Eco-teers Milkweed Planting for Monarch Conservation

The Eco-teers planted milkweed for Monarch butterfly conservation this past Saturday morning, July 23, at Flamingo Gardens. Twenty volunteers helped in the efforts to plant nectar and host plants in the garden and stratify milkweed seeds in growing cells for future planting.

The Monarch butterfly has recently been added to the endangered species list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. As the population decreases for these important pollinators, Eco-teers have dedicated their focus to nursing milkweed plants and seeds to help conserve the species.

As climate change continues to rise, so does the threat of biodiversity and habitat loss. The Monarch population is experiencing the detrimental impacts of the climate crisis firsthand and is just steps away from extinction if action is not taken immediately. 

To protect our pollinators, the Eco-teers planted 24 host and nectar plants including milkweed, coontie, lantana, and penta. 720 milkweed seeds were stratified and placed in growing cells for future planting. Besides these efforts, approximately 83 pounds of weeds were removed from the Flamingo Gardens butterfly garden and 24 Monarch butterflies were released into the garden. More Monarch butterflies are to be released soon.

The success of this project could not have been possible without the help of the education and horticulture team at Flamingo Gardens and the Youth Environmental Alliance. Support has been provided by the following Funds at the Community Foundation of Broward: Leonard & Sally Robbins Fund, Mary and Alex Mackenzie Community Impact Fund, Frederick W. Jaqua Fund, and support from Spirit Airlines. If you are interested in joining these efforts, you may apply to become an Eco-teer by requesting an application at [email protected]g

Eco-teers First Beach Cleanup

Flamingo Gardens’ new volunteer group, the Eco-teers, spent Saturday morning, June 25, collecting trash from the beach at Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park with equipment donated by our 4Ocean partners. Over 60lbs of trash was gathered at Saturday morning’s cleanup by the eleven volunteers. There were many items collected during the beach cleanup, but the majority was plastic.

The plastic pollution crisis has consumed every corner of Earth which has consequences on our ocean, climate, food, and drinkable water. Clean-ups like this are a great way to not only preserve the natural beauty of our beaches, but they also serve as research opportunities to identify the exact sources contributing to the crisis.

The Eco-teers advocate and implement solutions to plastic pollution so that our communities have a chance at a more sustainable and fair future for all. Join the Eco-teers at their next monthly project on July 23, by requesting an application through [email protected]  

Support has been provided by the following Funds at the Community Foundation of Broward: Leonard & Sally Robbins Fund, Mary and Alex Mackenzie Community Impact Fund, Frederick W. Jaqua Fund, and support from Spirit Airlines.

For more information about the Eco-teers visit the website: Eco-teers.

The Plastics Pollution Problem – How You Can Help

The Plastics Pollution Problem – How You Can Help

It’s tough to say exactly how much plastic is in the ocean, but scientists believe at least 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. That’s the weight of nearly 90 aircraft carriers annually, and the problem continues to grow. The amount of plastic trash that flows into the oceans every year is expected to nearly triple by 2040 to 29 million metric tons

Plastics produce 3.8 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, roughly double that of all the airplanes on earth! According to a new analysis from Bennington College’s Beyond Plastics think tank, the plastics industry in the United States alone is on pace to eclipse the carbon footprint of the country’s remaining coal-fired power plants by the end of this decade.

 

Every step from production to disposal of plastics releases greenhouse gasses. Extraction and transportation of the fossil fuels used to make plastics is a carbon-intensive activity, emitting millions of tons of carbon dioxide. Refining and manufacturing of the plastics themselves is also a greenhouse gas intensive process.

Plastics disposal is usually processed in three different ways: landfill, incineration, or recycling. Landfill and incineration of plastics both have climate impact and greenhouse gas emissions. At present just 9% of all plastic is recycled worldwide!

 

Unfortunately, much of the remaining plastics end up in our oceans and waterways. And unlike some other kinds of waste, plastics don’t decompose, which means plastics can stick around indefinitely, disrupting marine ecosystems and creating havoc for marine life.

