Page 265, Volume 3: The Problem with Politics and Sea Level Rise

The Problem with Politics and Sea Level Rise

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“In this three-volume budget, there is one mention of sea-level rise.

This has to be a joke. Given that we’re Ground Zero for climate change.”

Maggie Fernandez, League of Women Voters, To County Commissioners on 09/03/15.

 

Good news. Bad news.

The September 3rd Miami-Dade County commission meeting, led by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, illustrated both the political challenges and the growing grass root common sense concerns that citizens in our community have over sea level rise.

The good news is that much of the commission meeting was dominated by public comment, questions really, over why the County’s proposed $­­6.8 billion 2015/2016 budget fails to include one penny towards mitigating the growing dangers and damage from sea level rise. Citizen after citizen, speaker after speaker, voiced concern over why the budget for a region that is Ground Zero in America barely mentioned sea level rise and failed to appropriate any money towards fixing the problem. The fact that people are expressing concern over our political leaders’ failure to truly start addressing this growing problem is, in my view, a sign of solid progress. It seems to me that people, voters, are starting to realize the importance of this issue and are beginning to demand that today’s leaders do something about it. That’s good progress and a beginning.

The bad news, and it’s truly terrible news, is that one of the largest municipal budgets in America, in a County clearly in the crosshairs of sea level rise, has failed to allocate any real resources to begin solving the problem. Not only is no money being allocated towards addressing the problem, but the 831 page budget buries the topic of sea level rise on page 265 of Volume 3 in a budget that only has three volumes, and mentions it just one time. That’s ridiculous and insulting. This suggests to me that sea level rise is not the priority that it should be in Miami-Dade County while other local municipalities, Miami Beach, South Miami, and Pinecrest, to name three, are actually spending money to begin solving the problem while Miami-Dade County is falling farther and farther behind.

I suspect that the people in charge at the County would say they are ‘studying’ the issue, ‘thinking’ about it, ‘aware’ of it and might even say they are ‘concerned’ about that sea level ‘stuff’. That’s all likely true, and important, but the time for action has arrived. Sea level rise is front page news. The impact to our region’s infrastructure, businesses, citizens, and ecology is potentially catastrophic and while development all over the County is booming right now (notice all of those construction cranes?) with new buildings and infrastructure we need to begin implementing solutions rather than keep adding to the problem.

In a document filled with good news including rising revenue, the Miami-Dade County draft budget and those who wrote it have failed to take sea level rise seriously.  831 pages of content, yet you must travel 566 pages before finding mention of sea rise and are then disappointed to learn that no money is proposed to actually begin fixing the problem. Seriously? Our community, citizens and environment deserve better. South Florida should be a global leader in addressing this problem and I suspect that voters will begin making that clear by electing people who are serious about sea level rise and who put tax payer’s money where their mouth is, including in the budget.

Sea Turtles and Sea Rise

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Sea level rise has already begun to impact many aspects of our lives and the planet’s ecosystem. These impacts will only increase in the years to come as the water rises. Animals and their environment are at risk for potentially catastrophic loss from rising seas due to changes in water temperatures, increased carbon, and changes to or the loss of their habitat.

In Florida we have over 800 miles of incredible sandy beaches surrounding our state and while people often enjoy their time along the water’s edge with the sand in their toes, rising sea levels threaten many near shore animals that live or rely on beaches such sea turtles that use our (or do we use their?) beaches to nest.

The Turtle Hospital in Marathon Florida, here in the Florida Keys, is well known for their truly excellent work in saving sick and injured turtles that live in the waters along the Keys. As we think about the biological risks that our planet faces from sea level rise, I thought I’d share some pictures from a turtle release that my family attended recently and that The Turtle Hospital conducted at the amazing Bahia Honda State Park, just around the ‘corner’ from my home on No Name Key.

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Sea turtles are just one example of the biological risks our planet faces from sea level rise. Sea levels are estimated to increase about two feet over the next few decades and as many as four to eight feet later this century.

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Picture what your local beach might look like for you, much less the turtles that rely on it for nesting, with two to four to more feet of water covering it and you can get a real sense of the problem that’s about to impact us, all of us, including animals that can’t speak for themselves such as sea turtles.

To learn more about The Turtle Hospital click here to visit their website.

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It Really is “All About the ‘U'”

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For as long as I can recall over my very young life I’ve dreamed of studying marine biology and attending the University of Miami.

Of course, I’ve grown up around the ‘U,’ what with my mother, father and grandfather each having graduated from the school, much less attending all sorts of football and basketball games, as well as the occasional speaker such as Supreme Court Justice Roberts, the Dalai Lama, former President Bill Clinton or others, the place holds a special place in my heart.

For all of these reasons it was a very BIG deal to learn of the school’s Summer Scholar’s Program for high school students, much less to apply and to then be honored to be selected to attend. My time on campus taking two classes in Tropical Marine Biology made for a breathtaking and fast break, month long experience, most certainly a highlight of my life, thus far.

Between classes, labs, field trips, homework and tests, the days (and nights) were very long but the education and experience was priceless. Where else can one spend part of their summer diving coral reefs and sea grass patches, swimming with dolphins and tagging sharks in the wild while learning all sorts of cool things about marine biology? I’d recommend the program to anyone interested and whether it’s about marine bio, medicine, drama, law, engineering or any of the many other areas of study that are offered, it’s a program that I would highly suggest. To learn more about the Summer Scholar’s Program at the University of Miami visit: http://miami.edu/dcie/index.php/ssp

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Lastly, I’d be remiss to not thank the teachers, CA’s and people who organized and operated the program. Each of you made an amazing impact on me and made the University of Miami shine to the 22 marine biology students  from all over America. Thanks to Dr. Hitchcock and Dr. Merly for your most excellent lectures and leadership, as well as to our wonderful CAs: Aly, Lauren, and Charlie who helped us survive the courses while having a blast along the way!

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As we say around South Florida, ‘It’s All About The U’…Go Canes!

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