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Antarctic Melting Prompts South Miami to Secede

Jan Lee headshotWords by Jan Lee
Leadership & Transparency

It’s official, folks: The Antarctic polar ice cap is melting faster. After years of debate, scientists have confirmed that within the next couple of hundred years, coastal cities across the world will see a dramatic change to their beachfront with a sea level rise up to 10 feet.

And nowhere in the U.S. is this change liable to be more evident than on the flat, semi-tropical shorelines of Florida, where cities were literally built to the water’s edge, taking advantage of the state’s flat-as-a-pancake vistas.

Not surprisingly, one small city in South Florida isn’t happy with this news. The city of South Miami, a comfortably residential area that has recently been deluged by flooding from hurricanes, has developed a climate change strategy.

It plans to secede from the state of Florida.

Or at least it hopes to. Earlier this month, the city council of South Miami passed a resolution that advocates for “the legal separation of Florida into two separate states,” and for the creation of a 51st state that would be called ‘South Florida.’ It plans to circulate the resolution with the other 23 counties in its proposed state to see if it can gain support. The petition then goes to Tallahassee and Congress for -- unlikely -- consideration.

If it did go through, the dividing line would sit just north of the state’s most lucrative and populous counties. It would also effectively lop off Tallahassee’s fiduciary relationship to:

  • Tampa and St. Petersburg ports

  • Disney World

  • The Florida Keys

  • Miami Dolphins

Losing the Keys may just be a matter of sooner than later given scientists’ new projections for Florida’s southern coastline. But Disney World would certainly be a financial hit for Tallahassee. Revenues for the amusement park topped $2 billion in first nine months of 2013.

The same impact could be said for the Tampa Bay area, which includes the state’s largest port and the country’s 16th busiest. The foreshortened state of Florida would get none of the taxes from the four cruise lines that stop in Tampa’s harbor. It would also miss out on being able to call St. Pete "Da 'Berg" of Florida.

And while the Miami Dolphins didn’t pull top ranking this year (far from it at No. 18), losing the popular football team could be devastating for a state where the survival of bottlenose dolphins post-BP spill is less talked about than the outcome of the next Miami Dolphins game.

But according to South Miami’s city council, revenues aren’t at the heart of this resolution. Climate is. Climate and a sinking feeling that legislators in Florida’s sunny Panhandle as Mayor Philip Stoddard put it, “would just love to saw the state in half and just let us float off into the Caribbean.”

Admittedly, having lived for four years in Southern Florida, I can see where he is coming from. There’s a gulf at times between the sunny flatlands of the state’s Panhandle, where business is efficiently decided and the lush, green tropics of the south where the money is made (or spent, depending upon that year’s hurricane season).

But Tallahassee’s intransigence concerning climate change is really no surprise. After all, it’s been driven, to a large degree by the same build-or-bust focus that has settled places like Miami and Tampa, cleared vast tracks of the tropics, created more than 80 industrial Superfund sites across the state and led to the very dilemma being debated today. And in fact, is still being debated in the continuing boom of Miami Beach where storm damage from hurricanes and rising tidewaters haven’t dampened the appetite for new coastline construction.

But will drawing an invisible line between the two regions help?

Apparently, yes. South Miami has managed to join forces with several other communities in the area and has created a task force with a fit-one-fit-all Regional Climate Action Plan. The message is clear: If the state capitol won’t lead, those in jeopardy of losing their cities to flooding and global warming, will.

Climate change debates or no, it’s a message that Governor Rick Scott, who is currently tied in the polls for next month’s elections, will probably hear loud and clear.

Image of glaciers outside of Patagonia, Chile: Dimitry B.

Image of flooded South Miami: Maxtrz

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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