By Maria Serrano
As the national debate over climate change intensifies, South Florida has become a flashpoint. And South Florida is much more than South Beach.
On Nov. 24, 2015, fifteen days after king tide day, the largest tidal range seen over the course of a year, the residential neighborhood known as the Upper East Side in Miami was still experiencing floods.
The area has an annual estimated income per household of $45,000.
Similar to Miami Beach, the Upper East Side is a middle-income community facing the consequences of sea level rise, but it has not received the attention or funding necessary to protect its residents, their houses, and small businesses.
Scientists, researchers, legislators and residents recently met at Little River Pocket Park, located in the Northeastern section of the neighborhood, to collect data, learn about sea level rise, and discuss that this is not simply an issue for Miami Beach, but a coastal issue for much of South Florida.
“It’s designed to get citizens involved in being a part of the solution,” Juliet Pinto a, Journalism Professor at Florida International University and organizer of the event for EyesOnTheRise.org said.
More events like this are being planned by EyesOnTheRise.org in the upcoming months to increase the awareness about sea level rise and the consequences for residents of South Florida.
WATCH: Sea Level Rise Impacts In Upper East Side of Miami
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By Nolan Watts
As everyone can see, the world has undoubtedly changed in the past year or so.
From the Trump victory to Brexit to the resilience of right-wing parties in Europe, there remains a certain level of chaos in the world order.
There seems to be an aura of the past which we will never regain, for better or worse.
A space in time so close in a textbook but eons away from the society we inhabit today.
These sweeping changes to the status quo leave many of us asking, what’s next?
Lying ahead there must be some fundamental shift away from the political alignment of years past; a transformation that will reset our society after the obliteration of previous norms.
I’m not going to pretend that I know what type of realignment we can expect, nor am I advocating for any or all of those below.
Nonetheless, here are a few which I see, at least partially, as possible.
The first is the battle between big government and small government.
After a fiery American election cycle and two hotly contested primary challenges, the Democratic and Republican parties have taken a beating.
With civil strife bludgeoning both establishments we may see a revolt against the major parties and a new system of simple ideological differences emerging- not the traditional party labels being the great divide.
The new reality could be a more principled approach to worldviews instead of the patchwork we see in the main parties today.
A poll conducted in May of 2016 shows that only 13% Americans surveyed believe the two party system works, and 38% say it is “seriously broken”.
One would imagine a rise in those who consider themselves Independents would be in order if that many seem fed up with the current system.
On the contrary, according to Gallup poll results which accumulated over the course of 2016, registration among Independents is at a six-year low.
To further complicate this entanglement between and within both parties, Republicans and Democrats see this divide in vastly different ways, according to Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins who describe their investigation into this question in their book Asymmetric Politics: Ideology Republicans and Group Interest Democrats.
They wrote about their theory in the Washington Post:
“…the Republican Party defines itself in ideological terms as the vehicle of symbolic conservatism. The Democratic Party, in contrast, is organized as a social group coalition”.
However, their research finds that even Republican voters who consider themselves as having strong conservative principles depart from such “orthodoxy” on specific policy questions.
A more obvious example of this is in their support for then-candidate Donald Trump, someone who strays from ideological consistency much of the time.
For me, I see no clear direction for the conventional two-party system except to continue on in the confusing and muddied path it’s on now.
To suggest that an ideological realignment is likely to occur here, at least in American politics, would be inappropriate at this time.
The next is the continuation of the divide between the elites and everyone else.
In Europe and in America, disenchantment and the desire to throw out those in power are moving full speed ahead.
Concerns over immigration, political correctness, cultural ambiguity, and long-term economic prosperity are major factors in this anti-establishment wave the western world is currently riding.
People, on a large scale, no longer believe those in charge are inherently better at their jobs than people from completely outside of that system.
In comes the torch to burn it all down: voting.
This would be a different conversation if the United Kingdom had remained in the European Union and both candidacies of Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump had inevitably failed.
That would have put a scare into the old order but their influence would have braved the storm.
But they didn’t.
The anti-establishment movement has gained real power.
It could fail miserably, or it could provide the footing for this anger to wipe out every remaining piece of the old system for the near future.
Insert the electoral chances of right-wing parties in France, Germany, and the Netherlands — to name a few — and Europe then makes the Trump revolution look like a dress rehearsal.
Now, elections could forever be won by who we think hates the elite most, not policy differences.
