The Seas Are Rising And So Are We!

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As I walked across the street from a parking garage to a lush park in downtown Miami I was overcome with joy at what I saw. An amazing sight of colors and sounds that leads me to know that South Florida cares. More people than I’ve ever seen together in one place, at one time, with the common goal of attacking the serious issues of climate change and sea level rise.

As I wrote last month, it is my belief that the recent budget hearings for Miami-Dade County marked a turning point in our community because of the diversity of citizens who appeared before the Commission demanding that our local governement take action to combat sea level rise. But that turnout was nothing compared to the People’s Climate Movement March that took place last week here in downtown Miami. Over 1,000 people from all over South Florida, young and old and of every color and culture our incredible community enjoys marched together on the night of October 14th on the streets demanding change. And I was proud to be with them.

The night was inspiring and also a whole lot of fun. People chanted for ‘Climate Justice‘, a phrase I’d not heard of before but one that most certainly illustrates that people of all sorts of social backgrounds are being impacted by climate change and that if we do not act, many will be displaced.

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We also chanted that ‘the seas are rising and so are we‘ and the governement could not have helped hearing us because the rally that proceeded the March took place in the park adjacent to the Miami-Dade Government Center building. County leaders including Commissioner Daniella Cava, Chief of MiamiDade County’s Office of Sustainability Nicole Hefty, and the Mayor’s very recently appointed James Murley, Miami Dade’s first ever Chief Resilience Officer, amongst others saw the park overflowing with people demanding change and could clearly hear speaker after speaker asking for solutions. Signs and banners and even costumes helped drive home the point that people want change and we want it to start NOW.

I’ve never walked in a March before, but I must say that it was inspiring. Inspiring to see policitcal leaders from all over our community (Pinecrest’s Mayor Lerner was there, so too, was my friend and South Miami Mayor, Dr. Stoddard), renewoned scientists, business owners, educators, doctors, artists, activists, lawyers, musicians, farmers and farm workers, as well as children of all ages from all over the region came together for a common cause and concern.

It was also inspiring because of the energy that we, together, produced. Energy that I am now certain will result in change. Energy that represents votes and voices that will demand being heard and helped. The issue of climate change, and especially sea level rise in our community, can no longer be overlooked. The future of our community and our environment are at risk, but so too are political leaders who do not take the concerns of people, concerns based on extensive science, to heart.

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To read an article from the Miami Herald on the March, please click here! To read a recent editorial about the March by my friend and mentor, the ever so encouraging and inspiring Caroline Lewis, founder of The CLEO Institute, please click here! On a personal note I want to share that from the look on her face, the happy tears in her eyes, that Caroline, a woman long on the often lonely front lines of our region’s sea level discussion, could also sense that things are changing for the better. She’d be the first to say that we have a long way to go, but that the March was a vivid sign of progress. On behalf of all of us here in South Florida, most certainly the youth that she so eagerly leads as an educator, thank you Caroline for your constant inspiration.

To all of those who marched with me last week, thank you. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for your energy. Thank you for giving so many so much hope that, together, we can address sea level rise and, in doing so, protect our environment, economy, lifestyle and each other. There is much work ahead and most of the decisions will be costly ones, but I am confident that we can mitigate this problem while our world seeks solutions to end our dependency on fossil fuels. March on South Florida and, remember, The Seas Are Rising And So Are We’.

St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School & The Sink or Swim Project

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Way to Go St. Thomas TIGERS!

I recently had the great pleasure of presenting The Sink or Swim Project to the third grade students at St. Thomas  Episcopal Parish School here in South-Miami Dade County and was so very impressed with the students and their questions. Thanks ever so much to Ms. O’Connor, Associate Head of School, as well as the school’s fabulous teachers including Ms. Timpone, Ms. Ramey, Ms. Olivella, Ms. Lobo, Mr. Southard, and Mr. Mederos.

