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The World is Ablaze

Reynolds v. The State of Florida Update

As an update to our landmark youth climate change lawsuit against the State of Florida, our Governor, and other elected “leaders” I am pleased to share a copy of the brief that my friends and I filed today with Florida’s First District Court of Appeal. You can find a copy of our legal brief by clicking here.

The next step in the appeal process is that the state of Florida will file their own legal brief in answer to the one we filed today. We will then have a chance to reply to the state’s response and once those steps are complete we will have another day in court (or before the court via zoom) for oral arguments before the judge. I do not yet know how long these next steps will take but rest assured that I will update everyone as soon as I know more.

I also want to share that while the filing of our brief is good news it comes at a time where many have a heavy heart over the increasing degradation of our planet from the climate change crisis. Consider Alex Loznak, a peer who is a Plaintiff in the federal lawsuit Juliana Versus United States  and a student at Columbia University where he’s studying Sustainable Development. Alex and his family are sadly in the midst of a Level 1 fire alert at their farm in Southern Oregon as I type this post and could be forced to evacuate their home at any moment.

Temperatures all over the American West have set horrific records in recent weeks, often breaking former records that were decades or even a century or more old, and have resulted in over 100 wildfires that are raging in California, Oregon and Washington. It’s no coincidence that places like Death Valley California, which experienced what will likely be deemed a world record high temperature of 130 degrees one day last month according to the National Weather Service, are increasingly experiencing truly extreme heat.

No, it’s not a coincidence, not at all, it’s the result of the world’s climate change crisis and a century long love affair with fossil fuels.

And so Alex and his family and countless others are forced to live in a place that looks like another planet or something out of a science fiction story. A place where the sky is an ominous orange, where the smell of smoke follows you everywhere and where you constantly fear for life.

And if any of us need more motivation to realize that what’s happening all around us, what with rising seas, melting glaciers and skies ablaze with deadly fire from record setting heat here’s a recent picture of Alex at his Oregon farm.

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Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand (or should it be a million?) words.

Or so I hope it is.

Allow me to end by thanking the other Co-Plaintiffs that have sued the State of Florida with me: Levi, Isaac, Luxia, Jose, Oliver, Valholly and Oscar. These young people, ages 11 to 20 when our initial lawsuit was filed in 2018, are incredibly brave citizens that have made enormous sacrifices through the process of this lawsuit to try to make our state and its environment better for future generations and I can’t thank each of them enough. I’d also be remiss to not thank our incredible team of lawyers, each of which is working on our case on a pro-bono (free) basis and are as passionate about our concerns, much less share our zeal, as we are. Thanks to  Guy, Mitch, Andrea, Erin, Wallace, Deb, Jane and Matt for your own sacrifices, energy and wisdom.

The time has come for America and Americans to step up and lead the world into a sustainable future, to close the chapter on our fossil fuel history and to embrace factual based science. COVID-19, raging wildfires, increasingly more frequent and larger catastrophic hurricanes and on and on should make it clear to all of us that we must do better.  My friends and I are doing our part, of that I promise. I’d only ask that you do yours and vote in the coming election.

Vote for honesty and decency and science. Yes, please don’t forget science.

And vote for my young friends and I including those not yet old enough to vote but surely old enough to know right from wrong and disgusted by all of the wrong they see adults doing right before our eyes.

And while you are at it, please vote for the future, for those youth that will follow us forever more. They deserve better. Much better.

And finally, please vote as if the world all around us is ablaze.

Because it is.

The Silence of the Lambs

Whenever feasible, one should always try to eat the rude.
– Dr. Hannibal Lecter

As long as I live I will always remember what thousands of people yelled again and again as we marched through the streets of Miami in 2017 during the first ever Miami March for Science:

Science, NOT Silence!  

Science NOT Silence!

Science NOT Silence!

When I conceived and hosted the first March that year, I wondered how many people would actually take to the streets to support the need for our society and its leaders to base decisions on factual, transparent, scientific data but the crowds that covered the lawn of Miami’s Bicentennial Park as far as the eye could see that morning gave me great hope.

