Environmentalism in the 21st century is about being a good caretaker of our planet so that our children, grandchildren and all future generations have a safe, healthy place to live, work and play. Concern for the environment doesn’t mean you are a Birkenstock, tie-dye wearing hippy. Everyone should care about breathing clean air and drinking clean water. That should never be a partisan issue. At all levels of government – federal, state and local – we are dealing with climate change denial that is putting us, our state and our country in danger.
Over the next several weeks, I will be writing a series of articles related to climate change. Some of the topics I will be covering are:
- Sea Level Rise evidence on the barrier island
- Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact
- Update on Solar Amendment 4 and optimism about the growth of Renewable Energy
- Respect for our Beaches
- Who are The Climate Reality Project and Citizens Climate Lobby?
In this post, I’d like to focus on the apparent intentional unwillingness to incorporate sustainable practices into Boca Raton’s city operations. The city has done a great job with projects like our reclaimed water system (Kudos for that!). But this is 2017, many of the projects the city claims they have done may have been outstanding in the 1990’s and 2000’s but today they are considered standard operating procedure.
Did you know that the city has had a Green Living Advisory Board for the past 8 years? Several of these years I served as it’s chairperson. Initially, as a task force, we developed 81 initiatives the city could implement to help the residents live a greener lifestyle. Our task force was converted to a permanent advisory board to implement some of these initiatives.
The first project of the advisory board was to implement a Neighborhood Certification Program. It was a great idea and we worked with graduate students from FAU on a prototype for several months. Unfortunately, due to intellectual property issues, it never got off the ground.
Next, we advised the city to create an Office of Sustainability. This office would be responsible for implementing and tracking sustainable practices for the city, and provide public outreach and awareness to the residents. We spoke at many city council meetings and goal setting sessions to publicize the idea. We thought it would be well received since the city’s own 2010 Comprehensive Plan states the following:
“BOCA RATON’S SUSTAINABLE VISION for the FUTURE
Boca Raton’s guiding principle for future growth can be stated in one word — Sustainability. Environmental experts use the concept of sustainability to describe the ways that communities are designed, built and operated so that they use energy and natural resources efficiently and equitably. Put another way, sustainability describes growth management principles and practices that provide for the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable communities conserve energy, protect the environment, use renewable materials, safeguard water resources, and preserve open space while providing for economic development and an enhanced quality of life. Sustainable growth principles and practice are often referred to as being “green.”
Historically, the City of Boca Raton has been a leader in community sustainability. The City Council is committed to reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas production, conserving energy, protecting native wildlife, preserving environmentally sensitive land, conserving water resources, and providing educational programs that empower citizens and businesses to share the responsibility for environmental stewardship.”
Members of the advisory board also spoke to city council ad nauseam about how other cities in South Florida have Sustainability Offices with qualified Sustainability professionals who can create action plans and programs to address sustainability issues. These issues, such as sea level rise, greenhouse gas reduction, and renewable energy, affect all residents and their health and well-being. South Florida is ground zero for the effects of sea level rise, not just on the coastline, but inland areas also. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Florida has over $550 BILLION worth of property at risk from sea level rise.
The only city council member to champion our ideas and truly support us in our efforts was Councilmember Scott Singer. I would like to publicly thank him for his continued support.
In the end, after all our efforts, and clearly stated evidence that the city was committed to embracing sustainable city practices, the council created an internal ‘green team’ of current city employees who developed a list of projects they felt contained sustainability elements. This list of projects provides no benchmarking and no measurement mechanisms to determine if they were successful. And, many of the items on this list date back to the 1990’s and 2000’s.
Mayor Haynie is missing an opportunity to join a distinguished list of women mayors from around the world that have committed to do their part to solve the climate crisis. As reported in the New York Times, according to the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, “… I am convinced that together, cities, businesses and citizens will save the planet.”
Unfortunately, I am no longer on the advisory board. I left because I felt my efforts and advice were not being taken seriously and it became ‘unsustainable’ for me to continue. I have since become more involved with environmental organizations on the state and national levels – The Climate Reality Project (www.climaterealityproject.org) and Citizens Climate Lobby (www.citizensclimatelobby.org). Please check out their websites for more information on their work.
The 47th anniversary of Earth Day will be celebrated on Saturday, April 22nd. In my opinion, every day should be Earth Day. After all, we have only one planet in which to live. Is it unreasonable to make every effort to ensure it will be a livable place for generations to come?
I look forward to working with the new city council and the Green Living Advisory Board to bring sustainability to the top of Boca’s priority list.