Storytelling

October 11, 2022
By: Barbara Martinez-Guerrero

Welcome to Miami - The Everglades, Sun, Surf, and Climate Change

Welcome to Miami - The Everglades, Sun, Surf, and Climate Change - Photo

Growing up in South Florida, my brother and I were always immersed in nature, bike riding around our neighborhood that was less than a mile from the Everglades.

That gave us a chance to go canoeing and hiking, exploring different paths and on the lookout for alligators and snakes! We were also very lucky to go each weekend to the beach that was just 30 minutes away. I can still feel the cool breeze and the hot sand as we spent hours looking out into the various shades of green and blue of the waves and horizon. These experiences with our beautiful environment shaped the way I look at the world. I always found myself at peace climbing a tree or laying out on the grass imagining adventures in the clouds above. I learned how to watch for the beauty all around me and the amazing surprises that you experience when you slow down and explore. I never thought that what I experienced would one day not be around, that my children would not get a chance to do the things that I remember so fondly. 

Now, when visiting the places that my brother and I would go, all I see is concrete houses with manicured lawns and palm trees that make these places look detached from the natural environment I remember. It makes me feel like we are trying so hard to erase the “chaos” of the Everglades because it gives us control. 

In fact, over the last 100 years, the Everglades have shrunk to less than half their original size as agricultural and residential development in the region expands.

The process has been further accelerated over the last 30 years by the growth of the sugar industry and skyrocketing development of Florida’s east coast. As I grew older and have seen how time and time again our expansion has taken more, it has made me not only a conservationist, but an advocate for our planet. Learning about how locally we put profit and “progress” over people and environment led me to what I do today.

My experiences as a teacher for 12 years has shown me that we don’t value nature-based education and that our children don’t have the environmental literacy to understand why it is important to fight for our planet. Children, both my own and all the students that I have taught, show me why it is important to call attention to issues that can drastically change our future. Those beaches I went to as a child are now polluted and we have to check each time if they are safe enough to visit. Those trails and trees where I found myself are gone and have been replaced by plastic or concrete structures that separate us more and more from nature. I believe in solving climate change and educating others on not only our local issues like extreme heat, natural habitat degradation, and pollution, but on national and international issues too. We must ensure that we give back to nature what it has given us — beauty, diversity, and life.

Barbara is one of Climate Generation’s Window Into COP delegates for COP27. To learn more, we encourage you to meet the full delegation and subscribe to the Window Into COP digest. You can support our delegates at COP27 with a financial gift today!

Barbara Martinez-Guerrero

Barbara grew up in south Florida and attended FIU in Miami to obtain her undergraduate degree in elementary education with a focus on TESOL. She is a returned Peace Corps volunteer, having spent two years teaching English as a foreign/second language in a high school in eastern Europe. She was a classroom teacher for 10 years teaching both in Miami public schools and New York City public schools. She earned her Master’s at Teachers College, Columbia University for International Educational Development with a focus on Peace Education and Conflict Resolution. She began her informal educator experience through Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s environmental education outreach program where she integrated sustainability and conservation lessons to teachers and students. Currently, she is the Executive Director of Dream in Green, a grass-roots non-profit in Miami that focuses on environmental education with a mission to empower individuals to tackle environmental issues and climate change locally.