Climate Change: A Local Perspective from the Florida Keys and some of the Women Leading the Response

Climate Change: A Local Perspective from the Florida Keys and some of the Women Leading the Response

During the 1800’s coal powered, fossil fuel consuming industries gained an increasing presence in the economies of both England and the United States. The slave laborers of the Americas produced raw materials like sugar cane and cotton, which were sent to England to be processed, refined, and manufactured into goods in the coal powered factories. Coal powered transportation then distributed those goods throughout the British Empire and the United States. Slave labor was also used to mine the coal for the newly developing factories.

The tremendous growth of commerce and production through the coal-powered economy marks what is referred to as the ‘Industrial Revolution’ and is often considered as a starting point for measuring the impacts of climate change.

We know from our Key West history that around this time, Key West became home to Africans who had been held as captive slaves on the last slave ships to pass through U.S. waters. Many of those persons died and were buried here on the island. We also know that around this same time the U.S. Navy began to collect tidal data, monitoring high and low tides at its Key West Tidal Station. That data shows a change over the last one hundred years of approximately .35 meters, or 35 centimeters, or 13.8 inches in the level the sea reaches at high and low tides. For homes, yards, government facilities, roads, and other infrastructure built before the levels reached these heights, this means greater risk of flooding and more vulnerability to the risk of flood. As we have seen in Upper Keys’ neighborhoods, parts of Big Pine Key, and areas of Old Town, floods now come without rain, on otherwise dry days, due to extreme high tides and a higher sea level.
Sea Level Tidal Measurements at Key West 1910-2020

Sea level is only one impact of climate change. Increasing global temperature rise is directly linked as a cause of sea level rise. Our hotter planet, means warmer oceans, and warmer water expands. Additionally, warmer temperatures on land and sea are causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt, further expanding the seas as glacial ice the size of small states become fluid water.

This period since the Industrial Revolution has become known as the ‘Anthropocene’. ‘Anthro’, meaning ‘man or human’, the term is used to indicate that ‘humans’, and our activities, are the most dominant forces influencing life on earth.

In light of this awareness, South Floridians from all walks of life have responded and are responding to the impacts of climate change, impacts to businesses, to homes, to our health, and to the future of our communities.

In 2009 the four governments of Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties organized the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact. They have since taken on an extensive list of partners to assess, identify, and address the impacts of climate change in Southeast Florida. The Compact recognized early on that climate change does not recognize jurisdictions and that the response of one government was only valid if it was aligned with the responses of the others. Collaboratively they host workshops, an annual summit, planning forums, and research projects. They have developed a website and a working document known as the Regional Climate Action Plan. You can learn more at the website The Compact strives to address equity issues and to create targeted and tailored response to the concerns and issues facing South Floridians in their day to day lives and in the future.

Monroe County, Florida’s government, like its partner governments, created a new office based on the work of the Regional Compact. Since 2012, Rhonda Haag has served as the Sustainability Manager and Chief Resilience Officer for Monroe County. She has developed the County’s Green Keys Sustainability Action Plan, which can be found at her website Rhonda is currently working on a project to raise certain County roads and elevate them above the floodplain.

The County and the local municipalities partner closely with the University of Florida Extension Service, whose Key West office is located on the second floor of the Gato building. The
Extension Service is present in all of Florida’s Counties. They support understanding plant and soil issues, native and edible gardening and landscaping, adaptations to sea level rise, and other programs to support positive environmental relationships for Florida residents.

The City of Key West also has a Sustainability Coordinator and an Energy Manager, both of whom work to reduce heat-producing greenhouse gas emissions and to support the adaptation of our City’s infrastructure to higher seas, hotter temperatures, and increasing extreme weather trends.

The Key West Sustainability Office ( and the Extension Service ( are female-led. Alison Higgins of the City of Key West and Alicia Betancourt of the Extension Service, like Rhonda Haag, have been instrumental in the successes of the Regional Compact and in making local voices heard in the climate change response. Alison maintains a local Sustainability Board comprised of community residents, which provides information and recommendations to the City Commissioners. Alicia served for more than a decade as the staff liaison to the Monroe County Board of County Commissioner’s Climate Change Advisory Committee which provided similar input to the Board of Commissioners. This Committee was sunsetted in 2020 and at the time, it too had a female Chair and Vice-Chair, Vicki Boguszewski and Lisa Kaul, respectively.

