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November 25, 2017

Editor’s Note: 

The article below was written after the Sierra Club Climate Change Conference held in Cedar Key on November 10, 2017.  It provides a refreshing take (always provided by Crosby Hunt) on the day’s speakers and the issue.  Hunt, a Cedar Key resident, is co-president of Cedar Keys Audubon.  Cedar Key News is confident you will enjoy the piece.

Over seventy people packed the Cedar Key Community Center Friday for the Sierra Club’s Conference on Climate Change, which also included a second day session dedicated to the 150th anniversary of John Muir’s famous walk to the gulf, culminating right here in Cedar Key in late October of 1867.  The morning session was dominated by University of Florida scientists and grad students, who presented a variety of methods and standards for organizing and quantifying the information now streaming in from the vast amount of research on this critical field.  

These organizing principles included concepts such as “resilience,” “accommodation, “retreat,” “focal species,” “capacity building,” “hazard mitigation.”  There were also acronyms to help with these projections and plans: FMSF, CEMP,HMP, LMS, PDRP.  The bottom line is apparently this: the seas are rising due to human activity.  As outlined by Kathryn Frank of the UF Urban and Regional Planning Department, when the seas warm due to this activity, water expands, the glaciers melt, and the oceans could rise by as much as five feet by the year 2100.  The main question-unanswerable at this time- becomes this: how much, how fast, and what do we do about it.

The afternoon session featured local Cedar Key figures: Mayor Heath Davis, Vice Mayor Sue Colson, John McPherson of the Cedar Key Water and Sewer District, and Mark Clark, UF Soil and Water expert who is in charge of the Joe Rains Beach project.  Colson’s presentation was especially riveting.  After showing a film of water rushing through downtown Cedar Key on the night Hermine hit, she then described the “quilt” that keeps Cedar Key vibrant.  Components of the quilt include the aquaculture industry, environmental tourism, the UF Biological Station, the recycling program to name a few. Colson’s point was that the community must work together to fight the effects of climate change: “You do your little fixes and you keep going.”

McPherson was also effective and very realistic.  In noting the three factors which will affect water sustainability here in Cedar Key (drought, sea level rise, storm surges), McPherson said the challenge in the future would be “to determine the threshold of uninhabitability” - a very sobering concept.

The most important takeaway from Friday’s session of this conference is reflected in the program itself: scientists must first bring their research and projected solution s- sometimes a bit clinical and abstruse but nonetheless essential - to a community which possesses the energy and the will to act. The current federal government still denies climate change while systematically dismantling many environmental safeguards, so an educated collaboration between science and citizens appears to be our best hope, if we plan to keep living on a habitable island.  So we take what the good scientists tell us, we “do our little fixes,’ and hopefully keep going. What choice do we have. ‚Äč



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