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BREAKING NEWS: Florida Youth Score Historic Victory Against The Cause of Climate Change

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I am extremely pleased to share the news that Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) have officially granted the Petition that three friends and I submitted to the State of Florida last month, an effort supported by hundreds of young people all over Florida, that will now result in the State starting a formal process to create the rules needed to transition our state’s electrical energy system to one based entirely (100%) on renewable energy by 2050. It is not an understatement to say that today’s news is the biggest step in Florida’s history to address the causes of climate change while also pushing the state towards its sustainable, clean energy future. Today’s news places Florida at the leadership forefront of the worldwide shift towards sustainable power and away from the fossil fuel pollution that is causing our climate crisis and putting places all over our state at the very real risk of extinction from sea level rise if we don’t take such action immediately.

Submitted on January 5th, our Petition and its proposed rule called on the FDACS to require “each electric utility that produces or purchases electricity for consumption in the State of Florida” to set and achieve goals to generate 100% of Florida’s electricity from renewable energy by 2050. The goals proposed in our Petition for Rulemaking were drawn from energy experts who have concluded that it is economically and technically feasible to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050. Other experts have found that transitioning to renewable energy would create 222,082 construction jobs and 90,727 ongoing well-paying operational jobs, reduce energy costs for consumers, and save lives.

In addition to being America’s third largest state by population, Florida is also sadly the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States. As of 2020 only 4.3% of Florida’s energy came from renewable sources, while natural gas, an energy source that produces methane, one of the most harmful pollutants on earth and a chemical, like carbon dioxide, directly causing our climate crisis, made up 75% of Florida’s electricity system. And that’s happening in a place called the “Sunshine State!” Meanwhile, citizens and communities in Florida are increasingly experiencing the devastating impacts of the climate crisis: rising sea levels and resultant flooding, beach erosion and damage to coastal property, extreme damage to marine ecosystems, spread of infectious diseases, increased severity of storms and extreme weather events, and suffering tourism, agriculture, and recreation industries. In 2011, the Florida legislature mandated FDACS to set goals to increase the use of renewable energy and reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels but in over a decade since then, has done nothing to begin that process. By adopting the proposed rule submitted by my friends and me, Commissioner Fried can now bring the FDACS into compliance with this law, over a decade after it was enacted, and take an important step that others in our country and around the world can follow.

Last Friday the FDACS responded to us by issuing something called a Notice of Development of Rulemaking, which is the first official and formal step in the process towards promulgating a rule under Florida law. As we requested in our Petition the rulemaking will address “the gradual phaseout of energy production from non-renewable sources.” The FDACS will likely hold a public workshop before issuing a proposed rule that will be subject to public notice and comment before being finalized. In speaking to my friends and me Commissioner Fried said, “What you all do inspires those of us in elected office. You hold us accountable, making sure that we are doing good by our constituents.”

“This rulemaking to increase the use of renewable energy and phase out the use of fossil fuels is easily the strongest climate policy the state of Florida has proposed in over a decade,” said Andrea Rodgers, one of the Our Children’s Trust attorneys representing the youth petitioners. “Youth in Florida have acted, and we are pleased their elected leaders have responded. Now the real work begins to ensure that FDACS issues a final rule that follows the science and is as strong as it needs to be to address the climate emergency that prompted these youth to stand up for their fundamental rights in the first place.”

I agree with my friend Andrea, this is an incredible victory for the State of Florida and for our planet and I want to thank the youth of Florida for their passionate support of our petition. Thanks especially to Valholly, Isaac and Levi, my co-Petitioners in this effort and three of the seven young Floridians that also stood with me during our landmark climate lawsuit, Reynolds v. The State of Florida, in 2018. I also want to thank everyone at Our Children’s Trust for their hard work and for embracing the dire concern so many young people in Florida have over what the climate crisis is doing to our fragile state, much less the urgent need for us to address the causes of this damage before its too late. Thanks to Andrea, Mitch, Paul, David, as well as Susan. And, of course, thanks as well to Commissioner Fried and her staff for doing what I’ve called the right thing, the bold thing, and the thing that the state had not done in over a decade despite long having a mandate to create the change that addresses the causes of our climate crisis here in Florida.

