Please welcome once again Natalie French to the Guest Blogger chair. Natalie is currently working on her master's capstone project at APUS. She serves as a Media Representative and Emergency Management Specialist in Dade County Florida. An ongoing issue that she and her office have dealt with is sea level rise, which is as we speak affecting Miami neighborhoods. Here are her perspectives:
Living in South Florida and more specifically in Miami the conversation on climate change is becoming more the norm rather than the exception. Regardless of reports about Governor Rick Scott’s ban on climate change few months ago, Miami and Miami Beach are on the forefront of adaptation and mitigation to tackle what seems to be the inevitable, a top-notch real estate coastal community already experiencing the effects of sea level rise.
All the hoopla about the Governor’s ban may have been rumor after all. Last Fall, FEMA’s National Exercise Division and Florida International University (FIU)’s Sea Level Solutions Center (SLSC), part of the State University System, along with the Southeast Environmental Research Center came together to host the first ever pilot program for building a sustainable, Climate Adaption, Preparedness, and Resilience Seminar program across the country. The seminar convened public, private and nonprofit sector decision makers from Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The White House named FIU as the host for the pilot seminar in the Summer of 2015.
Already named ground zero in academic and media circles, Miami Beach has made strides in the battle against time and the imminent intrusion of salt water. During the most recent super moons, the flood situation in the city came to a critical stage with local newspapers showcasing photographs of tourists carrying their luggage’s over their heads on their way to Miami Beach hotels, and employees placing all sorts of obstacles to prevent the waters from sneaking inside hotel lobbies. The relatively new anti-flooding pumps that started being installed in 2014 in the main thoroughfares were no match for the astronomical tides.
Whether the city has done enough to adapt to this new reality is still a matter of opinion, but the facts show that in the last two years they have been pro-actively moving towards a more resilient community. The city is set to revise land development and zoning codes, and provide risk and vulnerability assessments with the hope of capping the minimum seawall elevation to 5.7 feet NAVD (North American Vertical Datum) and raising vulnerable public infrastructure. The work on the pumps continues through a significant capital improvement investment that includes replacing infrastructure that was put in place in the 1950s. The five-year, $300 million plan will install a total of 60 pumps throughout the city. Even their Office of Emergency Management went from an “after thought” to 15 full-time employees in less than two years.
The work of the universities has also been crucial. In Miami Beach, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design is carrying out a special study on the potential responses of sea level rise within the community. Also last Fall, FIU the first ever in the state.
So far in 2016, and in the month of February alone, the City of Coral Gables-another coastal community- and the SLSC will kick off a three-part discussion series on the basic causes and projected effects of sea level rise in South Florida. St. Thomas University, also located in Miami-Dade County, will host the First International Conference on Climate, Nature, and Society on Feb 18 - 19. The conference will cover the evidence of climate change, as well as its social and spiritual implications with international speakers including His Eminence Cardinal Peter K. Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Convener for Pope Francis’ Encyclical on climate change, Laudato Sí. And FIU’s Department of Earth and Environment continues its weekly seminar related to climate change. This week, Dr. Lisa Goddard, Director of Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, spoke on the challenges of climate information and adaptation in the next decade.
These actions are just proof that climate change and its effects are already part of Miami’s fabric. The exchange of possible solutions and innovations to adapt to this new reality have no limits.
Sources: FIU News, Miami Beach Magazine, Miami Herald, Sea Level Solutions Center (SLSC).
Natalie French is the current Media and Emergency Management Specialist at the Doral Police Department in Doral, FL located in Miami-Dade County. She has worked as public affairs manager and news production for the City of Doral and the City of Miami. Previous to her career in government, Ms. French worked for several private and public news outlets including, NBC, Frontline (WGBH) and the Spanish network, Univision. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Emergency and Disaster Management at American Military University.
Thank you, Natalie, for your work on this ongoing issue that will impact our society for generations to come.