Walking In A Plastic Wonderland

Some friends of mine just celebrated graduation by going to Bimini, Bahamas and that reminds me of a trip I took over Spring Break to the Abaco Islands. A local fishing guide suggested that my family and I hike through a gumbo limbo forest along what seemed like a secret path through the jungle above a cliff overlooking the ocean until we came upon a private, secret beach. A beach with the most beautiful sand, the most incredible colored water, and coral reef you have ever seen.

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The coral reef was amazing in that you could just step off the sand, into the ocean, and swim out a few yards into another world filled with a kaleidoscope of color, fish, sponges, sea fans, and beauty.

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But, as pristine as that beach was, and as secluded as it was in that we did not see another person the entire day we spent there, that beach was evidence of a growing environmental disaster that our planet, its oceans, and the creatures living within it face: man-made plastic pollution.

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The pictures below are all from that same beach and I should share with you that it wasn’t hard to find plastic. It was everywhere of every size and shape and it was related to everything that you could imagine; from food products to clothing to marine uses to household goods, you name it. It was like walking through a department store and finding a who’s who or a what’s what of things that you and I could buy everyday but that end up in our oceans and on our beaches.

The worst part, perhaps, is that these types of things not only end up on the sand but they all too often end up being eaten by or entwined around one harmless sea creature after another. Not a few, but probably a few million all over our planet and that needs to stop.

 

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The United Nations UNESCO and the World Heritage Marine Programme will be hosting The Oceans Conference next week in New York. According to UNESCO, here are a few plastic marine pollution facts to consider:

  • Plastic debris causes the death of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.
  • About ten years ago, the United Nations Environment Programme estimated that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic
  • Seven of the EU States, Norway, and Switzerland recover over 80% of their used plastics. That’s the good news. The bad news is the rest of the world remains a serious issue and has limited to no strategy in place at this time.
  • Plastics and other forms of litter often concentrate in our oceans and are drawn together by the ocean’s current into what are called gyres. There are five gyres in our world’s oceans now. The North Pacific Gyre is the biggest one, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and is about two times as big as the state of Texas.
  • Currents in the North Pacific Ocean gather litter from North America, Japan, and other areas in the region before bringing them together in the “Garbage” patch.

Stay tuned for more news about the United Nations and UNESCO’s incredible work (including about The Ocean Conference taking place at the United Nations in New York from June 5th through June 9th and World Oceans Day on June 8th) both here and through my social media channels and until then, please think of ways to keep our plastic products out of our oceans and off of our beautiful beaches.

Our oceans cannot protect themselves from mankind’s modern living, that’s up to each of us in our homes, on our boats, or while enjoying a day at the beach.

P.S. Over the last 24 hours, since the President’s announcement that he has decided to remove the United States from the Paris Pact, many people have asked me what I think and what we should do. My answers include staying calm and embracing hope.

The solution to our climate change crisis, in my view, begins on the local level, in the cities and towns all across America and in our States, not so much in Washington but all over America. Implementing local laws will begin to solve the problem and if anyone needed any motivation, then the farce of an announcement should certainly serve as motivation to take to the streets, to visit your local city council, your mayors, your state capital, and demand change. That should be our focus for the next three and a half years until we elect a president with vision for a sustainable future.

Paris

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On Sunday CNN published an article by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz entitled Ted Cruz: Trump should withdraw from Paris climate pact that asked President Trump to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement and in, doing so, uphold one of Trump’s key campaign promises from the 2016 election. In the article Cruz wrote;

Meeting the 2025 emissions reduction target alone could subtract $250 billion from our GDP and eliminate 2.7 million jobs. The cement, iron and steel, and petroleum refining industries could see their production cut by 21% 19%, and 11% respectively. To read the article please click here.

I cannot confirm Senator Cruz’s figures but I can say that an estimated 2.5 million South Floridians are at risk of becoming Climate Refugees, of being displaced from our region in a future of rising seas. And that’s just here in South Florida. So if you think about it, and assume his 2.7 million figure is close to correct, then those jobs will be about the same number of people in just our region that will be displaced. The number all over America will be tens of millions of people.

And the impact to our citizens, to the Climate Refugees aside, what will happen to those communities that lose their tax paying citizens and trillions of dollars of improvements in the form of roads, bridges, sidewalks, much less people’s homes and businesses? And faced with those types of losses, not to mention the increased health hazards and changes to America’s agriculture industry, how dare Senator Cruz suggest we not work to cool our climate and transition from a fossil fuel economy such as he seems to so love to a sustainable one. How dare he threaten people and use short term fears to avoid protecting our planet and society for the long term.

That said, I can’t say that I am surprised by Senator Cruz’s support for the fossil fuel industry, an industry that is significantly based in his home state of Texas, nor that of polluting businesses such as the coal and steel industry. His comments embody the same old fashioned, antiquated, thinking that those people protecting coal and fossil fuels of the world have been using since the 1970’s when greenhouse gas became a threat to the future of businesses dating to the industrial revolution.

Well it’s time for a new revolution. The Sustainable Revolution.

I will not, of course, be one bit surprised if we learn this week that the President decides to announce that the United States will not abide by the Paris agreement. He of the belief that all things climate change are nothing more than a ‘Chinese hoax’ or from his ever growing universe of ‘alternative facts’ but, then again, in a way I kind of hope that the President does exactly what Senator Cruz suggested.

