Floridians And Climate Change: 'I Have Noticed A Big Difference'
Some Tampa Bay area residents told stories of disappearing sea life, learning about natural hurricane protection and discussing the sometimes hot-button topic of climate change with community members.
WUSF is reporting on climate change and we asked residents of the greater Tampa Bay region to tell us how they have been impacted. We’re sharing those stories in an occasional series. Today, we hear from Brooke Errett, Maria Ceron, and Joseph Cavanaugh who talk about the shifting natural environment in their own words.
Brooke Errett, 40, Largo
I was born in Pinellas County, in Clearwater in 1980, and raised on the strip of barrier reef islands right off the west coast of Pinellas County. So I grew up a beach girl, and I lived there pretty much my entire life until I left for school.
But I remember as a younger girl, definitely much more predictable fall and spring. Like this last year, it was still in the 90s into late November, and then our winter was so unpredictable.
But I also remember as a younger girl sea life that I would see when I went to the beach. I remember seeing seahorses and sand dollars when you walked out to the sandbar. I haven't seen either of those — besides in gift shops dried — in probably 15 to 20 years.
Additionally, just the plants that grew, I have noticed a big difference and just how difficult it is for some of our flora to survive. As we've had over-development, wildlife has had to move and has been changed as well. And a lot of that is contributing to the climate crisis and to climate change.
Maria Ceron, 35, Tampa
I have lived in Florida for about eight years. I'm Colombian, so I lived almost 20 something years of my life in Colombia.
I actually come from the mountains. I never experienced hurricane season before, so it has been quite a learning curve for me.
There's a lot to work on our shorelines, protecting our shorelines because definitely when you have a living shoreline, there's a lot more protection, for example, against wave energy from hurricanes.
So I think those are the things that we can do as a community. We can push for more ecosystems that protect us. Instead of a seawall, we have a mangrove. If you have an oyster reef, if you have some sea grasses, that will definitely protect a lot.
Joseph Cavanaugh, 58, St. Petersburg
I'm a marine biologist. For me, my kids are in grade school and middle school and I have two kids.
A lot of my interactions outside of work regarding climate change, come with other parents and friends in a community, most of whom aren't scientists.
We talk about climate change issues, in a very different way than I might at work. And I feel like a lot of my role with people in the community is just as one of education and dispelling myths about climate change.
And really, I think one of the things that there is a general belief of convenience, I guess, when you start talking about climate change with anybody, in the general public, people seem to fall along a fault line, one side or the other. Like many hot-button issues, there's a lot of room in between, gray area, that people don't tend to operate in.
And so, I just generally try to ask people what they know about climate change and try to relate it to them: how it might impact them in their community and their own personal lives. And so, I focus on that a lot and try to find out where people are along that kind of climate change continuum.
WUSF's Jessica Meszaros produced this montage.
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