On the heels of an international climate conference and a confluence of natural events that flooded parts of Miami Beach for days, hundreds marched through downtown Miami Wednesday evening in an eclectic call to action on climate change.
Hippies and hipsters, toddlers and teenagers, and environmentalists and politicians gathered at the Stephen P. Clarke Center and then walked several blocks down to the Torch of Friendship on Biscayne Boulevard. Along the way, a crowd of hundreds chanted with megaphones, stenciled warnings of sea level rise on the asphalt, and mimed South Beach sinking into the sea.
Angelica Ramirez, a flower in her hair, walked with her 14-month-old son, Julio Gabriel Morales, swaddled in a baby sling.
“It’s not just my world I’m saving,” said Ramirez, 28. “It’s also his.”
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The march, organized by many of the same activists who pressured Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez into placing money in the county’s budget to address sea level rise, said they drew 1,100 to the march, by a modest count. It was a notable crowd by Miami standards, and was just one among dozens of People’s Climate Movement marches in cities around the country.
The march held significance, given that Miami, and in particular flood-prone Miami Beach, have become international symbols for sea level rise. In 2013, the World Bank penned a study that found that no city in the U.S. was more at risk from climate change than Miami, a reality that drew organizations from wide-ranging backgrounds to Wednesday’s march.
“Whenever there’s a natural disaster, whether in Haiti, Chili or around the world, the low income families are the first impacted,” said Marleine Bastien, a prominent activist in Miami’s Haitian community and the executive director of Fanm Ayisyen nan Miyami. “The time for local officials to invest in climate justice, and invest in research to have a strategic plan to address climate change issues and rising sea level is now.”
The participants demanded action on climate change and sea level rise. At the very least, they attracted the attention of local politicians, including several county commissioners. One of them, Daniella Levine Cava, said Miami-Dade County is actively seeking solutions, working with various public entities, like the South Florida Water Management District, and pushing the state to be more proactive.
James Murley, Miami-Dade’s soon-to-be chief of resiliency, said Mayor Gimenez and the county commission are committed to making a difference. He said South Florida already has a significant network of organizations, resources and local government agencies working on the issue, so the county isn’t starting from scratch. He said they’re seeking as much cooperation as possible, and from the look of Wednesday’s march, they’ll have willing partners.
“We’re one county. We can’t work alone. It’s a large system,” he said. “I’m going to do a lot of listening.”
This article was updated to reflect the number of participants as counted by the organizers of the event, who disputed the Miami Herald’s count of around 200.