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  • Writer's pictureNoah Bookstein

Young Activists Rally at Florida Capitol for Climate Justice

About 200 attended a late January rally to support mangrove restoration, heat protections and oppose greenwashing.

GenCLEO activists rally at the Florida Capitol in January 2024. Photos by Noah Bookstein.

Climate activists from across Florida rallied on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 23rd and 24th in front of Tallahassee’s Capitol building to call for a more sustainable future. Climate organizations such as the CLEO Institute, ReThink Energy, Sunrise, Alianza for Progress, and other groups attended Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All. About 200 young activists and students attended the rally. 

“It’s a pivotal moment because it’s the second year we are bringing the biggest contingent of youth climate advocates to the state capitol,” said Yoca Arditi-Rocha, executive director for the CLEO Institute and the GenCLEO Action Fund. The CLEO Institute’s GenCleo arm in September passed a climate emergency resolution with the Leon County Commission.

Speakers addressed gathered journalists and passersby from steps overlooking the courtyard between the old and new Capitol buildings. Attendees holding signs with messages about addressing climate change fanned out on the steps. They chanted and sang, while some came forward to share personal stories. 

Advocates said they would focus their meetings with legislators on four bills addressing: mangrove restoration and planting (SB 32), a requirement that certain employers implement measures to protect outdoor workers from heat illnesses (SB 762),  and voiced opposition to two bills that pertain to the development of methane gas infrastructure (SB 480 and HB 683). 

Attendees holding signs with messages about addressing climate change fanned out on the steps.

At a Glance:

  • SB 32, proposed by Sen. Ileana Garcia (R - Miami), addresses mangrove restoration and planting.  According to bill analysts, mangroves are the ecosystem most harmed by human development. It would require the Department of Environmental Protection to elaborate rules regarding mangrove replanting and protection.

  • SB 762, proposed by Sen. Darryl Rouson (D - St. Petersburg), requires certain employers to implement measures to protect outdoor workers from heat illnesses.

  • SB 480 and HB 683. The two bills are sponsored by Sen. Nick DiCeglie (R - Indian Rocks Beach) and Rep. Brad Yeager (R - New Port Richey). They pertain to the development of methane gas infrastructure, which the sponsors call “renewable natural gas."

Opposition points 

Advocates at the Capitol rally circulated a one-pager detailing how the bills on natural gas aren’t what they considered truly environmentally friendly. The bill doesn’t depart from the use of fossil fuels, but mixes fossil fuels with other similar compounds derived from different sources, the one-pager said. The bills promote a continued reliance on fossil fuels and nonrenewable energy, advocates said.

According to bill analysis, natural gas is a fossil fuel containing mostly methane. Conventional natural gas is extracted from underground primarily by fracking. Once processed, renewable natural gas can be injected into a natural gas pipeline, thus mixing it with the flow of fossil fuels. This bill would diversify the sources of methane which proponents of the bill call renewable sources.

“It’s complete greenwashing,” said Samantha Kaddis, Leon County Regional Lead for the CLEO Institute. Kaddis helped organize the rally.

“Success looks like our elected officials taking the time out of their busy schedules and open-mindedly, open heartedly listen to what their constituents have to say,” she said. “We’re their bosses.”

Climate Change writ large

Scientific consensus regarding human impact on the environmental crisis is incredibly strong. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regularly issues dire warnings about the need for rapid and transformative action. Florida continues to experience the effects of climate change with higher risks of extreme heat, extreme storms, and sea level rise. These events threaten critical infrastructure and community livelihoods.

CLEO Institute organizer Arditi-Rocha said that students planned more than 100 meetings with legislators.

“Florida is on the frontlines of the Climate Crisis. The youth are really on the frontlines. They will be facing the burden that a warming world is bringing to them,” Arditi-Rocha said.


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