Some plastics float once they enter the ocean, though not all do. As the plastic is tossed around, much of it breaks into tiny pieces, called microplastics. These tiny pieces eventually break down to even smaller bits called microbeads, or microfibers which are shed from synthetic clothing or fishing nets. These fibers, beads, and microplastic fragments can all contain harmful pollutants like pesticides, dyes, and flame retardants, which can then be released into the ocean.

 

There are many ways to keep plastic out of the ocean! Here are some simple strategies to reduce:

  1. Reduce plastic use. Wherever you live, the easiest and most direct way to help is to reduce your use of single-use plastics. Refuse any plastic items that you use once and throw out (like plastic bags, straws, cups, plates, utensils, dry cleaning bags, take-out containers, etc.) and replace them with a reusable version of that product.

According to Earthday.org, Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S.! That means that by switching to a reusable water bottle you can save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually.

2. Avoid products containing microbeads. Microbeads are found in some face scrubs, toothpastes, and bodywashes, and they readily enter our oceans and waterways through our sewer systems and affect hundreds of marine species.

 Avoid products containing plastic microbeads by looking for “polyethylene” and “polypropylene” on the ingredient labels of your cosmetic products (find a list of products containing microbeads here).

3. Recycle Properly. Be sure to recycle the plastic you use. Recycling helps keep plastics out of the ocean and reduces the amount of plastic in circulation.

If you need help finding a place to recycle plastic waste near you, check Earth911’s recycling directory. It’s also important to check with your local recycling center about the types of plastic they accept, and how to prepare it properly for recycling.

 

4. Spread the Word. Stay informed on issues related to plastic pollution and help make others aware of the problem. Talk about the issue with your friends and family and explain about how they can be part of the solution!

Host a viewing party for one of the many plastic pollution focused documentaries, like A Plastic Ocean, Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic, or Garbage Island. Or host an outing with friends to an exhibit about plastics and the ocean, like the Free Our Seas exhibit of sculptures made from ocean debris to be held at Flamingo Gardens this summer.

5. Participate in a beach cleanup. Volunteer to pick up marine litter in your local community, at the beach, or along a river, canal, or other waterway. Find a cleanup near you!

You can join Flamingo Gardens’ new Eco-teers volunteer group and take part in monthly projects such as waterway cleanups, tree plantings and coastal restoration projects across Broward County. Join like-minded environmental stewards and help us help the environment. Contact our Volunteer Department at [email protected] 

with the subject line “Eco-teers”.

Why You Should Be Concerned About Climate Change- Insurance!

Some effects of climate change such as mass extinction of hundreds of plants and animals across the globe, and displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees migrating to higher and dryer land seem like far away consequences. But there is a much more immediate threat to all of us: insurance affordability. Climate change is about to make your insurance rates go through the roof, and it’s already happening!

The effects of climate change are stronger and more immediate than ever. With increasing frequency of natural disasters that result in the destruction of properties and businesses now hitting record-breaking rates, insurers can no longer wish them away as individual catastrophic events. 

2020 was the fifth costliest year for the insurance industry in 40 years. According to a 2021 report released by Munich RE, one of the world’s leading providers of reinsurance and insurance-related risk solutions, global disasters exacerbated by climate change resulted in $210 billion in losses in 2020 as several countries, including the U.S. and China, battled hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. The US accounted for $95 billion of overall losses and $67 billion of insured losses. 

Insurance is in the business of managing risk. Greater risk equals more claims which results in higher premiums. Taxpayers and insurance premiums share the cost for severe damage due to weather. Severe weather events that occur in Los Angeles, for example, affect premiums in other parts of the state and the country. These weather-related claims impact everyone.

Rising physical risk levels are already threatening insurability and affordability of existing coverage. Higher claims costs will require a higher premium, which may jeopardize affordability. 