We may, as many of us already do, watch press briefings and tally not the legislation being announced but the number of coded messages sent to the holders of power in Washington, New York, Brussels, and Paris.
A candidate’s success may be determined by how many CEOs, seasoned politicians, TV anchors, and university professors are forced to face those who feel forgotten on bended knee. Those isolated and cold from globalization in the Bible Belt, Rust Belt, and Stoke-on-Trent.
Recent events have shown us just how disconnected these people are.
They all told us none of these political movements would get off the ground, and we have seen very few self-reflections once they all realized they had been fooled by the very people they were supposed to understand.
As a 21-year old, this was the first time I saw this strong of a vilification of the politics-as-usual attitude.
These exchanges could be typical every few years as elections and referendums come around.
But for me, I can’t imagine these frustrations going away.
The battle lines may have forever been redrawn.
The final is the chasm between multiculturalism and assimilation.
This is the most politically charged of the realignments I see possible.
Multiculturalism is the existence and preservation of distinct cultures within a community or society-at-large.
Assimilation, on the other hand, is the adaptation and conforming of different groups into a unified culture in a given community.
As different groups have become scrambled together in the modern world, people are trying to decide which of these they believe is best for society.
An interesting phenomenon I noticed through the election cycle was the proud flying of other nation’s flags on the streets of America.
If you were to watch a nominal protest of then-candidate Donald Trump you would have seen Mexican flags next to Cuban flags slightly behind Palestinian flags, all whose holders desire a more multicultural society.
Many view this as a beautiful sign of toleration.
However, many others view this as one more stratification of American society.
Instead of coalescing under one banner, we all have different ones that make us take yet another step away from our neighbors.
The situation in Europe is slightly different than the one in America.
As a steady flow of migrants and asylum seekers from terror-stricken, war-torn areas of Africa and the Middle East have continued throughout 2016, this question revolves around the rapid changes to European culture and identity.
As the majority of refugees flee Muslim-majority nations, some European governments have welcomed them.
However, many Europeans are pessimistic about these changes.
Pew Research can help us understand this.
In a survey of 9 out of 10 European nations, at least half of individuals believe that Muslims want to maintain a “distinct” culture and not integrate into the customs of their new European communities.
A separate report shows that a majority of Europeans surveyed believe refugees increase the likelihood of terrorism, and no more than 4 out of 10 citizens in any EU country feel an increase in diversity is good for their country, compared to 58% of Americans who think diversity makes the U.S. a better place to live.
In Greece and Italy, a majority of citizens feel more diversity makes their country worse off.
Issues such as gender equality, acceptance of homosexuality, and secularism are a few instances where the two cultures just do not see eye to eye.
Right-wing European parties have become the vehicle for these frustrations.
Marine Le Pen, the head of the French National Front Party, is leading in the polls (as of the time of my writing this) to win the first round of the French Presidential race.
She also has more support from those aged 18-34 than any other candidate in France, which may come as a surprise to many.
The central issues which run through these populist, right-wing parties are immigration and a distaste for international agreements that reduce national sovereignty.
Many are calling for a total shutdown of Muslim immigration, something that an average of 55% of Europeans surveyed agree with, and making a Brexit-like move from the EU or other foreign obligations.
The multicultural attitude Europe is known for is being challenged strongly on many fronts.
As popular movements are seemingly rejecting the openness the continent has historically praised, the concept of assimilation seems to be a dire turn many are hoping to see.
As hordes of people around the globe chant for multiculturalism, for the elimination of border walls and even, in some cases, for the abolition of sovereign states completely, there is a powerful camp that believes different cultural groups living together is an ideal scenario.
On the other hand, there are millions of individuals who see a lack of a unified culture as a ticking-time bomb for social strife. People who feel the palpable modifications to their culture too large of a pill to swallow.
This possible realignment would be ugly, it would be a knock-down drag-out brawl of the most nativist sort, but it is undoubtedly an element that drove many to the polls in recent history.
In the end, no one really knows what will arise from this grinder the western political system has been thrown in.
Anyone that suggests they know for a certainty should be viewed with some degree of skepticism.
The possibilities I have just laid out are merely avenues our society may take as we move forward.
And only one thing is certain, whether we like it or not- we will experience this together.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.
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Australia will get its fourth prime minister in three years after a shocking late night vote ended the rule of Tony Abbott as leader of the governing center-right Liberal Party.
