Opinion columnist: A glimmer of hope for future bipartisanship

Editor’s note: This column was revised, at the author’s request, to provide more information about the outcome of the proposed legislation.

The 2024 legislative session was a transformative journey for me. It instilled knowledge and confidence in me, allowing me to use my voice to advocate for solutions to address climate change. As a proud Floridian committed to preserving our Sunshine State, I was able to seize the opportunity to advocate for various environmental issues and express my thoughts.

Speaking out in support of Senate Bill 32 and House Bill 1581, Mangrove Replanting and Restoration, was an opportunity to continue fighting to preserve Florida in the wake of the climate crisis. With strong bipartisan support, the House version passed a floor vote unanimously but didn’t get a vote on the Senate floor before the legislative session ended.

Both the Senate and House versions brought me hope for my generation and future generations of Floridians. These bills symbolize a beacon of hope for the future of Florida’s environment and ecosystems because they showcase the solutions that exist today.

The bill mandated the adoption of rules for replanting and restoring mangroves. It additionally required studies to be conducted on how nature-based solutions can improve local governments’ community rating for flood insurance purposes. SB 32 and HB 1581’s bipartisan support during the legislative session is a cause for hopeful celebration because mangroves are crucial to our efforts to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis in Florida.

Both pieces of legislation had unanimous support, something activists like me rarely see but are constantly striving for. However, bipartisanship gives me hope for the mangrove bills to pass next year.

With Florida being ground zero for climate change, mangroves provide multiple crucial intersectional benefits. Mangroves protect coastal communities by reducing flooding, erosion, and extreme wind speeds. This will help reduce costs for residents while safeguarding their lives and property insurance rates from further weathering damages. Aside from lives and economics, mangrove’s dense root systems stabilize coastlines, reducing the impact of waves and protecting inland areas from flooding, all while providing habitats for native species.

Against the odds I usually see with environmental or climate bills, both sides of the aisle voted in favor at every committee stop. Seeing this kind of support motivated activists like me, young and old, to see this kind of potential in Florida. Human-caused climate will result in continued increases in the frequency of storms and their intensity. We must harness the plentiful benefits of mangroves and use them to help protect our communities and environment.

Action and dedication from both parties have been put forth so that mangroves can flourish again before any direct human contact and natural damage. Youth like myself have an opportunity daily to continue fighting for a safer and cleaner environment for my generation, regardless of politics. Speaking in committee to elected officials taught me how to be confident in what I believe to make the best decisions for my future generation.

As long as we have all hands on deck, we can make a change and continue the life of mangroves. Educating yourself and others is the first step to creating a change in your world!

Tejah S.J. Sanders is a genCLEO Organizer at the Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University FAMU. She is currently a graduating senior in sociology and will be entering her master’s program at Florida State University in the upcoming Fall.  

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