From Florida, with love

Florida

Rising tides in Florida threaten the safety and security of coastal residents (Ryan Loughlin/Upsplash.com)

Dear reader,

Life on the sun-drenched isles of South Florida can be breathtaking. Miami boasts some of the most vibrant coastlines in the nation; crystalline ocean waters, brimming with life and home to some of the most remarkable biomes on earth, lap gently against bone-white shores. For me, Miami is the perfect oasis. If only I could forget one little problem: We. Are. Sinking.

The Atlantic Ocean is marching upon us. Environmental Protection Agency reports state that from 1996 to 2011, we’ve lost 20 square miles of coastline to the sea. The very same glistening waters that we Floridians so love to admire have begun a seemingly unstoppable tirade against us. So, what are we going to do? Where do we turn? Who is going to ‘save our souls’?

We can’t count on the powerful developers who run the place. They’re doing better business than ever. The Miami coastline is booming; The city is dotted with engineers and construction crews who swarm their work-sites like ants. Hundreds of steel and glass towers crowd the narrow strip of land, each one taller than the last and all of them vying to be closest to God.

We can’t count on our elected officials. Even when faced with daily floods and the sobering aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Florida Governor Rick Scott -- the man who banned the phrases “Climate Change” and “Global Warming” from his administration’s vocabulary -- still refuses to deal with the watery grave that he’s condemning our city to.

As it turns out, we’re going to have to save ourselves. All over the state, university students and educators are answering the call-to-arms. They’re researching, collaborating with the City of Miami Beach and working towards implementing substantive solutions. Essentially, they are fighting back.

They are fighting back not just against the incoming tides but also against the seemingly endless inaction from those who are supposed to be in power. Florida International University’s Sea Level Solutions Center (SLSC) is leading the charge. The Center was founded in 2015 with the vision of creating and implementing sustainable solutions for sea level rising.

In under two years, SLSC had netted together a vast web of collaborators, student scientists and project leaders who work towards making some real changes in South Florida. Year after year, SLSC pushes out newer, more innovative research projects. From a project which outlines the potential dangers of increasing salinity on our natural water systems and drinking water, to a project that aims to stabilize and protect South Florida archaeological sites with integrated ecosystem restoration.  These research projects are important because through them the SLSC is not only able to gather usable data and implement plans, but they also get the opportunity to educate on the less obvious effects of rising sea levels.

SLSC tries to work directly with the community, according to Brad Schonhoff, a FIU graduate turned Project Manager.

“[We are] bringing science to the table, and telling what the latest data is showing, informing current zoning and building projects on the data... getting them to implement resilience into the building,” Schonhoff said.

SLSC works hand in hand with regional bodies to make sure that the plans for this new generation of renovations will be based in science. For example a recent a $400 million dollar general obligation bond was voted on in Miami. Roughly 200 million dollars of that will be funneled into environmentally focused renovations to the city, this includes; water pumps, sewage restructuring and raised roads. In situations like these, SLSC takes the research they’ve painstakingly gathered and presents it to those who are charged with rebuilding our cities.

While this collaboration between the City of Miami Beach and the University’s research center is enough to give us hope for the future, we know that water pumps and high-roads are not exactly permanent fixes. We cannot build high enough, nor can we pump back out enough water to escape the forward march of the rising seas.

Dear readers, I’m going to level with you. We know there is only one real solution to this problem. And Floridians are counting on you – yes, I mean you! – to help us out on this one.

Although we’re facing the immediate effects of rising sea-levels, this is a truly international issue. If we, as a united international community, could come together to do something about the adverse effects of global warming, melting glaciers wouldn’t be flooding into our coastal cities.

Miami needs you, all of you, to join the fight. For our sake. This is our S.O.S. call, because at the rate we’re going, this beautiful, blossoming, slice of tropical paradise won’t be here for much longer.

From Florida, with love.

Flooding in Florida
Flooding in Bird Island, Florida after Tropical Storm Fay in 2008. (Barry Bahler/FEMA)

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.