Climate change is a local issue.
That was the theme of a gathering Wednesday night to recognize more than 70 Florida elected officials for signing a letter that protested President Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. They also were being celebrated for individual actions such as supporting renewable energy and opposing offshore drilling and cuts to the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency.
(Read the full list of honorees here.)
To the tune of "This Little Light of Mine," the 60 or so people gathered at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex in Miami sang "Every day I live, I want the earth to shine." They also heard a poem about climate change gentrification. That’s when low-income communities on high ground are bought out by wealthier investors. Some community organizers say it’s becoming a problem in parts of Little Haiti, Liberty City and Overtown.
South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard was one of the night’s honorees. He said The Green Corridor, a group of South Florida municipalities that collaborate to promote renewable energy, of which South Miami is a member, recently granted money to help residents 100 low-income South Miami households monitor and reduce their energy use.
"People in the lower-income brackets pay a greater proportion of their household incomes to utilities," he said. "So if you can help them lower their utility bills, that gives them more money for everything else that the household needs."
Of the more than 70 honorees, six elected officials or their representatives attended. During a Q-and-A, several of them said Florida Power & Light needs more competition in the electricity market, and encouraged residents to install solar panels.
The emphasis on local action resonated with Coral Gables resident Jasper Beardslee, a senior at Ransom Everglades school. Beardslee spent the summer interning at the CLEO Institute, one of the climate action organizations that hosted the event. He's been working on a curriculum to educate young adults on climate change science and solutions.
"What I say to students is stuff that I encourage them to repeat to their parents," Beardslee said. "As educated as a child can be, they’re not the ones controlling the house; they’re not the ones controlling the electricity. But if they can take small things like turning off the lights at home, carpooling to school and things like that and get their parents on board, we can drastically reduce our impact on the environment."
Beardslee says growing up his dad -- Bill Beardslee, who was also at the event -- taught him the importance of taking small steps to save energy, like turning off the air conditioning when no one’s home. Bill Beardslee agreed, but said his son's taken a passion for the environment to "a much higher level."
This post has been updated with the full list of event honorees and to clarify that the list serves as a database of elected officials that support climate action.
This post has been corrected to show that The Green Corridor provided funding for the energy grant program for low-income residents of South Miami.