Teen Activists Unite in Fight Against Climate Change

The Miami Youth Climate Summit was held at the Prep on Sunday, featuring distinguished guest speakers and calls to action.


Sara Gelrud

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks at the Miami Youth Climate Summit, held in the gym on Sunday.

Sara Gelrud, Contributing Writer

On Sunday, the fourth annual Miami Youth Climate Summit took place. 548 high school students attended the event in total, 270 of which attended in-person at the Prep, with the remaining 278 attendees joining virtually. Attendees were united against a crisis that has been plaguing the planet: climate change.

It is without a doubt that climate change is one of the most pressing matters in the world right now, the effects of which are present in Miami. Rising sea levels, catastrophic hurricanes, and the fish kill of Biscayne Bay are just some of the many impacts the city has faced in recent years. The effects of climate change have been felt so heavily that the City of Miami declared a climate emergency in Nov. 2019.

The summit was composed of a series of breakout sessions which attendees could choose from. Sessions included a variety of topics, all of which connected to climate change and nature.

Remarks by the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava, spoke at the summit, acknowledging the importance of climate mitigation as well as the threat climate change poses to Miami.

“They say that leaders need to tell the truth, but also give hope. And we know that we have huge challenges here on the environmental front. We’re ground zero for sea level rise, extreme weather events, our water system is at risk, our bay, we’ve seen it at risk as well,” she said.

John Morales, the Chief Meteorologist of Channel 6 News for South Florida, gives a lecture in the Shah Family Library & Media Center about climate change and meteorology. (Sara Gelrud)

She left attendees with a call to action: “There’s so much to be done and your activism really does make a difference. You are the ones that will push the elected leaders to make a change,” she said. 

Chief Heat Officer of Miami-Dade County, Jane Gilbert, was one of the Summit’s keynote speakers. Gilbert spoke about the dangers of the rising heat levels climate change is causing and what she plans to do to reduce the risk of heat related illnesses.

“The level of awareness raised will reduce heat related illnesses and deaths. And just getting people’s awareness on it. There is no current regulation for outdoor workers. We don’t have the policy yet but we’re working towards that. I think preparing our disaster volunteers with training for how to respond to heat is another thing that I think has been very effective,” she said.

Mayor Levine Cava and Gilbert weren’t the only notable speakers at this event. One of the most popular sessions was a lecture by Ron Magill, wildlife expert and photographer and the Communications Director of Zoo Miami.

Magill discussed his passion project called Cheetah Ambassador in which he connects people with wild animals. Magill also spoke about his mission for Zoo Miami as a conservation project, rather than an entertainment source.

“Zoos provide important windows into the world that many of us don’t get to see. If the zoo is the last place that you can see the animals, then zoos have failed,” he said. “I would not be working at the zoo if it was just an attraction.”

Another popular lecture was by John Morales, the Chief Meteorologist of Channel 6 News for South Florida.

Morales used his expertise on South Florida’s weather to speak about climate adaptation. He placed a large emphasis on the fact that in order to enact meaningful change, reforms from higher institutions such as governments or whole countries united against climate change are needed. 

For those who are looking to create such changes, Morales advised to “be an active voter. Not everything is baked in and we can still salvage what is still out there.”

Morales also talked about his experience as a meteorologist who must deal with climate change deniers in the media.

“It’s funny. You deal with it one way on TV and you deal with it another way on social media. Sometimes I cast some shade. I almost troll some of the people,” he said as the audience laughed with him. Morales spoke of a time he displayed temperature maps on his local news segment in response to former president Donald Trump’s claims that cold weather proved climate change as a hoax.

The Miami Youth Climate Summit is organized yearly by a board of students from schools across Miami-Dade County. Applications to join the board open yearly and a new wave of climate activists emerge, striving to educate the community about climate change.