By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Underwater FLA is a program that serves every Florida resident by advocating for clean energy and resilience solutions from lawmakers. Underwater FLA also encourages local activism, advocating for equitable public policies and addressing patterns of injustice.
Olivia Nedd is the South Florida Lead Organizer for the Florida Conservation Voters and oversees the Underwater FLA program. She described, “Underwater FLA is the sister group of Underwater HOA, created by environmental artist Xavier Cortada. […] Our use of art to engage the community is critical because the art not only engages residents but also gives them a voice.”
Florida Conservation Voters is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization dedicated to making conservation and environmental protection a top priority for elected officials, political candidates and voters across the state. The low elevation, porous limestone and increased usage of fossil fuels makes Miami Beach especially vulnerable to sea level rise.
“FCVEF’s Underwater FLA program seeks to harness the power of art to create awareness about rising sea levels and engage neighbors to take action to solve the most urgent crisis of our times: climate change,” Nedd said.
“We would like to see a group organize around this issue, where residents can support each other and remain up to date on the efforts of local government and community needs.”
Low-income and communities of color in South Florida often fall victim to environmental injustice. Injustices in these communities vary from commercial and residential development policies to market-driven land use planning.
Additionally, low-income and communities of color are most at risk of breathing in dirty, polluted air. Florida currently ranks 10th in the nation for the highest carbon dioxide emissions.
“Civic engagement such as this means that we can move the needle on the issues impacting frontline communities,” said Nedd.
“My involvement came about with a desire to see this very change occur in communities that need it most and the need to reframe environmental discussions from the traditional and exclusive discourse we know so well.”
Sea level rise may affect local business and tourism in Miami Beach by way of beach erosion, local hydrogeology and storm surges. A study in 2016, found that high tide flooding in Miami Beach increased by more than 400 percent since 2006. According to Nedd, Underwater FLA has future plans to raise awareness in Miami Beach.
“In the future FCVEF, through our Underwater FLA program, would like to host a community workshop in Miami Beach where we bring together residents of all ages to hear from local leaders and each other about sea level rise and climate issues,” said Nedd.
“Through the workshop participants can paint elevation markers which depict how many feet of sea water has to rise before their home sees the impacts of sea level rise and share their stories and needs.”