"Banning fracking in Florida is one of the best things we can do to protect our treasured waterways, public health and economy," said State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater). "I stand with the 90 cities and counties in Florida that have passed ordinances or resolutions calling on us, the State Legislature, to pass this important legislation."
Nationwide opposition to hydraulic fracturing has escalated dramatically over the past year as public awareness of its impacts grows.
"The time has finally come to end this dangerous practice," said State Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Ft. Lauderdale). "This bill represents the now bipartisan recognition that Florida's unique geological makeup leaves our water supply particularly vulnerable and must be protected."
The gathering follows introduction of a bicameral, bipartisan fracking ban bill in the Florida Legislature with widespread support. Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa), present at the event, introduced the bill into the Senate. Representative Mike Miller (R-Orlando) introduced the House ban bill on the same day. Both ban bills have received overwhelming bipartisan support, garnering dozens of cosponsors from around the state.
"The overwhelming support for a fracking ban doesn't stop here in Tallahassee; communities across the state have passed 90 local measures opposing the practice. Floridians have made it clear: we do not want fracking here," said Michelle Allen, Florida organizer with Food & Water Watch. "Just last week, the historically pro-energy, Republican Governor of Maryland came out in support of a fracking ban. We know now that people coming together can beat out Big Oil interests and win for our environment and communities, so we're looking to our legislators to listen to the will of the people in Florida and ban fracking now."
Students from Cornerstone Learning Community in Tallahassee attended in support of the legislation as well.
"We, as the future generation, understand how important it is to protect our water, animals and environment from the dangers of fracking," said Claire Encinosa, a 5th grader speaking on behalf of her class at the Cornerstone Learning Community. "Fracking will not just pollute our world but also make us sick, cause birth defects and even cancer. We want the Florida Legislature to ban fracking for the future."
Advocates also called for strong, common-sense implementation of Amendment 4, the pro-solar initiative 73 percent of voters passed last August, which makes it easier for businesses to implement solar energy.
"With the overwhelming support of Amendment 4, the doors are wide open for solar power in the Sunshine State," said Clifford Mitchem, Independent Energy Adviser for CREW, a member-owned solar cooperative. "It's now up to our legislators to help us walk through the door."
After this year's toxic algae outbreaks, just as many are calling for the preservation and protection of our precious water resources.
"Business as usual will drain our aquifers and poison what's left," said Burt Eno, president of Rainbow River Conservation. "We must balance our water permits with monitoring to ensure users don't take too much water and we need to better manage fertilizer, industrial and stormwater runoff to avoid polluting our waters."
Groups involved today, included ReThink Energy Florida, Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club, Environment Florida, Floridians Against Fracking, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Organize Florida and Florida Conservation Voters. They cited more than 900 health studies for why fracking has no place in the Sunshine State.
"Floridians continue to call on their elected officials to pass legislation banning fracking, promoting renewable energy and protecting our vital clean water supplies," said Kim Ross, president of ReThink Energy Florida.
"Floridians continue to call on their elected officials to pass legislation banning fracking, promoting renewable energy and protecting our vital clean water supplies," said Kim Ross, president of ReThink Energy Florida. "From the Keys, to Tampa, Jacksonville and Gainesville—hundreds of Floridians are here to inspire our leaders to reclaim Florida's future, environment, and health."
The Saint Petersburg City Council formally approved on Monday the city's commitment to transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Saint Petersburg represents the first city in Florida and the 20th city in the country to make such a commitment.
In a unanimous vote, the City Council Committee of the Whole allocated $250K of BP Oil Spill settlement funds to an "Integrated Sustainability Action Plan," which will chart a roadmap to 100 percent clean, renewable energy in Saint Petersburg. In addition, the plan also incorporates components of a climate action plan, a resiliency plan and strategies for Saint Petersburg to achieve a 5 STAR Community rating. The 100 percent clean energy roadmap builds on Mayor Rick Kriseman's executive order establishing a net-zero energy goal for the city earlier in 2016.
"The movement for clean energy in cities and towns across the country is now more important than ever," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said.
"Saint Petersburg joins 19 other cities from San Diego, California to Greensburg, Kansas that will lead the way to support equitable and inclusive communities built on 100 percent clean, renewable energy for all. Whether you're from a red state or blue state, clean energy works for everyone and local leaders will continue to move forward to create more jobs, stronger communities, and cleaner air and water."
Mayor Kriesman will share more information on the Integrated Sustainability Action Plan at a press conference on Dec. 9 on the steps of City Hall. The chancellor of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg will also make an announcement about the university's recently-completed climate action plan.
"The Integrated Sustainability Action Plan builds on my executive order on sustainability by creating a roadmap to achieve the city's long-term sustainability goals," Mayor Kriseman said. "Working towards 100 percent clean energy and zero waste will help ensure that St. Pete remains a 'city of opportunity where the sun shines on all who come to live, work and play."
Organizations that support the Ready for 100% St. Pete campaign include Oceana, Environment Florida, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Sunshine State Interfaith Power & Light, Keep Pinellas Beautiful, LocalShops1, Center for Biological Diversity, Chart 411, Craftsman House, The Burg Bar & Grill and St. Peace House.
"This is a historic moment for St. Pete," Emily Gorman, campaign manager for Suncoast Sierra Club's Ready for 100% St. Pete, said. "We envision a city where families can raise their kids in communities free from toxic pollution, where everyone has the opportunity for a good job and access to healthy, affordable energy. The transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy will ensure a more resilient, sustainable and equitable future for all our residents."
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.