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The great Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” He was referring to racial inequality and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, but he may very well had been speaking about today.
On Oct. 8, the scientific community once again sounded the alarm on our warming and changing climate. But this time, it’s last call. The world’s leading climate scientists said the planet will reach the crucial warming threshold of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit as early as 2030, causing catastrophic impacts across the globe.
For us in South Florida, this means we will continue to suffer alarming impacts like rising sea levels, saltwater intrusion into our aquifers (which supply our drinking water), more mosquito-borne diseases (like Zika), and more extreme weather events. Just last week, northern Florida was hit by Hurricane Michael as almost a Category 5 storm – the most powerful in recorded history to strike the Florida Panhandle and the 12th billion-dollar climate related disaster in the US this year.
These headlines, plus the algal bloom and red tide crises, though sobering and overwhelming, should fuel our passion for change. It’s clearly established that our dependence on fossil fuels directly correlates to the increase of warming temperatures, the intensity of hurricanes, and sea level rise. Urgent action is required from all sectors of society to ensure that we can continue to exist on this planet, the only one we’ve got. Our country, cities, and states must transition to a low-carbon economy implementing bold mitigation and adaptation policies that protect our livelihoods from a rapidly changing climate.
But this existential threat does not only fall on the hands of our elected leaders and policy makers. We must use the power of our vote, the power of our voice, and the power of our purse to drive change from the bottom up. Solutions do exist. The Drawdown Project, the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming, has identified more than 80 solutions available today, and 20 more are coming down the pipeline that would stabilize heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere.
But for this to happen, we need all hands on deck.
If you are worried about more intense hurricanes, or our coral reefs in Florida being bleached, or beaches being closed due to the red tide, or the quality of the water you and your family drink, or that rising sea levels may affect the value of your property, do something about it.
I leave you with five things you can do starting today.
- Sign the Florida Climate Pledge and learn how climate impacts the many things you care about. Share the pledge with your friends and family. Attend one of the CLEO Institute’s Climate Change 101” trainings and get informed.
- Protect and defend the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Raise your voice about all the regulation roll-backs the administration has back-tracked that protect our health, our air, and our climate. We do not need more Mercury, more carbon pollution, and more Methane in our air. Harvard is tracking them all here. Speak up by leaving your comments here.
- Reduce your carbon footprint. Think about all the resources we use on a daily basis, the waste we generate. Here are a few actions to consider:
- Eat more veggies and reduce the amount of food you waste. Did you know 1/3 of the produce in the US goes to waste? Reducing food waste is as effective for reducing global warming gases as going vegan.
- Be mindful of your purchases, where they are made, and, what they are made of. Ditch single-use plastic bags, plastic water bottles, and plastic straws. They are produced from fossil fuels and pollute our beaches and waterways.
- Walk more, bike more, and drive less. Go electric, or at least hybrid, if you must drive. Did you know Florida EV drivers qualify to drive in the HOV and Express Lanes for free?
- Go Solar! If you think you cannot afford it, think again. Learn more about the Solar incentives in our state, the Sunshine State!
- Vote! Changing laws that protect our environment are better than changing light bulbs. Vote “Yes” on Amendment 9 in the Nov. 6 election. Florida’s beaches are the primary attraction for our tourism. Voting Yes on 9 will prohibit drilling for oil or natural gas and protect Florida’s state waters.
If this month’s climate change news gives you a feeling of “game over,” know this: we have the solutions at hand. Now all we need is our collective will to do this. Take a stand for the things that matter like your world depends on it – because it does.