Category Archives: University of Miami

Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote Prize

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I am truly fortunate to live my academic dream every day here at the University of Miami where I am now a Junior in the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) while pursuing a double major in Marine Science and Geology, as well as a minor in Climate Policy. The University and RSMAS are perhaps the best academic institution of its type in the world and I just love it. I know that’s a bit of a “nerdy” thing to say about one’s school but it’s also true. The world-class professors. My classes. Our facilities. My classmates. Our Administration. I even love walking (and right now very much miss this due to COVID-19) through our gorgeous subtropical campus environment and admiring the amazing landscaping that’s everywhere you look. It’s great, as we say around here, to be a Miami Hurricane.

But today, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, brings me a humbling surprise from the University that I will forever cherish and would like to also share with you. In the midst of a terrible pandemic, our ever growing climate crisis, and political discord that I worry about every day, comes an incredible honor within the following letter to me from Dr. Julio Frenk, President of the University of Miami.

Dear Delaney,

Congratulations! You are a recipient of the Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote Prize. It is my honor to bestow on you the attached certificate commemorating this recognition of your important contributions to the sustainability and environmental stewardship of the University of Miami campus.

We hope you will watch a special video announcement on this 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. The University website for all of today’s virtual activities is https://greenu.miami.edu/topics/nature/earth-day/index.html.

With my best wishes for your health and safety,

Julio Frenk, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.
President, University of Miami
Interim CEO, University of Miami Health System
Professor of Public Health Sciences

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The letter, and the certificate he kindly shared, is incredible but to think that such a busy professional, someone on the front line of fighting COVID-19 in our community and world would take time to film the 5 minute (!) video about Earth Day and the winners of this auspicious award is just a remarkable testimony to why I so love this place. The University is a special institution filled with special people doing monumental, lasting, work and that’s clear from Dr. Frenk’s comments in announcing the Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote Prize when he wrote the following to the entire U of Miami Community:

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a call to action for the protection of our environment, which was inspired by student activism and unity around shared ideals. Earth Day is now celebrated in nearly 200 countries, serving as an annual reminder of the interconnectedness of our global community.

The historic times in which we are living bring this interconnectedness into clear focus. Now, more than ever, we see how individual actions affect collective wellbeing. If there is a silver lining to sheltering in place, it is that we have slowed down activities that have a damaging impact on our planet. The human family is getting the opportunity to reimagine our routines. We are getting a glimpse of possibilities—from telehealth to virtual events—that have the potential to help us lighten our carbon footprint and preserve irreplaceable habitats.

This morning, I announced the 2020 winners of the Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote Prize , which recognizes individuals in the University of Miami community who make meaningful and lasting contributions to the beauty and sustainability of our campus. This year’s winners include a group who led teach-ins to educate the University community on environmental matters and buried a time capsule on the first Earth Day, along with a current junior recently recognized among global young activists in National Geographic magazine. They beautifully demonstrate the vision and spirit of service that ’Canes have in common across generations.

Thank you, Dr. Frenk, and thanks to everyone at the University of Miami for your dedication to sustainability, environmental stewardship, and forward-thinking vision to make every aspect of our world a better place on Earth Day and all the other days of the year. Like I said, It’s Great To Be A Miami Hurricane.

Are Natural History Films Really Raising Environmental Awareness?

The following article first appeared on the Research Blog for Dr. Neil Hammerschlag’s Shark Research and Conservation (SRC) Lab website at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. To learn more about SRC, visit here: http://sharkresearch.rsmas.miami.edu/, or to learn more about the University’s marine science school, please click here: http://rsmas.miami.edu/.

By: Delaney Reynolds, SRC intern.

Films have influenced the way people perceive certain topics for decades. We all know and love the Jaws theme song, but soon after the movie’s release, mass hysteria broke out and a negative stigma has been associated with sharks ever since. Here at Shark Research and Conservation we, of course, know these apex predators are nothing to fear, but rather a respectable species that can provide us with a lot of information regarding environmental vitality. Thankfully, many others recognize this as well and social media platforms have played a very large role in dissipating the adverse reputation sharks have obtained. With social media ruling the world we live in today, are natural films and documentaries doing as well of a job at educating about conservation issues? Researchers at the University College Cork and University College Dublin set to find out.