During our time together the students enjoyed learning about global warming and especially sea level rise. The children were highly engaged and had dozens of questions about what is happening and why, as well as what we can do to solve this growing crisis. Although the 60 or so students in attendance was one of the youngest groups I’ve spoken to it was clear that they understand a great deal about global warming and are concerned about how they will help solve the problem once they inherit it as adults.

Here are some pictures of my time at St. Thomas:

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Great job Tigers! Keep learning about science including the science of global warming and sea level rise!

“We have the ability to change, but we have to muster the ability to change.” – Vice President Al Gore

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I hope that you won’t mind me sharing news (mainly in pictures) about two events here in Miami that took place last week that, together, illustrate the progress being made in educating people about sea level rise, but also the challenges that our planet and people face from this forthcoming catastrophe…

I was honored to spend three amazing days at the Climate Reality Leadership Training program that was led by Vice President Al Gore, who conducted the majority of the education. Talk about someone with a passion and dedication! The conference was attended by 1,200 people from 86 countries. Highlights for me included meeting tons of amazing people (thanks to each of you!) from around the globe who care about this issue, world leaders on climate change, and not one, but two Noble Peace Prize winners (Al Gore and famed Glaciologist Dr. Eric Rignot from California)!

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France will be hosting the world later this year as the United Nations conducts its Conference of the Parties Framework Convention on Climate Change (known as COP21) in Paris. COP21 is designed to bring the world together to create a new international agreement on the climate with the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees.  Last Monday night I was fortunate to attend the French Ameri-Can Climate Talks (FACTS) that were held here in Miami Beach and which are designed as a precursor to COP21 that takes place from November 30th to December 2nd in Paris.

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The FACTS panel was amazing and included Fatou Ndoye, Deputy Regional Director of the United Nations Environmental Program, Philippe Letrilliart, Consul General of France here in Miami,  Dr. Ben Kirtman, Associate Dean of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, Dr. Juliet Pinto, Associate Professor at FIU, Phillip Levine, Mayor of Miami Beach, Dr. Anny Cazenave, Director of Earth Sciences at the International Space Science Institute, Dr. Eric Rignot, Glaciologist and Moderator John Morales, Chief Meteorologist here at NBC 6.

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The panel discussed the science of climate change, what has changed in recent decades and what will happen in the near and long term of our future. The data and research that Dr. Cazenave and, separately, Dr. Rignot presented was alarming and clearly defined the depth of the problem at hand, the damage that has been done and what is very likely to take place within my lifetime and my children’s lives. When I asked Dr. Rignot for his own personal view of how high seas might rise in my lifetime, this based on his life’s work in the world’s artic environments, his answer of “at least 3 meters” (that’s about 9.8 feet) was, well, sobering and sad.  3 meters of water above current levels will present massive problems to our environment, man’s infrastructure and society all over earth.

To learn more about COP21, click here.

All the week’s education and passion aside, the point of these programs was vividly represented all over South Florida by the annual King Tides and with it, rising salt water all over our region. The flooding, the heights of which have never been seen before, included massive coastal salt water flooding, inland flooding, road closures, water rising nearly to people’s knees and together illustrated the reason for these important conferences and training.

The good news is, the passion of the people attending these events and working to solve this problem will not, it is clear to me, be stopped. Together we will overcome politics, social and economic challenges, and all else that stands between where we are today and solving this very real problem. I am sure that we can work together to solve sea rise and global warming because we must take it seriously and change our behaviors. We have no other choice.

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To learn more about Climate Reality, click here, to learn more about FACT, click here. Consider telling someone else about this topic, learning more, and getting involved. Speaking of getting involved, please consider joining others who are concerned about sea rise by attending the People’s Climate Change Movement Miami’s March For REAL Climate Leadership on October 14th in downtown Miami. The March starts at 5 PM and Government Center. To learn more visit www.peoplesclimate.org.

Together we will solve this problem.

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