Phil Stoddard, mayor of South Miami, is not your typical mayor. For one, he’s a college professor who investigates, among other things, the neuroethology of electric fish. Neuroethology uncovers the neural mechanisms underlying natural behavior. Of course, one mysterious behavior in humans is their persistence in either denying that we are the cause of climate change or doing nothing about it, which amounts to the same thing.
But Stoddard is an outspoken mayor who is trying to change things. He goes out of his way to publicly dissuade people from investing in South Florida real estate, which is vulnerable to rising sea levels:
I tell people if you’re planning on using that investment in order to retire, if you’re planning to sell your house for the value that it’s worth today, or some appreciated value, don’t count on it. If you can afford to buy a house, and the payments on your house are equivalent to what you’d be paying in rent, fine, go ahead and do it. But don’t count on retiring on what you’re going to sell your house for in years because you might not be able to sell it for very much….We believe that by the end of the century the street in front of my house will see high tide everyday. My house is about two miles inland from Biscayne Bay. I sit in what’s called the Transverse Glade, a place where the Everglades used to cut through the Miami Ridge, and we know that the sea level is coming up. I’m going to take a Dutch film crew out to Biscayne Bay and I’m going to show them a place where I used to walk and bicycle without getting my feet wet. Every high tide it’s under water. And they’re going to see it.
There’s an old but valid adage, “Think globally. Act locally.” If governments at federal, provincial or state levels seem too paralyzed by interest groups to fight off climate change, then cities, which represent concentrations of populations, can veer in an alternate direction. Ferrara, the city of bicycles, cuts off automobiles from its center. An analysis of aerial photographs of Vienna reveals that more than 51 percent is green space, the highest percentage among all major world cities. They even fund green facades to help trap carbon emissions. In the city of 2010, the city was also awarded the title “world city closest to sustainable waste management”. They collect 100 000 tons of biogenic waste annually, using it for compost and generating electricity. ( If left in dumps, carbon dioxide from decomposition enters the atmosphere. But compost locks much of the carbon in humus and power produced from waste lowers demand for fossil fuels.)
Stoddard is following in the footsteps of such cities that made bold moves on their own. He is even considering separating from the rest of Florida if they don’t acknowledge the threat posed to the tip of the state, a threat that is, of course, global in scope.
Another interesting read from the same link: Are we hard-wired to ignore climate change ?
And my more pessimistic overview : Why there’s no revolution around the corner.