More than two decades ago, I launched an environmental-awareness campaign called A Matter of Pride to promote recycling and the protection of our fragile and endangered resources and species. It brought new consciousness to South Floridians and showed how we all can make a difference to protect the environment while keeping our community thriving for ourselves and future generations.
Unfortunately, we now require much more than an awareness campaign to tackle today’s environmental issues, which have become more complex and more urgent than ever.
I was born in Cuba and came to Miami Beach when I was 4. South Florida, is among the world’s most at-risk regions because of sea-level rise, which threatens our way of life and our wallets. Rising sea levels lead to salt-water contamination of municipal drinking water supplies; an inability to drain water away from roads after heavy rains — which already happens; and higher costs to homeowners for flood insurance and taxes.
Local leaders can and should take action to shore up our communities.
Fortunately, South Florida’s four counties already are working collaboratively to ready the region for the effects of climate change. Yet scientists are clear: We must do more to address the causes of climate change in order to lessen its effects. There are many things we can do to reduce the levels of carbon pollution from fossil fuels that are warming the planet.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recently issued a new rule to limit this harmful pollution from both new and existing power plants. States will have greater flexibility to invest in energy efficiency and meaningfully develop clean energy, such as solar power, resulting in cleaner air for kids and an opportunity to grow our economy and create jobs.
The public has until Dec. 1 to submit comments by letter or online about this proposed rule South Floridians should show their support for limits on carbon pollution by filling out the form on www.CleanEnergy.org.
Incredibly, Florida is not a leader on climate action or clean energy, even though we call ourselves the Sunshine State. Shame on all of us.
Case in point: The state’s monopoly power companies have recently proposed to gut energy-efficiency opportunities for customers. FPL — the biggest utility in the state — has asked the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC ) to reduce the company’s conservation goals by 99 percent — effectively eliminating energy-efficiency programs for 4.5 million people in Florida. By gutting conservation goals, the utilities hope to build additional power plants to generate hefty returns for their shareholders.
Why aren’t state agencies and leaders looking out for us?
The Sunshine State’s record on solar power, isn’t any better. Although the price for solar has dropped 80 percent since 2008, we’re not even in the top 10 states for installed solar energy. Our neighbor to the north, Georgia, installed more solar power in 2013 than Florida installed in the past three years. Currently, there are laws and taxes that restrict solar development and keeps homeowners from reaping the benefits of solar energy. Why doesn’t our state encourage investment in clean power sources, like solar energy?
As a breast-cancer survivor, I am also concerned about with how oil and gas emit toxic industrial chemicals. It is well known that our risk of cancer increases when we are exposed to some industrial chemicals associated with oil and gas, such as formaldehyde, silica dust and benzene. We must keep toxic emissions out of the air that we breathe.
When so much is at stake for the state, we need bipartisan leadership at all levels, where leaders work hand-in-hand with scientists, and not fossil-fuel industries and power companies.
We are blessed to live in paradise, which is why we have a moral obligation to future generations to protect its natural resources and communities. Money isn’t everything. We deserve better.
Patricia San Pedro is a consultant for the Alliance for Clean Energy.