Catastrophic events are projected to continue. According to a McKinsey research report, the value at risk from climate-induced hazards may increase from about 2% of global GDP to more than 4% of global GDP in 2050. This projection, which forecast more frequent storms, floods, and wildfires, may lead to underinsurance of the population, leading to premium loss, higher rates of self-insurance, and increased demand for disaster relief from the public sector. Consumers will shoulder most of that burden.

Florida is one of the states most vulnerable to climate change, putting Floridians at a greater risk for disasters that will impact everything from health and physical safety to property and assets. Climate change is already having a direct financial impact on Florida homeowners through their home insurance premiums. 

According to a report by ValuePenguine, the cost of homeowners insurance in Florida has gone up by 32.5% since 2016. This is more than three times higher than the average rate change of 10.9% that the rest of the country experienced during the same period. In an Insurance Newsnet article, Mark Friedlander, a spokesperson for the nonpartisan association Insurance Information Institute, says that statewide premiums in Florida are up nearly 25% for 2022, and aren’t expected to level off anytime soon. Premiums have doubled in some parts of the state. 

Yes, there are other additional causes contributing to the large increases in homeowner insurance premiums such as fraud and litigation expenses, but reinsurance companies who underwrite retail insurers simply can’t afford to ignore the link between climate change and catastrophes caused by the resulting storms, wildfires, and flooding. As the financial losses multiply, the price of reinsurance will continue to increase accordingly and get passed on to the consumer. 

Floridians can expect this trend to continue and for premiums to become more and more unaffordable if we do not confront climate change head-on. You can help by making your concerns known to your legislators and public officials, and by letting businesses you frequent know that you want them to do their part to combat climate change too.

Here are some other blogs for ideas to help combat climate change:

5 Simple Ways to Combat Climate Change

A Simple Guide to Climate Change

10 Everglades Animals Threatened By Climate Change

Biologists are becoming more and more concerned that global climate change will drastically reduce biodiversity. Some biologists estimate that up to 35% of animals and plants could become extinct in the wild by 2050 due to global climate change- less than 30 years! 

2020 World Wildlife Federation report claims that the population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles have experienced a 68% decrease since 1970 and freshwater species have declined as much as 84% already. (1)

South Florida and the Everglades is particularly susceptible to the effects of global warming and sea-level rise. Everglades plants and animals will be disproportionally affected as the ocean rises and saltwater infiltrates marshes and floods low-lying habitats.

The Center for Biological Diversity report has compiled a list of 350 species found in the United States and its territories which are threatened by climate change. (2) Ten Everglades species standout among the many Florida species included on the list.

Florida panther photo by Mike Levine

Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi)

The Florida panther is one of the most majestic, large felines in the wild, and tragically, it’s the only large feline remaining in the Southeast. Once abundantly found throughout Southeast United States, it is estimated there are fewer than 120 Florida panthers left in the wild. 

Although habitat loss driven by Florida’s burgeoning human population is the greatest threat to Florida panthers, sea-level rise will inundate and eliminate a large portion of the panther’s remaining habitat in Florida’s low-lying Everglades. 

Florida manatee photo by stammphoto

Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostrus)

Manatees, sometimes referred to as sea cows, are large, gentle aquatic marine mammals related to elephants that spend much of their time grazing on seagrasses and other vegetation in warm, shallow waters. The current population of manatees in Florida is thought to be between only 1,000 and 3,000.  

The leading cause of death among manatees is boat strikes which kill them or leave lethal propeller wounds on the survivors; but starvation is quickly becoming a major cause of death as well. Sea-level rise and changes in water flow that increase water turbidity threaten the manatees’ main food source- the seagrasses that grow in shallow waters. Increased hurricane intensity and storm surge also impact their food supply, leading to starvation as well as impaired manatee health and reproduction.