Trump backing out of the promises our Country made in Paris, backing out of America being a climate and environmental leader for our planet as should be the case, would create yet one more very big reason to demand change in November 2018’s mid-term election much less for making his a one term administration when we get to vote in the 2020 election.

In my live lectures I often make reference to the fact that none of us travel around in horse drawn carriages as would have been the case in the 1700’s and 1800’s when that was the state of the art in transportation.  And I mention that the people who worked to raise, train and care for horses, or build and drive carriages, all had to transition from those jobs to that of the new automobile industry or other jobs and that, when that happened our country, did not collapse. In fact, you can easily argue that things actually improved. And I mention that another such transition has begun, in this case to electric cars and then, in just a few years, the widespread use of autonomous cars. There is no stopping this exciting progress and that is the way things have always been. Progressing. Evolving.

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Change, invention and revolution are part of who we are as humans so to keep living in the past, a polluting past, makes no sense. What our country needs are leaders not named Trump, Cruz, Scott or Rubio.

People with the vision to inspire and support a logical transition over time from fossil fuels to sustainable solutions.

The type of leader that can inspire new innovations and our country not with fear but with HOPE that America can be the world leader in sustainable energy and, in doing so, create millions of jobs and new businesses while also correcting our climate crisis.

That is the type of leader my generation needs and deserves, one for the future, not one that is stuck in the past.

At the 2013 Values Voter Summit.

The Solar City of South Miami

Let the sunshine,
let the sun shine in,
the sun shine in

Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In

By 5th Dimension

Something spectacular and very important happened last week at the City of South Miami’s May commission meeting and we all owe Mayor Stoddard and the visionary commission a debt of gratitude for helping lead Florida into a sustainable future.

Early last year I learned that the City of San Francisco had become the third municipality in California to enact an Ordinance requiring solar power to be installed in new construction, as well as significant renovations. San Francisco’s law (click here for a copy of their Ordinance) intrigued me and led me to write several local mayors a letter requesting that they consider implementing a similar law in their municipality. An example of one such letter, in this case to the Village of Palmetto Bay, following a lecture that I gave to a business group there at which its mayor was in attendance, is displayed below.

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I’m happy to report that Mayor Stoddard eagerly responded. As a first step he asked me to find everything possible related to the cities in California that had a similar law and promised that we would work together to draft our own version for his city.

Our first meeting lasted nearly six hours, but it also laid the foundation of the Ordinance the South Miami City Commission passed with a 5-0 vote upon its first reading last week (Click here for the draft of the ordinance). Such a law holds the promise of having South Miami lead the State of Florida into our sustainable future and turning the Sunshine State into my dream that we one day become THE Solar State. I attended the South Miami Commission meeting and during the Public Comments portion of the meeting spoke in favor of the Ordinance and the benefits of solar power. You can watch my presentation in the video below:

Later in the evening when it was time for the commission to discuss and debate the Ordinance, Mayor Stoddard explained its history and the work that we had done together over the past year. To watch Mayor Stoddard discuss the Ordinance, as well as to see what just might turn out to be a historic vote, press play below:

Experts predict that 50% of Florida’s energy can be derived from solar power by the year 2045 if our State begins to get serious about this clean, abundant energy source. Sadly, Florida ranks 14th in the amount of energy we produce from solar power, but the good news is we rank 3rd in our potential to generate power from the sun.

At a time that our State and Country should be dramatically increasing its sustainable use such as solar power, these rankings are a bit discouraging, but not surprising. They are not surprising here in South Florida when one considers that after 92 years of being in business, our local energy monopoly, Florida Power & Light, derives less than 1% of its energy from solar power. Lately FP&L seems to enjoy touting its “dedication to solar power” in its advertising, but facts are facts and their own annual report concludes solar power produces less than 1% of the energy that they generate. Simply stated, FP&L is not committed to sustainable power.

I believe that the time has come to change things. 92 years is far too long to do so little and I think that the days where everyone must obtain their power from one source, from a monopoly, should soon come to an end. A reliance on fossil fuels and of old technologies is destroying our planet and that 1% figure screams that these established businesses are all too happy with the way things are.

When it comes to solar, there is lots of good news and it’s not just in South Miami. At a time when electricity prices are on the rise and our local power company (FP&L) has charged its customers nearly 300 million dollars for a nuclear power facility that may never be built or be many decades off into the future, the cost of solar power has dropped significantly as the chart below illustrates.

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The cost of solar power has decreased over 99% since 1977 and is today the least expensive source of energy in America. Now, all we have to do is implement solar power everywhere and let the sun do the rest.

South Miami is certainly doing its part and that process is to continue next with a review of the Ordinance by the Planning Board, followed by a second reading of the proposed new law by the City Commission later this summer, where they will have the opportunity to make history in Florida and in the United States.

Thanks to Mayor Stoddard and the entire City Commission for their leadership. I also want to thank the City Manager, as well as the City Attorney for their hard work in helping polish our earlier draft, as well as my dreams.

Let me end today’s blog with a challenge. If you have read what we are doing in the City of South Miami, then I want to encourage you, challenge you, to work in your own community to create a similar law. Our country faces many challenges in evolving from a fossil fuel economy to a sustainable one but, if we are to ever make that transition, I believe the solutions will most certainly begin in our local communities, including yours. Within this blog, you have the tools that you need including samples of the existing laws, the newly proposed one, even the letter that I wrote that started it all.

So, I implore you to approach your own local leaders and ask them to help you change the world for the better.

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