By Cheryl Holder and Yoca Arditi-Rocha
There’s a lot of attention these days to one of Netflix’s most watched films, Don’t Look Up, about two scientists trying to get the attention of government leaders because they discover a deadly comet heading toward Earth. It’s a dramatic theme of course and because — spoiler alert — it ends with the destruction of the planet.
In most action films, the heroes save the planet or whatever is under threat but the sober ending in Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest is providing a cold collective slap in the face to those who are content to kick the global warming can down the road. So it’s no surprise that the film is getting people’s attention as an analogy for the climate crisis that is now at our doorstep. Instead of acting with the urgency required, too many politicians either ignore the crisis or give it lip service.
Closer to home, 200 brave young Floridians are the ones raising alarm bells about the need to dramatically move to clean energy solutions to avoid the worst impacts of a warming planet and a changing climate Their clarion call to reduce our global warming pollution is as urgent to us now as the fictional scenario in the popular film because the decisions policy-makers make today about our energy systems will affect future generations. There is no time to waste.
These students — ages 25 and under — are essentially the Jennifer Lawrence character in Don’t Look Up. They are trying to get the government’s attention by joining together to ask a state agency in Tallahassee with the legal authority to set clean renewable energy goals to do so. They filed a petition Jan. 5 for a rulemaking with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) asking the agency which houses the Florida Energy Office to establish goals to generate 100 percent of Florida’s electricity from renewable energy by 2050.
We should all support them by adding our voices. There’s too much at stake and that’s why non-profit organizations like Florida Clinicians for Climate Action and The CLEO Institute along with the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Everglades, Solar United Neighbors and the Student Power Network are joining the choir to encourage FDACS to act favorably on the petition.
It’s crucial that Florida moves quickly to stop the pollution that is causing the state to be ground zero for climate change in the United States. There’s just no excuse to ignore the cause of this threat to our lives, livelihoods and quality of life. Plus, clean energy saves money. Costs for methane gas to burn in power plants are through the roof sending billions of dollars out of state. On the other hand, 40,000 people work in the solar industry, which is poised for growth.
Florida is the third largest emitter of warming gas pollution among the 50 states and, despite being the Sunshine State, only a fraction of Florida’s electricity comes from clean, renewable sources like the sun. The Legislature has mandated an increase in the use of renewable energy and a reduction in the state’s dependence on fossil fuels — and energy experts have demonstrated that this transition is economically and technically feasible (and would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs) — but we believe the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has failed to follow the law, and Florida’s electricity system is still dominated by polluting fossil fuels.
Young people in Florida are doing their part and the rest of us should follow suit to urge Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to grant their petition for rulemaking to transition electricity to 100 percent clean renewable energy and bring FDACS into compliance with state law.
For more information, www.ourchildrenstrust.org/floridapetition.
Dr. Cheryl Holder is co-chair of the Florida Clinicians for Climate Action. Yoca Arditi-Rocha is the executive director of The CLEO Institute.
The op-ed first appeared in the Tampa Bay Times.
Featured photo credit: Niko Tavernise/Netflix/AP