (solar), water (hydro) and wind.

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I’ve been to Africa but I’ve not yet been to India. Thankfully former late night TV host and comedian David Letterman traveled to India as a Correspondent for the Season Two Premier of National Geographic’s Years of Living Dangerously entitled ‘A Race Against Time’ where he reported finding children studying at night by noxious kerosene burning lamps. He also reported that some 300 Million people in India (nearly the equivalent of the entire population of the United States) have no electricity of any type and that solar power is being used to provide electricity to change their lives for the better.

If you’ve not seen Years of Living Dangerously, a show that’s been called ‘must watch television’, then click here and start with David’s excellent episode and while you’re at it catch the episode entitled Saving Miami to learn about Miami’s plight.

Reality

I believe that our planet’s climate change crisis is the most significant issue that my generation will ever face. Of that I am certain and while I don’t know Jeff Dorian I sure do agree with what he wrote in a Letter to the Editor in the November 2nd edition of the Miami Herald and want to share it as a dose of reality.

DENYING REALITY

I smoked cigarettes for 30-plus years. I ignored the warnings — liked them too much; kept thinking they wouldn’t affect me. The odds were in my favor. There is no family history of cancer, and my diet and exercise regimes were excellent.

Then came the heart attack.

I quit smoking, but the damage was done: irreversible loss of functioning capacity. If only I’d quit sooner, surely my health would be much better today.

All of us face a similar dilemma today. We must give up fossil fuels. Most Americans don’t think carbon emissions will affect them. The threat seems unsure and far in the future. We enjoy cheap fuel and fast cars too much. We don’t know how to give them up.

The warnings, again from scientists, again are clear and easy to understand. The deniers in Congress are once again denying and supporting business interests over protecting the public interest.

Once again, the damage is irreversible. My heart is not going to get stronger, and the ocean is not going to recede. People are now dying from effects of carbon emissions and associated climate change.

The solution, though not easy, is exquisitely simple: Just Google carbon fee.

– Jeff Dorian, Plantation

The debate on whether man has impacted our climate is long over97% of all scientists agree that that’s exactly what has happened and that carbon in our atmosphere has never been higher and that earth’s temperatures have, in 137 years of recorded data, never been hotter. And if we set politics, and ridiculous statements such as what Secretary Perry said last week aside, even the Trump’s Administration knows the truth and just published it on Friday November 3rd in America’s annual National Climate Assessment.

Hundreds of experts from 13 agencies in our federal government and the academic world researched and wrote the report which was then peer-reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences. You can find the report here and once you’ve read it, or read one of the many articles published about it in recent days like this one, we should all ask ourselves whether we, as citizens of this planet, will continue to allow politicians and their puppets to lie to us, to disrespect us, or do we decide to elect leaders who are serious about solving this well documented problem?

IF the Trump Administration’s goal is to truly do what’s righteous for our country’s future then allow me to suggest that the President announce that the United States will quickly become the world’s leading manufacturer of solar panels and that America will install solar power any and everywhere in our Country as well as in places such as Africa and, for that matter, India too. Make it our generation’s ‘trip to the moon’ as President Kennedy did in the early 1960’s when he made sending men to explore the moon our national focus. The reality is that such an inspirational initiative would create millions of jobs while changing people’s lives and our environment for the better at the same time.

Now that is a reality that I can support and one that would be truly filled with righteousness.

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