In 2016 the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) aired its wildly popular show Planet Earth 2 narrated by Sir David Attenborough. The show brought in over 12 million viewers (BBC News). By looking at the engagement on Twitter and Wikipedia between November 6th to December 11th, 2016 (when the show aired), a qualitative analysis was performed based on the show’s script, the animal species it mentioned, the screen time they each were given, and conservation themes. In total, 113 animal species were mentioned and classified as mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, and invertebrate (Fernandez-Bellon, Kane, 2019). It was also noted that each species was described in part based on their predator-prey interaction.

Taxonomic Group and IUCN Status

Figure 1: The proportion of taxonomic groups based on screen time and IUCN conservation status. The number of species is represented by circle size, colors represent the IUCN conservation categories, bars represent taxonomic groups and proportions, and changes in circle size represents differences in screen time (Source: Fernández‐Bellon et al. 2019).

Based on the qualitative analysis, it was found that mammals were overrepresented in the show, thus all other categories were underrepresented, and the screen time that was allocated to specific species based upon their IUCN categories did not discuss or reflect conservation priorities (Figure 1). As such, audience engagement was highest in response to the mammals on the show and animals with an IUCN “least concern” conservation status also dominated airtime.

Twitter and Wikipedia Engagement

Figure 2: Audience engagement for ten species that were featured in Planet Earth 2 from (a) Twitter and (b) Wikipedia. Twitter engagement was based on the number of times each species was mentioned under #PlanetEarth2 and Wikipedia engagement was based on the number of visits to each species’ specific page. Colors represent the IUCN conservation status, red shading in (b) represents the 6 weeks that Planet Earth 2 was aired, and the darker red band illustrates the specific episode each animal was highlighted in (Source: Fernández‐Bellon et al. 2019).

In total, 30,000 tweets were posted under #PlanetEarth2 during the broadcast of the show and it was evident that species screen time per episode had a significant impact on audience engagement. Only 6% of the entire script for the show was dedicated to conservation education, leading to 1% of tweets mentioned containing conservation themes (Figure 2a). Based on the Wikipedia analysis, 41% of the animal species highlighted in the show recorded a yearly peak in page visits during the episodes of their respective animal species and, again, screen time of animal species had a significant effect on engagement (Fernandez-Bellon, Kane, 2019). The more screen time an animal received, the more it was tweeted about or searched for.

Given the extreme success of nature films and documentaries, just like Planet Earth 2, they can be fantastic platforms to educate a large amount of people about different conservation and environmental issues. Unfortunately, Planet Earth 2 did not feature conservation themes nearly enough, but this study shows just how effective such a platform can be in informing an extensive audience and with environmental issues emerging as a key issue for our society, it will be crucial to include them. So, no, not all nature films are currently doing their job in raising environmental awareness

Works Cited:

Fernández‐Bellon, D, Kane, A. Natural history films raise species awareness—A big data approach. Conservation Letters. 2019;e12678. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12678

“Planet Earth II More Popular than X Factor with Young Viewers.” BBC News, BBC, 1 Dec. 2016, www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-38170406.

How A Carbon Fee Can Help Solve Our Climate Change Crisis

My recent vlog/blog post “There Will Be Riots & Blood In The Streets”, garnered a great deal of response, comment and debate and I am grateful to each and every one who wrote and shared their thoughts with me. The Yellow Vest riots and protests in France are, I feel, indicative of the struggle many may face as we transition from the long comfortable fossil fuel based economy we live in to one based on sustainable energy. It is a transition that we must make if we are to ever solve this global crisis, but it will not be without some struggles. How we finance the transition, and how people throughout our entire society benefit from the transition, will be very important to its success.

To help us with that transition some very forward-thinking people here in the US have conceived and touted a Carbon Fee whereby carbon emissions would be subject to an additional fee and the money raised by the fee would be returned to everyone, to our citizens (not the government). You can learn more about the idea in a recent article by Jeff Dorian, Group Leader of the Broward Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, by clicking here.