Fast forward three years and today we live in an America where leaders all around us diminish and overlook science in favor of lies, manipulation and the dirtiest of politics possible to promote their schemes while costing and killing American lives.  If you think that’s a harsh statement then consider:

  1. At about 350 Million people the United States has 4% of the world’s population yet according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 Dashboard (click here to view) we have more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than any other country on the planet. In fact, of the 11,317,637 confirmed cases world-wide, as I write this the USA accounts for 2,852,807, or 25.2%, of the total. If we are doing such a  “great” job at testing, care and treatment as some politicians suggest then how can these American figures be so out of alignment and alarming? So much for doing “great”. Or paying attention to the science.
  2. Esteemed experts all over America, and countless other people with common sense, have concluded that we are failing to properly fight the virus because far too many elected officials have refused to embrace the science. And worse yet is that it’s increasingly clear that too many of those same elected officials are manipulating the facts, along with the status and severity of the situation, in what is clearly a conscious plan to avoid the science in favor of what some of those same people called it a few years ago when they were put into charge… “alternative facts”. Unfortunately, in the real world that we all live and breathe in there are no alternative facts; our reality is that our society is faced with a deadly disease for which there is no cure as of yet.
  3. And, speaking of deadly, Johns Hopkins data accounts for 531,729 global deaths from COVID-19 as of today, of which 129,718 (24.4% of the total) are here in the United States. In fact, the United States has a significant lead in this deadly competition, as some of our political leaders are playing with our lives, while the next closest country is Brazil at 64,265 followed by the United Kingdom at 44,305.
  4. And here in Florida, a state whose governor (Republican Ron DeSantis) was on the cutting edge of eagerly re-opening our society with little regard to the science and who at the end April repeatedly announced “we’ve flattened the curve” to anyone who would listen, we are setting records for the number of newly reported cases nearly every day over the past week after he facilitated false euphoria by opening up beaches, bars and most all else without mandating masks and social distancing and who still, even amidst the carnage, refuses to implement such proven requirements. Day after day this week Florida has set one unfortunate record after another including Saturday’s 11,458 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, a new daily record. Our state now has 109,052 confirmed cases, including 3,803 deaths, becoming the new “New York”, the hottest of hot spots in America and a place where the number of known cases are doubling every 13 days thanks to spineless political leaders’ zeal to overlook the science and scientists.

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And yet, faced with these facts, the science that defines what is happening and what we should all being doing to mitigate this crisis, what does our government do? It lies to us. It preys on the meek and weak lambs within the flock of followers, the “base” of its most ardent supporters, people seemingly so desperate to hear what they want to hear that they happily embrace this deadly misinformation campaign and, in doing so, overlook the data no matter the cost. And what do leaders such as the President, Republican Donald Trump, do while faced with overwhelming science sufficient to allow any decent person to lead our citizens to safety?

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He hosts not one, but two recent political events in states (Oklahoma and Arizona) with both skyrocketing spikes in confirmed cases and local health officials begging that the events be called off for fear people will get sick and/or die. And, of course, that’s exactly what has started happening since the rallies took place (including numerous people within his own team getting sick).

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And what else does he do? He asks attendees to sign waivers acknowledging they might get sick or die and does so while publicly disputing the benefit of collecting scientific data (it’s called testing, Mr. President) or protecting one’s self by wearing a mask. And what else does he and his handlers do? They walk through the arena in advance of the lambs’ arrival and remove stickers from every other seat that local health officials had placed on them, signs that read “Do Not Sit here, Please!”, to propagate some semblance of social distancing (and if you don’t believe politicians would do such a thing, then just read and watch about it here).

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“…be ready to celebrate, to enjoy the freedoms and the liberties that we have in this country… but we won’t be social distancing.”
– Governor Kristi Noem, South Dakota

Cue the fireworks because our President is not the only one complicit in diminishing science. Consider South Dakota’s Governor, Republican Kristi Noem, who inexcusably masterminded a pre-Fourth of July celebration in which the President read a hate-filled speech at the base of Mt. Rushmore in front of 7,500 passionate followers who eagerly sat side by side, nearly not a single mask in sight. In fact, despite America’s growing COVID-19 crisis, the Governor brazenly announced that neither masks nor social distancing – both of which the science tells us are essential to preventing the spread of the disease – would not be required at the event (I can only imagine what the esteemed South Dakota governor thinks about our climate crisis).