And while this is an incredibly important and positive step towards our sustainable energy future there is no time to celebrate. Frankly, there is an enormous amount of work to be done to establish the required formal rules and commence the changes that our environment so desperately needs. That said, I realistically expect those that want to continue to put their profits over the pollution they cause to fight our every step and to work hard to delay the changes to their businesses that are essential to our solving our climate crisis. This fight will never be easy, but the stakes are far too important to allow the antiquated approaches that are now in place to continue to cause damage. On behalf of youth in Florida please know that we are up to the task and the fight. I sure am. Our future and our environment are at stake here and we are committed to ensuring that the state of Florida shifts to sustainable energy use and in doing so leads the world into the future.

Given the incredibly positive news of the day allow me to end on a positive thought. Here’s to hoping that every one of our elected leaders, utilities and related stakeholders will set their differences, politics, rhetoric, fears and yes, profits, aside and do the right thing for our environment and future. Transitioning to an energy system that is 100% based on clean, sustainable, power is a noble goal that each of us should aspire too. Be bold. Do the right thing. And do it with the transparency and speed that Florida deserves. That’s my hope for what comes next now that our Petition has been accepted and I hope that you will join me as we work to eliminate the cause of the climate crisis.

How About Earth Day Becomes Every Day?

When I was a young child we would celebrate Earth Day at school each year. There would be decorations, Earth-shaped cookies, and special events tailored towards our planet. It was a fun way to celebrate mother nature while learning about our wondrous natural environment.

Somewhere over the last few years, perhaps when I was nearing the end of High School or more recently while in college, Earth Day has evolved into Earth Week. Major corporations and media outlets now create a variety programs to celebrate our environment while bringing awareness to a range of important topics such as water degradation, plastic pollution in our oceans, and many more, of course including our climate crisis.

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Where five years ago as a High School Freshman I was asked to speak on Earth Day at our local zoo, this week I have spent nearly every day making a presentation, giving a speech or doing one thing or another for folks celebrating Earth Week. I have, for example, given the keynote speech for the Climate Innovation Challenge from CAVU, as well as acted as a judge for the competition; spoke at World Creativity and Innovation Day/Week for the United Nations twice; participated in a panel discussion for the University of Miami Student Government ECO Board; been interviewed by my college radio station (WVUM), NBC Universal, and more.

Showcase MCThe evolution to Earth Week is glorious but it’s not enough. Not nearly so. If we are ever going to actually, truly change things for the better in a lasting way it will require everyone on earth living their lives with our natural environment in their hearts and on their minds every day of the year. That’s a big goal but I believe that it’s possible based on how far we’ve come in just a few years of my own life and how serious youth in my generation are about protecting our natural environment. If we can just add the other 51 weeks of the year, every year, then I am confident we can protect this special place we call home for future generations.

So, what do you say? How about every day becomes Earth Day by 2030 if not sooner? Mother Nature needs our help and I know you can do it!

Happy Earth Day (Week) and soon to be Year everyone!

Now It’s Your Turn

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I’ve done all I can, now it’s your turn.

Today’s your BIG Day!

I’ve not only already voted but over the last year and especially the last few months I’ve written more blogs, appeared on more panels, and given more speeches and other forms of engagement via Zoom than I can count. The hours, in some cases, days of preparation is all worthwhile if it helps motivate our country to take action by voting and electing political leaders who care about the environment as passionately as you and I do.

But now it’s your turn.

In the event you were not part of the amazing record breaking (shattering!) number of Americans that voted early this year or, for that matter, that voted by mail-in ballot in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, today’s your day.

Today’s the day you need to please get up and out to the polls and V O T E.

As an American it is our right, our privilege, and, yes, our democratic honor to vote and never has it been more important that you exercise your rights. No matter what it takes, I am asking you, your friends, and your family to safely go to the polls and vote. Don’t suffer in silence or think your vote and voice does not matter. Your vote very much matters and you have a critically important role to play. In fact, what you think not only matters, but your view and vote will help shape the future of our country perhaps forever.

It’s that important.

Today.

Your BIG Day.

So please vote.

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