With climate change at the forefront of politics, UM students have a solution

Students speaking on solutions to climate gentrification pose for a photo following a presentation. Photo credit: Contributed photo

Seven students spent the spring semester learning to put aside their differences and create a bipartisan solution for climate change to present to South Florida politicians last Sunday night at the Newman Alumni Center.

The Civic Synergy Deliberation Program is a partnership between the Hanley Democracy Center and Civic Synergy, an organization started by three MIT students looking to bridge the political divide.

It takes a select group of student applicants from diverse socioeconomic, geographical and political backgrounds, and throughout the six weeks of the program, tasks them with learning to deliberate, find common ground and ultimately create a policy proposal to benefit Miami-Dade County.

This year the topic was combating climate change. West Miami Mayor Eric Diaz Padron; former U.S. representative for Florida’s 26th district Carlos Curbelo; South Miami Vice Mayor Lisa Bonich; WLRN correspondent and University of Miami professor Tom Hudson; and UM professor of political science and Elizabeth B. White Endowed Chair Dr. Raymond Orr witnessed as seven of the University’s brightest presented their civic policy proposals.

Two teams of students worked together to craft a proposal to combat the ever-growing problem of climate change in Miami-Dade County.

The first proposed policy focused on minimizing climate gentrification, which is when individuals earning high incomes move to lower-income areas due to flooding and other problems caused by climate change.

The team consisted of Trenton Campbell, a freshman majoring in political science and public administration; Atha Pol, a senior majoring in political science and international studies; and Sofia Avila Delgado, a junior majoring in political science.

This problem is common in Miami, as higher-earning individuals are beginning to move inland due to flooding concerns caused by climate change. This increases the property value in the area making it difficult for lower-income residents to continue to pay their increasing taxes.

Their solution to this issue is to fund climate education programs at career and technical education (CTE) and trade schools throughout the Miami area. Most of these schools contain a high percentage of lower-income students, therefore the implementation of climate education into their trade programs would prepare them for the changing job market.

The second proposed policy was to create a public partnership between the Miami-Dade County government and climate organizations in the local area.

The team included Madison Graham, a freshman majoring in political science; Matthew Adelman, a junior majoring in political science; Emanuel Clemente, a senior majoring in psychology and political science; and Naomi Castellanos, a sophomore majoring in political science.

They want to create employability programs with climate-sustainable businesses and organizations committed to combating climate change.

These programs, which would be set up and hopefully funded by the Miami-Dade County government, would offer students internships teaching them how to work in sustainable business.

Sustainable businesses would become more prevalent in the economy as they gain more capable employees and, hopefully, this growth would reduce the effects of climate change.

Following the presentations, judges questioned where the funding for both of these programs would come from, and on top of that, were looking for more concrete solutions to mitigate climate change right now.

“In working together, these highly unique and diverse groups of students come to realize that the partisanship we’ve been taught is a cornerstone of American politics is far easier to overcome than we think,” Emily Danzinger, the student program director for Civic Synergy, said. “And, in doing so, they realize they can have a far greater impact on the political process than they once thought.”

Danzinger is a junior majoring in political science, international studies and communication studies and had the idea to partner the two organizations after completing a Spring 2022 program with Civic Synergy and learning about the creation of the Hanley Democracy Center.

Danzinger is now in her third semester directing the program in partnership with Hanley Democracy Center Director and UM political science professor Greg Kroger.

The two have worked to start this program from the beginning of the Hanley Democracy Center in early 2023 and they couldn’t be more satisfied with the results.

“It is such an incredible experience to watch as these groups come in on week one, not knowing anything about the other,” said Danzinger. “They then work together over a relatively short period of time to come up with such well-encompassed and multivariate policy proposals that appeal to so many different facets of American society.”