Women were instrumental in the formation of the Compact and each of the Compact partners has strong female leadership; however, two individuals stand out in making the work of the Compact more equitable and relevant to South Florida citizens. Those individuals are Caroline Lewis, the founder of the CLEO Institute (Climate Leadership Education and Outreach and Dr. Cheryl Holder of Florida International University and the Florida Clinicians for Climate Action (

Dr. Holder’s work has focused extensively on the health impacts of extreme heat. She is part of a team that advocates for legal-medical partnerships to protect citizens form the health impacts of climate change through policy and legislative efforts, but also with simple things like letters from doctors to landlords advocating for air conditioning repairs to deal with heat or window screens to protect mosquito spread diseases like dengue. Extreme heat is noted to worsen kidney disease and respiratory disease. It has also been linked to low birth weights and pre-term deliveries in pregnant women. Poverty, access to care, and other social influences have been shown to disproportionately impact people of color. This further increases the vulnerability of people of color to the impact of climate change and their ability to respond to those impacts.

CLEO offers education for all levels of leaders and activists. We can all take small steps to reduce our contribution to the factors causing climate change by reducing our use of fossil fuels, like gasoline, by driving less or driving electric vehicles, voting to reduce or eliminate coal and nuclear-powered electricity in favor of increasing solar powered electricity, eliminating single use plastics by carrying our own cloth shopping bags or having a reusable/refillable water bottle.

Additionally, animal husbandry for meat production and our commercial agricultural system make large negative contributions to health of our planet and the methane gas produced in is one of the greatest contributors to increased global temperatures. For this reason, switching to a plant-based diet one or more days per week is considered one of best ways an individual can reduce the negative impacts of lifestyle on climate change.

Investments in low-flow plumbing, LED lighting, cisterns, and solar hot water heaters serve to reduce utility bills and lower the negative impacts of home energy consumption. Investing your 401k in climate smart businesses and devesting retirement funds from fossil fuel companies or corporations with poor environmental records are also proactive steps an individual can take. When investing, consider a company’s ESG score (environment, social, and governance) which looks at the impact of a company on people and planet, as well as profit.

Lastly, communicate your ideas and your concerns in your local neighborhood and to your local representatives. Consider taking a seat at the planning table or joining a workshop to determine what resiliency will look like for you and your neighbors. Follow the work of South Florida women like Valencia Gunder who calls for community driven, neighborhood-based solutions, Delaney Reynolds who is among a group of Florida Youth filing lawsuits against the government for not protecting the health of the future, or Ciera Cox, a Coral Shores High School graduate who currently represents local youth in a global climate action forum.

As Pope Francis notes, the Earth is the common home of the human family. Each of us has a role to play in sustaining it for the next generation and part of that is knowing what is happening locally and determining how we will respond.

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Community Based Participatory Research: an Approach to community engagement

According to the IOM 2003 report “Who Will Keep the Public Healthy? Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century”, there are areas, in addition to the traditional core areas of public health, where education and learning must be focused to develop effective leadership within the profession. These areas are considered ‘new’ and are considered ‘additions’ to the currently defined core. Each of these areas has a place within the core and overlaps of understanding exist between the traditional and new core areas. Of these areas:

“Informatics, genomics, communication, cultural competence, community-based participatory research, policy and law, global health, and ethics” (IOM, 2003, 1-2); community-based participatory research (CBPR) has the greatest relevance to 21st century public health and public health leadership and workforce development.

Community based participatory research engages community members as key shareholders in the health improvement and the health improvement planning processes. The focus of this approach to public health and population health planning is on the capacity of the community to define and assess strengths as well as needs. Research participants and methods are derived directly from community input. Action and program planning is strategically based on achieving common goals and direct shareholder involvement is encouraged. Community based participatory research addresses concerns from within the existing community infrastructure based on community priorities and capacity. This approach emphasizes the input of individuals and organizations from within the community and de-emphasizes the role of the ‘expert’. The public health professional engages directly with the community to assist in the assessment of the priorities of the community and in guidance toward appropriate approaches to addressing the priority concerns. There is a greater control from within the community over what is researched, as well as how research is conducted within the community, through the members’ direct involvement and participation in the process of planning and design, implementation, and evaluation, “the study of clinical interventions can most usually be achieved by recruitment of consenting patients or subjects, interventions at the community level require an altogether different paradigm, in which investigators and the community or population to be studied are partners” (11). 

Community Based Participatory research is the evolutionary result of the ecological model of public health. It is developed based on the concepts of the layers of influence or determinants of the ecological model and its recognition that these layers of determinants overlap in their influence and are part of an iterative, non-linear process of understanding. The processes of CBPR strive to guide to engage participants to improve applicability of results. Cultural competence is a significant part of CBPR, as professionals will need to be sensitive to the culture of the community with whom they engage, and though this is not new, in the future it will be more significant because professional have recognized the effectiveness and efficiency of drawing from within for success, rather than trying to impose an externally defined model of success. I champion this process and am drawn to it because of my background in cultural anthropology, strong personal commitment to positive empowerment, and belief that communities thrive through this methodology of working from within; making public health from the perspective more relevant to the human family in the 21st century.