Of course, all things politically controversial seem to always have a tie to Florida and that sure is the case with the silence of the lambs.

While he was busy opening our state and touting his great leadership in recent months, Florida’s Governor has been happy to roll out the welcome mat to the “slaughter house” by proudly announcing that our state will now host the Republican National Convention in his home city of Jacksonville in August after news that Republicans plan to abruptly move the event from Charlotte, NC because its local officials expected attendees to follow its healthcare experts advice by practicing social distancing, wearing masks and taking other sensible steps to try and stay safe. The promise in offering Florida and Floridians up for the sacrifice, I mean the convention, is that they can seemingly take place with little to no real concern for people’s well-being and thus provide our Reality TV President a packed arena filled with cheering followers, lambs, so that the optics on television look, to use his favorite word, “great”. Oh, I am sure we will be told that all steps are to be taken, masks handed out to those who want one and other such silliness, but his followers will not want to disappoint their leader in his (hopefully) last hurrah and therefore we should expect that social distancing, and science, will be once again set aside.

I am not sure how that’s going to work out with Florida’s confirmed cases on a meteoric rise as our Governor, like his mentor the President, refuses to implement aggressive rules such as requiring those masks the President dreads or seeing that a fraction of the expected crowd of lambs showed up in Tulsa, but I sure do not like Florida being used as a weapon to diminish science, much less our government putting good, even if ill advised, Americans at risk. There is no leadership in being a coward, and not embracing the science and public health experts’ guidance to protect our citizens might just be the most cowardly thing our Governor can do.

Of course, like me, you are watching all of this disturbingly unfold on a daily basis in ways, behaviors and comments that have moved from unconventional and outright odd to alarming and dangerous. Whether your concern is social science in the midst of a thankfully enlightened world, medical science for fear of your and your loved one’s health or environmental science as you watch our natural world disgraced and diminished with each cruel Executive Order, enough is enough. The mockery in every direction that’s before our eyes has gone beyond fatiguing a nation to upsetting the good people who make up the majority within our borders. People like those I saw marching for science three years ago. Caring, decent, loving Americans who expect our country and its leaders to have some substance and to use it to do the right things to protect us and the world we live in.

Thankfully, if there is any savings grace to all of the lies, the indecency and insanity that surrounds us, it is that the end is near. No, not of COVID-19, nor of humanity but of this horrible reality show that has become too painful for our nation to witness much longer, much less support. The time has arrived for Americans to change the channel, if you will, before more of us become sick or die and the way we do that, of course, is for all of us to vote in November’s election.

Please vote.

Don’t put your guard down. In fact, rise up and make your anger and concern heard around the world. None of us can afford to put ourselves in a position to one day think back to November 2020 and complain about what did and did not happen, unless you actually let your views be known by voting.

Please vote.

Don’t place yourself in a position to wonder what you could or should have done.

Please vote.

Together we can begin to repair our nation and put an end to too many of our leaders trying to silence the science.

Please vote.

Vote in 2020 as if your very life, our society and, yes, our natural environment depend on it… because they do.

98 Degrees

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It’s not the type of record that I want to see South Florida set, but it’s inevitable. And it has only just begun. I’m talking, of course, about the records that were broken when Tampa and Leesburg, two cities in Central Florida, broke long time historic records by seeing the thermometer climb to 98 degrees.

June 2020 will most certainly be the hottest month in the history of South Florida and all of this foretells our future. A future of increasingly hotter and unbearable temperatures that cause human health crises, agricultural disasters, more frequent/powerful monster hurricanes and, of course, warmer oceans that are the oven for South Florida’s sea level rise catastrophe.

I have written about temperatures many times (you can find one such blog here) and as I have said before, if one can read a thermometer, you know we have a serious problem. Mitigation, whether raising roads, seawalls or any number of other things that will most certainly be part of South Florida’s future, will never help control our planet’s ever rising temperatures. If we are to ever solve our climate change crisis, it is essential that we gain control of these temperatures before it’s too late.

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