Polar Bears Invade Miami!

FullSizeRender (7)On Saturday, March 7th, Palmer Trinity School hosted its 15th annual International Festival. It is a festival where everyone of all different cultures come together to sell food, arts, and crafts from their different home countries. Keeping with the international flavor of the event, the campus was filled with booths advertising school clubs and selling a wide assortment of world wide and local handicrafts including artwork, jewelry, flowers, clothing, and gifts.

And of course, there were polar bears. Lots, and lots or polar bears… everywhere, all over campus. Mind you, these were not the large and ferocious ones that you might find in the North of the South Poles, but the cute, cuddly ones that you can find right here on the Sink or Swim website. I am pleased to report that the Sink or Swim polar bears made their premiere at this year’s International Festival and were a huge hit. The polar bears have become a symbol both for this website (in fact, the website’s domain, www.miamisearise.com, is gently printed on their “fur”), as well as the Sink or Swim educational initiative. The polar bears will also be featured in my upcoming book Sink or Swim about sea level rise, and first came to mind when I was interviewing Dr. Kirtman at the University of Miami’s Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. In the summer of 2014 I asked Dr. Kirtman his views on the biological impact of sea level rise to animals in their natural habitat and I’ll never forget his answer: “With animals and plants, there’s going to be winners and losers, which ones are going to lose and which ones are going to win I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure the polar bears are going to lose.” From that comment, came my idea to use the polar bears as one symbol of the coming impact that sea level rise will have on our planet.

As a part of the Palmer Trinity Eco-Club, I was asked to sell my polar bears to raise money for the Sink or Swim initiative. We spread the bears out all over the table, stacked them prominently on, of all the things, a cupcake tower, and sold them throughout the afternoon. While you can’t eat them, they did look cute sitting there on that tower. By the end of the festival, we had sold nearly 100 bears and raised well over 300 dollars… not too bad for our first effort.

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An Awesome Night for Sustainability

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On Friday, March 6th I attended the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference, held at the University of Miami, where multiple people spoke about their sustainable initiatives that are changing the world. It was an inspiring evening.

Donna Shalala, the current president of the University of Miami, introduced former United States President Bill Clinton. For President Clinton’s introduction speech he announced that after Shalala retires from her job at the U, he will promote her to the role of President and CEO of the Clinton Foundation based in New York. President Clinton then introduced a lightning round of college students who described their own initiatives. (More on that below.)

A guest panel followed the lightning round including Yale undergrad student, Paul Lorem, an orphan from Sudan with a remarkable story of survival; Actress America Ferrera, an incredibly passionate speaker on the rights of women, families, and immigrants; Dr. Vivek Murthy, a graduate of Harvard who talked about his upbringing in India, as well as creating a number of sustainable businesses with his sister while he was in college and today is the US’s Surgeon General; and finally, Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman from Yemen who discussed how she, as a young woman and as a mother of three young children, found her voice and created a women’s rights advocacy movement that lead to the destruction of that country’s long time dictatorship and improved freedoms within her Arab country.

As impressive as the panel and its speakers were, some of the projects that the students shared during the lightning round were equally impressive. The one I want to most share with you was from Gavin Armstrong. Armstrong is the CEO of the Lucky Iron Fish Project. The Lucky Iron Fish Project supplies families in Cambodia with one fish. These aren’t just any fish though, they are fish-shaped cast iron ingots used to provide the dietary supplementation of iron. Initially the Project wanted to help 5,000 people, but now because it has captured people’s attentions, the goal is to improve the health of at least 1 million Cambodians.

The entire evening’s events reminded me of the program that I’m currently enrolled in at my high school, Palmer Trinity School, in Miami and the Academy of Agents of Change program. The AAOC is a program designed to help young, prospective social entrepreneurs find a problem in their community that they are passionate about and find their voice in helping the problem become recognized. The program is a partnership between my school, Outward Bound, Ashoka, and Lonesome George & Co., and is designed to foster leadership skills as my classmates and I work to create sustainable businesses along the lines of what the college students are doing within the CGIU. In fact, this website and my Sink or Swim initiative is my sustainable business project in that class. To learn more about the Agents of Change, visit http://www.lonesomegeorge.net/academy/, and to learn more about the CGIU visit http://www.cgiu.org/.

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Saving the Ocean One Beach at a Time

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Some might say that because there are so many beaches in Miami, beach cleanups won’t help keeping it clean in anyway, but that one plastic bag you just picked up saved a sea turtle’s life, or kept it from floating into the Great Atlantic Ocean Garbage Patch, or kept it from drifting onto another beach where no one would bother to clean it up.

This morning the eco-club at my school hosted a beach cleanup, and while only eleven people showed up to help, we filled up seven garbage bags in an hour. Each year, the club hosts approximately four cleanups in Key Biscayne; inviting as many people to come as they want.

Beach cleanups are important because trash in the waters can injure swimmers and beachgoers, harm wildlife that eat it or get trapped in its mess, ensnare boat propellers, and most importantly, to Miami anyways, drive away tourists. With approximately 10 million people visiting Miami Beach each year, we want our beaches to be as clean and safe as possible, and that’s why our eco-club is so keen on trying to do our very best each time we visit.

However, a little piece of advice next time you decide to visit the beach: if you ever find watermelons, coconuts, feathers, bones, or chicken feet… don’t pick them up! We were told they’re part of voodoo rituals and we even found a voodoo doll! Welcome to Miami, I guess!

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