Green sea turtle photo by pkphotoscom

Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Much knowledge about sea turtle ecology comes from studies of green sea turtles which migrate long distances between feeding grounds and hatching beaches. Sea turtles spend almost all their lives submerged but must breathe air, routinely diving for about five minutes and surfacing to breathe for one to three seconds. 

Warming ocean temperatures are leading to mass coral bleaching which damage reef habitats where turtles feed, and changes in ocean currents are altering turtle migrations paths and feeding patterns. Rising sea levels may also inundate nesting beaches and  the increased sand temperatures may lead to changes in the sex ratio of hatchling turtles.

Ivory tree coral photo courtesy of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Ivory tree coral (Oculina varicosa)

Ivory tree coral is home to various reef fish and considered a keystone species, meaning that its own health indicates the health of the ecosystem around it. These corals have been decimated by destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling, which have killed about 30 percent of the population across its range. 

Today, corals like the ivory tree are among the species most threatened by greenhouse gas pollution. Warming ocean temperatures create frequent mass bleaching events that lead to widespread coral death and higher risk of disease. 

Key deer photo by Joseph C. Boone

Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium)

The range of the key deer originally encompassed all of the lower Florida Keys but is now limited to a stretch of the Florida Keys from Sugarloaf Key to Bahia Honda Key. Despite a hunting ban imposed in 1939, widespread poaching and habitat destruction caused the subspecies to plummet to near-extinction levels by the 1950s. Strict protection measures have brought numbers up to between 300 and 800 today but global warming brings additional threats. 

Rising sea levels and increased storm intensity that may largely eliminate the key deers’ upland habitat on the low-lying Florida Keys. Scientist predict that sea-level rise in this century will virtually eliminate the deers’ upland pine forest and hardwood hammock habitat on Big Pine Key.

Miami blue butterfly photo by J. Glassberg and North American Butterfly Association

Miami blue butterfly (Hemiargus thomasi bethunebakeri)

This small, metallic blue butterfly, native to South Florida, experienced its first major setback in the 1980s when coastal development exploded and Florida’s war on mosquitoes dispersed toxic chemicals throughout the butterflies’ range. Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Florida Keys now houses the only wild population of Miami blues. 

Global warming brings additional risks to this seriously imperiled species as sea-level rise threatens to inundate much of its habitat on low-lying Bahia Honda Key, and stronger hurricanes could devastate the remaining small, isolated population. 

Cape Sable seaside sparrow photo by Lori Oberhofer

Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis)

The Cape Sable seaside sparrow isn’t nicknamed the “Goldilocks bird” for nothing: For this little sparrow to survive, its habitat conditions have to be just right. 

As sea level rises, the freshwater marshes inhabited by the sparrow are flooding and turning into mud flats and mangrove-dominated marine waters. Increasingly severe hurricanes due to global warming also threaten this birds’ chances for survival, since hurricanes can kill the tiny birds directly or alter the plant communities they rely on. 

Choctawhatchee beach mouse photo courtesy of Earth.com

Choctawhatchee beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus Allophrys)

Technically, beach mice are not in the Everglades, but they do inhabit sand dunes along the Florida coasts where they burrow and excavate nests. Their burrows typically have a main hole that acts as a front door and a second hole, or back door, often used to escape predators. 

That back door, however, won’t be much help in the fight against global warming and rising sea levels. With global warming producing rising tide lines and increasing storm surge, dune ecosystems face challenges, as does this tiny mouse.

Lower Keys marsh rabbit photo by Chad Anderson/USFWS

Lower Keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri)

The Lower Keys marsh rabbit is an endangered subspecies of marsh rabbit with short, dark brown fur and a grayish-white belly. Marsh rabbits are more aquatic than swamp rabbits, taking to water readily, and are excellent swimmers because their hind legs have less fur and longer nails than typical cottontails. 

Because they live on low-lying islands, marsh rabbits will lose most of their habitat with even moderate levels of sea-level rise. 