In the future of public health education, it is suggested that “Specialty certification attests to skills beyond the legal minimums that apply to a limited set of patients (e.g., pediatrics), conditions (e.g., infectious diseases), or interventions (e.g., anesthesia) . . . Therefore, the committee recommends the development of a voluntary certification of competence in the ecological approach to public health as a mechanism for encouraging the development of new M.P.H. graduates”(8). As a working professional, voluntary certification is something I would pursue, could I do so under professional supervision combined with distance learning, in order that I could for all practical purposes, engage with the community of interest (normally, the one in which I live).

Calling for, “vastly expanded practice rotations; and enhanced education for competence in specific careers (e.g., biostatistician or health care administrator)” (11) the committee’s report speaks to me directly as an online graduate student in an isolated community. My practicum experience provided excellent networking opportunities and a valuable overview of the local public health system, at the end of my studies. It would have greatly enhanced my experience to have been able to work through a series of practicums or ‘rotations’ as is suggested. However, development of infrastructure for public health leadership development through FIU in my community can be strengthened. When selecting a practicum site in Key West, I had limited choices of a preceptor because there are very few MPH’s here. Moreover, some of the health professionals with whom I spoke were interested in ‘doing something like that’ but ‘would not know where to begin’. Perhaps expanded training to professionals through institutes of higher learning specifically geared toward developing professional mentoring techniques and increasing the frequency of supervised experiences in the educational process would improve leadership, increase opportunities, and meet the following: “The committee recommends a significant expansion of supervised practice opportunities and sites (e.g., community-based public health programs, delivery systems, and health agencies). Such field work must be organized and supervised by faculty who have appropriate practical experience” (11).

Hinchcliffe, S., Jackson, M., Wyatt, K., Barlow, A., Barreto, M., Clare, L., Depledge, M., Durie, R., Fleming, L., Groom, N., Morrissey, K., Salisbury, L., and Thoman, F., (2018). Healthy publics: enabling cultures and environments for health.

DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0113-9

Institute of Medicine. 2003. Who Will Keep the Public Healthy?: Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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The National Football League (NFL) is not the usual fodder for Yogi In Ya blogs, but on this occasion, the league is wholly symbolic of the Yogi In Ya. The League has both ostracized and embraced an element of its ‘self’; that element, a single individual, now stands for it, outside of it, and embraced by it. The League is now the ego, taking a stand for the ego, to legitimately step aside, or take a knee, in order to honor truth.

“Believe in something. Even it means sacrificing everything.”

You may find that the sacrifice removes all obstacles to your belief manifesting.

The NFL represents and honors the power of self-determination and the strength of the collective will.

As do all athletics at this level.

As a culture we honor the best in the best in our Soldiers- the military elite, in our Artists, in our Students and Intellectuals, Scientists and Servants of the Common Good. In the NFL, in top level professional athletics in the United States, we honor our athletes, not just their bodies, but their wills, their intellects, their drive, conviction, and commitment to excellence.

Colin Kaepernick is the embodiment of the power of self-determination and the strength of the collective will.

Nike may be able to glean some operational lessons from its campaign model and the future he represents for culture in our global world.

Yogi In Ya applauds Nike’s choice to honor Colin Kaepernick as this iconic symbol of the potential locked into the power of self-determination and the strength of  the collective will.

Nike 30th Anniversary Ad: Dream Crazy

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Yogic Path

Self-Discipline: Dharna

Moral Observation: Yama

Devotion: Niyamapast present future

Meditation: Dhyana

Sensory Inhibition: Pratyahara

Breath Control: Prana

Posture: Asana

Ecstasy: Samadhi


The path is iterative, not linear, the steps are your own and are not in a sequential order, full of significant, random, and non-random content. My Teacher says, one must have a Teacher; not everything can be self-taught, but each is her or his own first student.


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“Yoga & World Peace” The 10th Annual Yoga Research Society Conference, Philadelphia October 19, 20, 21, 1984

Patch Adams at the Yoga Research Society Conference, 1984

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Treasure in South Florida

Going forward into a new year, I strengthen my commitment to ya, Yogi.


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When one door is closed many more are opened…

full profileFor many, the road to healing and personal empowerment, is arduously wrought with habits which bind us to a self who is restrained from fulfillment.

In order for us to break those habits and acquire new skills and tools for negotiating happiness in our universe, we need to recognize the two fold process of letting go and being open; closing one door so that another opens.

This is not the easiest of combinations to realize, but it is a strong behavioral opportunity for self-assessment, self-evaluation, personal growth, and change. Whenever we are letting go, whether of a food, a drug, a behavior, or attachment, it is supportive to identify the healthy alternative, or positive choice, with which you will replace the unwanted choice.

