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Miami rally calls for more local action on climate change

By Joey Francilus

About 1,000 protesters gathered in the streets of downtown Miami on Wednesday to advocate for more local efforts to combat climate change and for enhanced sustainability efforts across Miami.

The rally came just two weeks after autumnal high tides inundated Miami River communities near downtown Miami, and mid-beach neighborhoods in Miami Beach, which also coincided with a climate change summit hosted by former vice president Al Gore.

"This event is all about raising awareness about [the] South Florida population and how we are going to be affected by climate change," said Sierra Club Miami vice-chairman Noel Cleland, one of 50 organizations that was a part of the march. "We're at ground zero for sea level rise, not to mention the storm surge from hurricanes, and as the water gets warmer and hurricanes become more intense, our lifestyle is in jeopardy."

A group of local activists that included environmental groups, petitioners from Floridians for Solar Choice, and Miami-Dade County commission members, gathered at the Stephen P. Clark Miami-Dade County administration building in northwest downtown Miami and marched eastward to the Torch of Friendship monument along busy Biscayne Boulevard as the sunlight dimmed to dusk.

"If there is any place on the planet that needs attention, it is Miami," said state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who joined the crowds at the rally. "Too little has happened at the local level. Zero — absolutely zero — is happening at the state level, and there's a coalition of us trying to change that, and too little is happening at the federal level. We're here to demand change on every level. We need it, it needs to start happening yesterday to adapt to the changes that are already happening and make sure that those who are most impacted by all that is happening are not left out in the cold."

Rally-goers focused on the need to make climate change a priority at the local level. The Miami-Dade County Commission only recently allocated $300,000 in funds toward creating a position at Miami-Dade county hall to focus on investigating sustainability and mitigation efforts to combat the growing environmental threat.

"We're in a better position than we were a year or two ago," said Miami-Dade County Commission chairman Jean Monestime. "This is an issue that has taken a good portion of the time at commission meetings in September. The county commission has taken a lead roll on this and the [county] administration has begun to listen and work with us."

The crowd swelled as it wound through busy downtown streets, delaying the evening rush hour commutes of drivers along U.S. Highway 1 as demonstrators chanted, "What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now."

Supporters of the Floridians for Solar Choice ballot initiative carried signs and gathered signatures in support of a ballot measure that would allow Floridians to install solar panels not derived from state electric companies and to allow for private consumers to resell the surplus generated energy.


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