According to the BBC, Abbott will be replaced as Prime Minister by the more moderate Malcolm Turnbull.
Turnbull defeated Abbott 54 votes to 44 in a party room vote.
Turnbull will become prime minister after Abbott sends his resignation letter to the governor-general.
In a statement made earlier in the day, Turnbull made clear his intentions to challenge Abbott.
“Now this is not a decision that anyone could take lightly. I have consulted with many, many colleagues; many Australians; many of our supporters, in every walk of life. And this course of action has been urged on me by many people over a long period of time,” Turnbull said. “It is clear enough that the Government is not successful in providing the economic leadership that we need. It is not the fault of individual ministers, ultimately the Prime Minister has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs; he has not been capable of providing the economic confidence that business needs.”
Abbott seemed flat-footed in his response to the snap leadership election, as many in his team did not even acknowledge it would happen until hours before the final vote took place.
Abbott has been prime minister since 2013.
WATCH: Malcolm Turnbull speaks after winning Liberal Leadership Snap election.
A Tweet sent earlier in the day on September 14 showed how unprepared Abbott was for the vote:
Getting on with the job of delivering the Northern Connector in Adelaide – more jobs & less congestion on SA roads pic.twitter.com/DHnBMigSs1
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) September 14, 2015
Turnbull is more progressive than Abbott and many others in the Liberal Party. He supports gay marriage, believes in the existence of climate change.
Al Gore, the former Vice President of the United States and Democratic Party candidate for President in 2000 seemed to celebrate the change of Australian leadership in a Tweet.
New PM offers fresh opportunity for Australia to stand beside the US and China in a leadership position going into #COP21
— Al Gore (@algore) September 14, 2015
Some in the Australian press are having fun with the situation. The right leaning Herald Sun had to change their front page after the results were announced.
Even Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson signaled his support for Turnbull after the vote.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) September 14, 2015
This is a developing story. We will update this story as more information becomes available. Cover Photo Credit: Clare Wilkinson/Flickr (CC By 2.0)Post Views: 335
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By Mark Kaire
The I-95 Express lanes are literally deadly. Ineffective “delineators” — those flimsy orange plastic poles you see falling down like so many pins on a bowling lane — invite collision and abuse. They are obstructive more than instructive, and they do little to divide high-speed traffic from cars driving at more normal speeds.
As a result, Miami now faces a new phenomenon known as lane diving, in which drivers weave between express lanes and regular lanes as though there isn’t any difference in them at all.
It’s a dangerous habit, but one that has become commonplace — all on Miami leaders’ watch. Real people are suffering real injuries. I’ve seen it first-hand. My firm has represented some of these people. These are your neighbors. They could be your family members. They could be you. And all because Miami-Dade County rushed into an Interstate “improvement” project it wasn’t ready for.
The intentions were undoubtedly noble. The state needs revenue. Drivers want to get where they’re going quickly. One might reasonably argue that the fast traffic ought to be divided from the slow and assessed a fee for the privilege of efficiency. But when priorities are ranked, money and speed should never surpass safety. And moreover, if the goal is to divide traffic, division ought to be a keyword.
The I-95 Express lanes in Miami do not provide adequate division, nor have they advanced safety. On the contrary, they’ve introduced a new danger in our community, and our commuters’ lives are at stake.
It’s time to admit that, however, worthwhile the original aspirations might have been, the project hasn’t worked. And now it’s time to fix it.
It’s time for Miami and the State of Florida to own up to its error. It’s time to admit that, however, worthwhile the original aspirations might have been, the project hasn’t worked. And now it’s time to fix it.
I’d like to demonstrate just how dangerous the problem has become by looking at actual numbers. Consider the following, keeping in mind that these all pertain to just a short stretch of road right here in Miami (about 13 miles):
- In 2014 alone, state troopers made more than 150 arrests for lane diving. That is an especially compelling number when you consider that, by their own admission, officers are increasingly reluctant to enforce the laws on I-95 because the traffic conditions are so dangerous there. They fear for their own lives. It is likely, then, that these 150 arrests represent only a very small portion of the amount of lane diving that actually occurs.
- There have been more than 17,500 crashes on this specific stretch of I-95 between 2005 and 2014. That is an astounding total. No 13 miles of asphalt should be that dangerous.
- The total number of crashes that have occurred on this section of I-95 has increased over 50% in the past eight years.
- At least four people have died as a result of lane diving in Miami during just the last few years. Even more have been injured.
