Florida students, activists meet with legislators to address climate concerns

Hayley Seibert
Staff Writer
genCLEO activist Samantha Kaddis speaks on the steps of the Old Florida Capitol.
genCLEO activist Samantha Kaddis speaks on the steps of the Old Florida Capitol. Hayley Seibert

Students across the state united at the Florida Capitol to advocate for environmental regulation last week for the “Reclaim Florida’s Future for All” event.

Student and youth activists from genCLEO, the Sunrise Movement and the Youth Action Fund spent the day giving speeches outside capitol doors, singing songs and chants, lobbying and raising awareness for growing climate concerns.

“Today, we are joining a number of different coalitions in a stressful state to demand meeting action and climate change. What specifically that looks like is about seventeen bills that we are supporting or opposing,” said Cameron Driggers, founder and executive director of the Youth Action Fund.

The steps of the Old Florida Capitol were occupied with students holding signs with phrases including “our planet, our future,” “system change, not climate change,” and “the seas are rising and so are we.”

“There’s a lot of legislation to do with repairing mangrove sanctuaries, protecting workers from heat illness and putting resiliency and mitigation measures in place. Because we know the climate crisis is happening, and we’re on the front lines,” Driggers said.

The focus of the “Reclaim Florida’s Future For All” event was supporting SB 762, a bill that creates heat illness protection programs for outdoor workers, and HB 1581, which would restore mangroves in Florida.

“We aim to educate our members on climate and the science behind it as well as push them to be advocates for themselves and their community. So we do things from social media to lobby training needs elected officials,” said genCLEO Tallahassee Regional Leader and FSU alumna Samantha Kaddis.

The goal for organization leaders like Kaddis and Driggers is to gain support within government offices and have their voices, experiences and concerns heard.

“It’s almost inescapable, the increasing un-comfortability of the heat, especially in the summers,” said Driggers. “I happen to live near Gainesville and there’s obviously a large amount of natural streams and springs which are at risk from increasing pollution. All the people here from Miami, the Keys and coastal Florida are even more at risk from a lack of investment in seawalling.”

“How we lobby for these bills is just communicating with our elected officials in our district. These are your constituents. They are here because they have seen a problem with the area you’re representing,” said Kaddis. “We train our attendees to share climate stories and that it’s their lived experience of why they’re here today. Why they’ve come up in buses from Fort Lauderdale and Miami and Tampa to tell their elected officials that they care.”

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