'Climate Week' Is Underway In South Florida, With An Emphasis On Collaboration

Oct 24, 2018

Global warming can feel like an overwhelming problem -- it is, after all, GLOBAL -- but many of the solutions already exist.

That was the message from one of the keynote speakers of what's been dubbed "Climate Week" in South Florida.

On Tuesday night, many leaders from South Florida cities, counties, businesses and non-profits heard from Paul Hawken, editor of a New York Times bestselling book called Drawdown about scaling up 100 global warming solutions that already exist. Those solutions -- Hawken insists they be called "solutions" and not "ideas" -- include things like using solar panels and wind turbines, improving public transit, planting trees and protecting wetlands (which store carbon).

On Wednesday and Thursday, leaders from Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties will gather for their tenth annual climate leadership summit to discuss planning for sea-level rise, heat, traffic and other resilience issues. The buildup, which some groups are billing as part of a "Climate Week," includes a lecture by a resilience expert from Greece, a town hall on sea-level rise (hosted by WLRN), a seminar on how Miami's porous limestone makes its drinking water vulnerable to rising seas, and more.

Read more: From Traffic To Sea-Level Rise, South Florida Has Many 'Resilience' Issues. Here's What That Means.

Hawken gave the keynote address at the annual celebration of the CLEO Institute, a Miami non-profit that educates people on climate change science and solutions. In an interview with WLRN before his talk, he emphasized the need for collaboration and said when people look at the scale of climate change and think only of what they can do as individuals, it's easy to get overwhelmed.

"That's too hard on yourself and it suppresses your vitality, your creativity, your innovation," Hawken said. Instead, he said, individuals should collaborate on specific solutions across neighborhoods, cities, states and countries. "Find those areas, the one thing that lights you up."

In South Florida, several major climate collaborations are underway:

  • Many of the city, county and non-profit leaders in the audience for Hawken's speech will also be part of the regional climate leadership summit, which is part of a compact among the four South Florida counties.
  • Four of the region's major news outlets -- the Miami Herald, the Palm Beach Post, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and WLRN -- have partnered on an election-year education and engagement project on sea-level rise.
  • More than 40 non-profits and other organizations are part of the Miami Climate Alliance, which issues recommendations to Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami on climate change adaptation and mitigation, and helps prepare vulnerable neighborhoods for hurricanes and other intensifying climate change impacts.
  • Miami-Dade County and the cities of Miami and Miami Beach are jointly developing a county-wide resilience strategy through an international program called 100 Resilient Cities.

Hawken said he's not familiar enough with South Florida to say how the region's collaborations on climate change compare with efforts by other vulnerable communities.

But, he said, it's encouraging when individuals and communities stop thinking of themselves as victims of the changing climate.

"The emphasis should be on what we can do together," he said.

Note: WLRN was among honorees at the CLEO celebration for participating in the Invading Sea project with the Miami Herald, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post.

Update: When this story was first published on Wednesday morning, it referred to "unofficial" climate week in South Florida. Later on Wednesday morning, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a proclamation officially declaring this week "Climate Week" in Miami-Dade County. The headline and story have since been updated.