Human beings in London photo by VV Shots

Human beings (Homo sapiens)

There are more than 6.8 billion human beings on Earth. 

Health and climate scientists believe that global warming is already responsible for approximately 150,000 deaths each year, and they fear that number may well double by 2030. Global warming also contributes to approximately five million human illnesses every year by the increasing spread of infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, creating conditions that lead to potentially fatal malnutrition and diarrhea, and increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, floods, severe storms, and other weather-related disasters. Studies have also found a direct link between rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and respiratory illness and asthma.

Visit the Center for Biological Diversity’s article, 350 Reasons We Need to Get to 350: 350 Species Threatened by Global Warming, to read how climate change is putting numerous species’ very existence at risk and what mechanisms are being triggered to make food webs collapse or habitats become less livable for particular animals or plants. You can read the species’ descriptions and look at photos of the species at risk in your home state through their interactive regional map.

(1)https://livingplanet.panda.org/en-gb/

(2)https://web.archive.org/web/20150905095201/http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/climate_law_institute/350_reasons/index.html

A Simple Guide To Climate Change

Ten Ways You Can Make A Difference

Climate Change is the shift in the average weather conditions – such as temperature and rainfall – in a place over many years. Earth’s climate is always changing; however, scientists have recorded unusual and accelerating temperature increases over the past 150 years. The world is now about 1.2°C warmer than it was in the 19th Century, leading to heatwaves, melting ice, rising sea levels, and extreme storms, flooding, droughts, and wildfires.

There are several factors that contribute to changes in Earth’s climate; however, scientists agree that recent global warming in the past 50 to 100 years is due to human activity. Simply stated, human activities- such as burning fossil fuels to manufacture products and power our factories, homes, and cars- cause greenhouse gases which trap more heat and lead to a warmer earth.

As the Earth warms, the typical weather patterns change. Arctic ice melts leading to sea level rise and coastal flooding. Warmer temperatures create more evaporation over both the ocean and land. As more water evaporates over the ocean, it creates larger storms which turn into hurricanes as well as inland storms which cause flooding and tornados. Increased evaporation over land leads to droughts, water shortages, and more frequent wildfires.

Extreme weather events are already evident- from this year’s unprecedented freeze in Dallas, TX to the record-breaking heatwaves in the Northeast and Midwest. Hurricanes, flash floods, and wildfires have become more frequent and more intense, threatening lives and livelihoods and destroying property as well as habitat for wildlife. Once fertile farmland is turning to desert and water reservoirs are drying up. Rising ocean temperatures are threatening coral habitats and marine life.

There are hundreds of ways that you can help combat Climate Change in your own daily lives. Andy Chabassol, Co-Chair of The Climate Reality Project Miami-Fort Lauderdale Chapter, suggests these ten ways you can personally make a difference:

1. Educate yourself about Climate Change issues and help educate your friends and family.  (If you want a Climate Reality member to deliver their Climate Story to a group of your friends, just contact [email protected])

2. Invest in Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance (ESG) companies. Align your money and wealth and shopping habits with companies that have high scores for excellence in ESG research, integration, and product design.

3. Offset your personal carbon footprint. Lead by example by knowing your carbon footprint and offset it; but make sure that your offset leads to a measured reduction in carbon emissions.

4. Volunteer with Climate Change initiatives. There are hundreds of environmental organizations that can use your help, like Flamingo Gardens or  www.volunteercleanup.org

5. Look after your health and well-being. As you become more informed, climate change knowledge can be troubling. You must take care of yourself if you are to help others. 

6. Modify your diet to eat less meat and less processed foods. Locally grown, organic food is better for your health and its production emits less carbon.

7. Respect and protect green spaces as they are important for carbon sequestration and wildlife.

8. Conserve energy and water at home and work. 

9. Minimize your car use by walking, biking, or using ride sharing or public transportation instead.

10. Talk about it! Tell people about the “changes” you make to help combat Climate Change and how it makes you feel!