- Crashes are most likely to occur during peak traffic periods (i.e. southbound in the morning rush hours and northbound in the evening rush hours).
- Fatal crashes are most likely to occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and are more common when traveling southbound.
- Serious injuries happen at all times of the day, with incapacitating injuries evenly distributed across the 24-hour driving period.
- Road crews replace 11% to 15% of the plastic delineators on I-95 every single week. That’s how often cars hit them.
- Each delineator is replaced between 6 and 8 times per year, on average.
- When the Express lanes were installed, the average shoulder width shrank by 40%. As WLRN reports, the shoulder along I-95 in Miami is now 7 feet, 11 inches on average (about the size of a single parking space).
Why the I-95 Express Lanes Are Dangerous
Before going further, it’s important to understand exactly why these lanes are dangerous. It isn’t just that they’re fast. Speed is indeed dangerous, but it isn’t the sole source of the problem.
The Express Lane situation is more complicated than that. A number of factors converge to create the danger here, and we can begin with the delineators themselves.
Lightweight as they are, the delineators still stand as obstructions to traffic. Every time a car hits one of these in-the-way wobblers, there is an increased likelihood that the driver will be distracted by the collision and/or lose control of his or her car, thus raising the risk for subsequent or multi-vehicle collision.
The simple fact is that the delineators make it more difficult to drive down I-95. Difficult driving isn’t anyone’s objective, so why did we pursue it?
Drivers have historically shown little patience for obstacles, and many simply ignore them. Figuring that they can easily zip between the delineators with little risk of real damage to their own vehicles, many of Miami’s drivers — already known for an occasional proclivity toward recklessness — now pick the lane that suits their interests best in the moment.
“If I see a line at a grocery station that’s faster than the one I’m in, I’m liable to jump over there,” expert traffic analyst Scott Cooner recently told Miami’s WLRN. That same instinct kicks in on I-95.
To be clear: the standard and Express lanes are not intended to be interchangeable. Drivers aren’t supposed to hop between them. But with very little to prevent them from doing so, drivers do it anyway.
The problem with such “lane diving” is that higher-speed traffic is suddenly entering into slower-speed traffic without warning, and vice-versa. Different speeds don’t mix well, and sudden changes in acceleration often lead to unexpected impacts.
Without a Shoulder, Drivers Can’t Shrug Off Their Mistakes
Adding insult to injury (or, as the case may well be here, adding injury to injury), the diminished shoulder width on the Express Lanes leaves little room for error. So not only is driver error more likely on these roads but there is also a small margin for correcting those errors before they cause a crash.
The shoulder size poses other dangers too. Police officers say the small shoulder is the biggest reason they avoid enforcing the laws on I-95. They simply don’t have a safe space for pulling people over anymore.
Pedestrians are vulnerable too.
On March 5, 2011, five people were killed on the shoulder of an I-95 Express lane. They were standing on the side of the road after a series of accidents had forced them out of their cars. Then another vehicle — this one with a drunk driver behind the wheel — entered the Express lane and veered off course, killing all five. It was Miami-Dade County’s deadliest I-95 accident in a decade. And while the drunk driver is to blame, those bystanders might not have been in such peril had the Interstate not been so poorly redesigned.
The Proof Is in the Price Tag
The delineators aren’t just dangerous. They’re expensive too. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) spends more than $1 million on replacing delineators that have been damaged or destroyed by vehicle impact every year.
If you need a sign that something isn’t working, a million-dollar annual repair budget is it. And again, we’re talking about a cumulative total of 13 miles here. That comes to about $77,000 in annual delineator repair-and-replace costs for every mile.
It’s Time for Change
It is not permissible for our leaders to recognize a dangerous condition and then simply do nothing about it.
We here at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC hold irresponsible parties to a basic duty of care every single day — hospitals, storeowners, insurance companies, vehicle and drug manufacturers, and more. We expect the same kind of care from the people who have a responsibility to keep our roads safe.
Our firm has called on county and state leaders to take immediate action to rectify the dangerous situation on Miami’s I-95 Express Lanes. We only hope that more people won’t have to lose their lives before we see real change.
Take a minute to sign our petition for Florida representatives to step up and fix the failed, deadly, and costly I-95 Express Lane.
Mark Kaire is a personal injury lawyer in Miami and a cofounder of Kaire & Heffernan, LLC.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place.
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