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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Hollywood Lakes, Hollywood, Florida, USA


Hollywood Lakes, Hollywood, Florida, USA
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Registered: December 2020
City/Town/Province: Hollywood
Posts: 1
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I have lived in South Florida for my whole life, a place that is known for its sunny weather and beautiful beaches. I have always loved the weather here, and I go outside as often as I can. One thing that many people don't know about Florida is that living so close to the beaches can actually be a problem. Oftentimes, when there is a rainstorm, even a small one, the streets will become flooded with water. The parks that I love to go to cannot be walked through, and the streets in my neighborhood flood up to my front door. After one particularly rough flooding event, I decided that I needed to find out a way to make a difference in my community and my environment.

My research on local flooding introduced me to the concepts of climate change, and also to King Tides, the highest predicted high tides for the year, and an ominous reminder of the potential impact of sea level rise. Hoping to learn even more, at age 12 I was the youngest person to join a faith-based conservation organization called Sea Level Rise Solutions that met at my local synagogue. Originally, I just attended the meetings to learn. I was fascinated by the daily reports of climate change non my community, and the varied efforts being put in place to protect our coastal community from the rising seas. It wasn't just my neighborhood that was flooding, it was every neighborhood in my city of Hollywood. People in certain areas were kayaking through their streets as if sea level rise was normal! And we as Americans were not alone with this issue. Flooding of coastal regions was a problem around the world, potentially leading to mass migrations of entire communities. I loved how this group of people saw that there was an issue and was trying to resolve it. I was happy to know that there were other people like me who wanted to make a difference.

In 2017, by the time I reached seventh grade, I was ready to take some action. I realized that people knew about climate change from hearing about it in the media or even by seeing some local flooding, but that they really did not understand its long-term impact on their lives, homes and community. Joining with a friend, I decided to create a King Tide Walk, where my neighbors could witness the impact of the King Tides for themselves. I believed that sea level rise was still too hidden, and that many others would become activated through experiential learning. This hypothesis was proven true in the first hour of year one. Of course, our first year's King Tide Walk was relatively small. We had members of our synagogue, plus a few environmental activists from the area. But, we knew were on to something.

The next year, when I turned 13 and entered 8th grade, I decided to grow the walk. We needed more citizens to truly understand the need to take action. That year, I mobilized our King Tide team. I created positions for marketing, public relations and community outreach. We reached out to churches, synagogues, schools and various other organizations. That year we welcomed over 100 people from our community, including prominent politicians like the Mayor of Hollywood, Florida (our city) and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Walk was highlighted in local newspapers and on the news:

The year following, we decided to take our message even further. Although we still wanted to attract the press, we also wanted to enhance our walk with the help of scientists. We invited prominent scientists from local universities who ran experiments with our King Tide participants. On this walk, students and members of the community collected data for Florida International University, including the pH levels of the water and the depth of the flooding in various places. The students in attendance also took photos and uploaded them to a website that we made in order to prove that they understood the severity of the situation, and so that we could use these photos for our Instagram, Facebook, and email chain.

This year because of COVID restrictions, we had to make the event virtual. In order to still effectively raise awareness about sea level rise without physically walking through a flooded neighborhood, I co-led a webinar that focused on community activism called "What Sea Level Means to Me." Our goal was to have community members explore how to communicate climate risks in ways that are relevant and compelling for South Florida. Questions we explored included: How many days of flooding do we have each year and is this number increasing? How is sea level rise impacting the Everglades? How are South Florida communities differently impacted? And, how can we be preventative instead of reactive?
To answer these questions and more, we invited three leading climate scientists to speak on our webinar, Dr. Jennifer Jurado, Dr. Karen Bolter, and Dr. Kilan Bishop. Dr. Jurado is the Chief Resilience Officer & Deputy Director of the Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department in Broward County. She is a key figure in the advancement of initiatives concerning sea level rise adaptation, alternative water supplies, and water conservation. Dr. Karen Bolter is an Urban and Coastal Resiliency expert for Arcadis, US. She leads climate change and resilience initiatives, with a focus on communication that translates information to action. She has worked as a professor and a planner in government and presents her models and research on numerous platforms. Finally, Dr. Kilan Bishop is a strong advocate for climate justice, who is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development and the Director of College Access for Breakthrough Miami. She serves as the Vice Chair of the City of Miami Climate Resilience Committee, and advances policies that prioritize low-income communities in resilience planning. All three women spoke about various impacts of sea level rise on the world, and how our audience, made up of mostly teenagers, can help.
We had a final speaker, Broward Commissioner Beam Furr, who spoke about the steps that the county was taking to prevent further damage, and once again, how people can help. During the webinar, we showed pictures of flooding from around the city, so that attendees could still see the effects of sea level rise virtually. We also offered service hours to students for posting their own pictures of flooding, encouraging them to become advocates and climate allies. The students also wrote letters to local officials, requesting attention for climate change initiatives. We had over 200 participants on the webinar from 6 states, and we received over 100 photos and letters from all across the country. Most of the attendees were teens, who then were encouraged to take their lessons back to their schools and communities.

In the future, I hope to continue to advocate for environmental stewardship both in my community and around the country. I will keep fighting for measures to halt sea level rise until further action gets taken. This week, I will be participating in a lobbying effort with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz in order to encourage our federal government to help prevent further damage on the environment and to utilize public funds to alleviate some of the damage that has already been done. I am proud of what I have done, but with each rising tide, I know there is still so much more to do.

Please click the link below for a copy of our webinar, "What Sea Level Rise Means to Me."

Passcode: 8fr9?wSq
Date: December 19, 2020 Views: 4909 File size: 15.8kb, 2054.8kb : 3520 x 1980
Hours Volunteered: 500
Volunteers: 200
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 & 8 to 90
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