Greg Hamra, a faculty member at the University of Miami’s School of Architecture and leader of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby Miami Chapter, has long been active in our climate change battle and is deeply invested in advocating for the Energy Innovation Act & Carbon Dividend Act (HR763). With his work in mind I am pleased to share a Letter to the Editor he wrote recently to the Miami Herald:

CLIMATE POLICY

The Green New Deal, like the Paris Accord and elements of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, is the result of fantastic hard work at building political will for climate action. However, each is nonbinding and represents important, albeit aspirational, goals. These goals must be translated into specific policies that have years of political work ahead before they can be introduced. But they are road maps without a vehicle.

The Energy Innovation Act and Carbon Dividend Act (HR-763) is the vehicle; the critical policy mechanism needed to redirect market capital from dirty high-carbon fuels, toward clean energy and low-carbon solutions.

The Energy Innovation Act creates the conditions necessary to achieve significant greenhouse gas draw-down at the scale and speed required.

Winning slowly is the same as losing. We have to go big and fast.

HR-763 has 10 years of grassroots work behind it. It has the economic studies behind it. It has the support of diverse Economic Nobel Laureates. It is shovel ready. It’s the first bicameral, bipartisan climate legislation in U.S. history. It’s the policy for which we’ve been waiting.

– Gregory Hamra,

Coral Gables

Dr. John Van Leer has been a central figure and long-time advocate for a Carbon Fee, as well as a vocal and passionate member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Dr. Van Leer also just so happens to be an esteemed professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences here at my school, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, as well as someone that I’ve been honored to share the stage with a time or two as we’ve spoken at various environmental meetings over the last few years. Dr. Van Leer wrote me following my recent vlog/blog and with his permission I wanted to share his note with you so as to help explain the difference between a “Carbon Tax” and “Carbon Fee”. So, thanks to Dr. Van Leer for his permission to use his recent email, as well as his passion to help find solutions to our climate crisis. Please enjoy this special guest blog:

Hi Delaney,

I see a very different path forward, than the Orwellian one you described. What is the key difference between what France foolishly did and what we should do in the US?
There must be social equity in the policy we adopt, otherwise your video’s future will likely occur.

Both James Hansen and George Schultz see an increase in carbon emissions pricing by assessing a fee not a tax. It is a fee because the government does not keep the money it collects. It is refunded to all the citizens equally, so there is social equity. Poorer people receive greater dividends than the price increases they must pay in increased fuel cost. These dividends commence the month before the fees are imposed, so they are fairly treated and will not need to riot to be treated fairly.

I have been talking about Building Our Better Future Faster. I doubt we will ever make this needed change by a series of draconian regulations imposed from above like France has tried.

British Columbia has used a FEE and DIVIDEND approach successfully reducing emissions since 2008 with province wide buy-in by the vast majority of voters and unusually strong growth in the renewable energy sector as a result. So Canada has adopted a national carbon pricing on a provincial basis with some cap and trade in some provinces and fee and dividend in others.

Additional Considerations

The reduction of emissions is too important to be enacted by only one party. Recently, single party politics has triggering increased divisiveness with each election cycle, even before Russian amplification. Our founding fathers wanted their version of democracy to be difficult to change, rather than governed by royal whim, quickly and arbitrarily imposed by a king.

Instead, we must drive this kind of deep structural change right through the political center. Otherwise it will be reversed the next time a different political party becomes dominant. A recent example was the Clean Power Plan designed to curtain coal fired power generation, being carefully vetted under Obama and rescinded by Trump before it was ever implemented. Working together may seem maddeningly slow, messy and inefficient.

It has taken a decade of excruciatingly difficult negotiations, respectfully put forward, by thousands of CCL volunteers who have been seen as engaged in “Mission Impossible.” This exercise in democracy has happened in conjunction with many other cooperative groups, to find a narrow channel to navigate between the reefs and shoals of competing interest, and governing orthodoxies, of our principle parties, plus their many splintered factions.

Government may be distrusted by the “right” as imposing stifling bureaucratic regulations and taxes, which they say will kill the economy and destroy jobs. Government may be distrusted by the “left” as representing only the interests of large businesses, which are willing to sacrifice the poor and middle class and quite possibly the planet.

So, by giving equal refunds to all households, there is complete transparency, because all the people know where all their money went – into their bank accounts – every month. They can trust themselves to spend their money as they see fit.

Hopeful Regards

John

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