Water, Water Everywhere: Earth Echo’s Water Challenge

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I want you to think of a body of water that’s close to where you live. It might be a lake or a pond, a river, a canal or even the ocean. While you think of an answer I want you to consider that 71% of our planet is comprised of water and of that figure nearly 97% of earth’s water is in our oceans. Water is, to say the least, very important to life here on earth.

Now, as you picture that special place I want you to ask yourself if you know anything about the quality of that water? Is it safe for drinking? Can you swim in it? Can marine organisms live there or other creatures use it to drink and eat?

You probably aren’t quite sure but there is an easy way to find answers, while also helping to study and protect our planet’s water and its called the EarthEcho Water Challenge. Here’s world renowned explorer Philippe Cousteau and me explaining a bit about World Water Day:

EarthEcho International, a non-profit organization founded by Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau in honor of their grandfather, famed environmentalist Jacques Cousteau, and that I proudly serve as a Youth Leadership Council (YLC) member for, has created the EarthEcho Water Challenge. By participating in the challenge you get to collect data and help perform all sorts of cool science while also bringing awareness to the importance of protecting earth’s water.

This year, EarthEcho International and its YLC have created a new program: EarthEcho Water Challenge Ambassadors. Anyone from ages 13 to 22 can apply to become an ambassador and in doing so, receive an EarthEcho Water Challenge kit that will guide you you through all of the steps including testing the pH, dissolved oxygen content, turbidity and temperature of your local waterways and then report your monthly data for use in the Challenge’s Annual Report. You will also be responsible for putting together an event on or around September 18th, World Water Monitoring Day, where you can showcase your work.

Once you have been accepted and receive your water quality kit, the rest is easy and includes three steps:

  1. Test: Use your water quality kit to test the water.
  2. Share: Once you’ve tested the water, you then enter your data online to our international database and share your story and photos on social media using @MonitorWater #MonitorWater. By doing so, you join a network of nearly 1,500,000 citizens from 143 countries all over the world and become part of the solution for clean water and healthy waterways worldwide.
  3. Protect: Once you’ve entered your own data you can use it and the resources on our site to educate others in your community about how they can join you in protecting our planet’s water resources.

We encourage you to learn more and apply by visiting www.monitorwater.org/ambassadors.

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Censorship

Of all the strange and worrisome things that took place in Washington this year perhaps the worst was news earlier this month that the Trump Administration had provided the Center for Disease Control (CDC) a list of seven words or phrases that it does not want used (click here to read the article). In essence, those words and phrases are being censored. Learning this reminded me about deceased comedian George Carlin’s bit about Seven Words You Can’t Say On TV, but nothing, of course, about news that our government has censored scientific words or phrases is funny. In fact, censorship is dangerous.

Personally, 2017 has been a remarkable year that I will never forget. I graduated from high school and late this year finished my first semester at the University of Miami while being selected as an Intern in Dr. Hammerschlag’s renowned Shark Research and Conservation Lab. In between, I was awarded the Miami Herald’s Silver Knight Award for Social Science and the Inaugural National Geographic Teen Service Award, among other honors.

Over the summer I helped enact Florida’s first solar mandate law that made The Sunshine State only the second in America with such a progressive step towards sustainability. And I traveled to New York twice, once for the amazing, humbling, honor to address the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme and the Everglades National Park on World Oceans Day, and the second time to work with MTV and former Vice President Al Gore in support of his new book and movie An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. And speaking of books, my work with The Sink or Swim Project was mentioned in two important books: Truth to Power and Utilizing Innovative Technologies to Address the Public Health Impact of Climate Change.

I was also honored to lecture to thousands of young people this year in elementary, middle and high school, as well as various colleges in Central and South Florida. And this fall I was named a member of the Board of Directors of the CLEO Institute.

But of all the things that I did this year, perhaps the most important in my view was helping conceive, organize and then hosting the inaugural March for Science Miami in April with a group of incredible women. Evidence based, peer reviewed science is the very foundation of discovery and innovation and, thus, the news earlier this month that our federal government would censor the use of scientific phrases is somewhere between sick and scary.

In a democracy where free speech is embraced and cherished as a core, founding value of our country, it is impossible to understand how our government could dictate that these, or any, words or phrases (vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based) be outlawed and this should alarm every American no matter their political affiliation.

But, of course, this does not completely surprise those of us here in Florida were our Governor, Rick Scott, himself a close ally and confidant to President Trump, has outlawed phrases such as global warming, climate change and sea level rise from his administration. And he’s doing this knowing well and good that communities all over our region are being forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to begin fighting the exact threats the Governor pretends to overlook. Censorship is not ‘normal politics’, it’s unethical and immoral and it must stop.

So, as the sun sets on 2017 here on No Name Key here’s hoping that science and scientists will be embraced by every American in 2018 and that censorship of any type will never be tolerated.IMG_6756

Santa Told Me He’s Concerned About Climate Change

Traditions are important to my family and me.

That’s certainly true during the holidays, especially Christmas.

How we decorate our home each year. Walking to church for candlelight service on Christmas Eve. How my brother Owen and I wait for each other to go downstairs together on Christmas morning with dad always at the foot of the stairs filming our first few minutes of excitement. These traditions and countless others help define our family and are childhood memories that I will never forget and, I am sure, one day share with my own children.

Writing a letter to Santa over the years and then visiting him at our local mall only to find that he had received those letters, that he had them in that little mailbox that sat next to his chair and knew our names and what we’d asked for are especially vivid memories and, I dare say, part of the magic of the holiday that we hold dear in our hearts.

And speaking of those memories and that magic, something new and remarkable happened yesterday that I want to share with you. It’s part tradition and also has a bit of magic blended in but is also a sign of our times and the importance that no matter who you are, or where you live, that our warming climate is a concern to just about everyone.

You see, just as we were about to leave our home for the theater to see the Nutcracker ballet (another annual tradition) my cell phone rang with a Facetime request from a number I’ve never seen. Mom and dad encouraged me to answer it and I was then surprised to be looking at the jolly old elf himself, Santa Claus, who with a robust Ho Ho Ho announced that he was calling to wish Owen and me a Merry Christmas.

OK, I have to admit that at first I was surprised and a bit speechless.

And while I was trying to wrap my mind around the call, what I was seeing and how much he knew about Owen and me, the next thing I knew Santa was telling me how concerned he is about climate change and its impact on the North Pole. One second we were talking about school and Christmas and the next he was asking what they can do to protect his homeland from melting, from disappearing, how solar power is a good start and how easy it is to store the power of the sun in batteries over those long winter nights we’ve all read about.

Santa talked with Owen and I about some other things including his reindeer, Owen’s singing and acting and such but what I can’t get out of my mind was his concern over our environment. It seems that even legendary, mythical figures are concerned about our warming climate and how we solve this crisis before it’s too late. And that call, and especially his concern, just goes to further define the term Christmas Magic.

So from our home to you and your family and friends, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanza. And remember, Santa is not only watching all of us to see if we are naughty or nice but to see how we each treat this special place where we live, planet earth, so that his home in the North Pole, like mine here in South Florida, will be around for future generations of children to love and cherish.

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