For example, a former tobacco smoker had realized that a 3 lb. bag of apples cost the same price as a pack of cigarettes; yet the return in health was vastly different. Switching from one hand to mouth habit (smoking) to another, more positive, hand to mouth behavior (eating apples) supported the individual’s choice to initiate a positive change. The diabetic who made a daily trip to the vending machine for a diet soda each afternoon, has switched to a daily trip to the juice bar for a fruit smoothie- achieving a 20 minute exercise activity and selecting a healthy food choice will support the desired change of eliminating diet soda from the diet.

When switching to a vegetarian lifestyle, I took a cooking class with two macrobiotic chefs. They made an impression that has lasted a lifetime and supported my good health for over twenty years now. Nutritionists, doctors, and health coaches say things like ‘eat healthy’, ‘don’t smoke’, ‘eliminate sugar’, ‘don’t drink’, etc. Life does not always support those statements in the everyday reality, making such efforts ‘easier said than done’. Budgets, time, and most importantly, knowledge, among other factors, impact our health choices, even when we hear the healthy messages. Equipping one’s self with the knowledge of the replacement behavior, or the positive choice, is essential to success in health. The macrobiotic chefs entered their clients’ homes and told them to empty their cabinets. They began to remove everything that would not make a positive health contribution to the person’s life. Often they were left with little or nothing of the original stock. They didn’t leave at this point and say, ‘Okay now get healthy’. This elimination process was only the first step: identifying what you can, want, and need to eliminate.

This was followed by a shopping trip and to re-stock the cabinets with health positive choices –  whole, real, non-processed food items and supplies that would support a healthy lifestyle. One cannot expect good health if the only choices you offer yourself in your home are unhealthy ones- you buy what is in your kitchen. The refined sugars, hydrogenated fats and oils, artificial ingredients – they just aren’t welcome in your home if you want good health.

What you can welcome into your kitchen, your home, and your life are organic choices, healthy oils and fats (nuts, avocados, flax, hemp and chia seeds, coconut oil, olive oil), dried beans and legumes for sprouting and cooking, fresh and dried herbs for seasoning foods and promoting health, dried fruits, local preserves, and value added products from local farmer’s markets or your own garden. All of these ‘supplies’ are there to enhance your meals and food experiences; the primary, essential, ‘supply’ for your good health habits however, is, and always will be fresh produce. We are urged to ‘eat the rainbow everyday’ or to select foods of a variety of vibrant colors. Your chakras will thank you for it, as each chakra has an affinity for the foods that correspond to its color, vibration, and energy.

When I make wraps or burritos, for example, instead of a processed flour tortilla wrap, I use a fresh collard leaf with the thick part of the stem removed; lightly steam it to make it more pliable, fill it with all of the prize ingredients, fold the bottom edge over, turn in the sides, roll it, and enjoy! Try a salad everyday to replace your daily doughnut, a fruit cup each morning with hemp or flax seeds in place of a processed cereal, or a serving of mixed raw nuts with dates in place of the heavily creamed and sugared coffee. These switches are small when completed one at a time- try adding a new switch each week until you have realigned your habits with your desire to be well and experience health. This gradual realignment, one switch, or step, at a time will support the long term sustainability of your positive changes and healthy choices, because it will not be as demanding or stressful as trying to change everything all at once. Going step by step will allow you the chance to see where your strengths and challenges are with each choice or switch you choose to make. If the change for a particular week is not manifesting as you’d like, go for a second week of working on just that change. Don’t be afraid to enlist your buddies or support network, but if there are naysayers in your circle, turn here for encouragement and if necessary, keep the process to yourself and enjoy your rewards without them!

Knowing what we don’t want is important but, exploring good choices and the never ending possibilities of good health, can provide us with a variety of alternatives that support long term changes and positive health. Consult with the yogi in you today, and see what kinds of switches you are ready to make in order to give yourself the best possible options in making and supporting good health decisions.

Need some extra help? – please email or complete the contact form below.



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Yoga Research Society 40 years

Born outside of Philadelphia in 1970, this video is an outline of the Yogic influences of my time (and place). I became a student of Dr. Pratap’s through Sky Yoga at Temple University in 1994 and studied at the Garland of Letters until moving to Florida, where I now practice and reside.

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Give Voice: “Your voice is the breath of your soul” (Yogi Tea teabag tag)

“Your voice is the breath of your soul” (Yogi Tea teabag tag), as I read this, I was reminded not to keep silent when I have something to express; that I do not serve my self or the Universal self with my silence when it is my turn to speak and I do not. The things unsaid can leave a trail of fear and uncertainty where love and wisdom expressed would light the way. Caring expressed, no matter how small the gesture, can move mountains with the faith it provides. Silence too is a powerful tool, as is listening; however, right action, right thoughts, right deeds, and right words guide the righteous. It is necessary to become practiced in discerning the right time and place for each practice to derive peace from the ‘rightness’ of practice.

It is sung, “I know that I must rise and fill my hearts with praise”, and, “I will lift my voice, lift my voice in praise, and give thanks for all my days” (LucianoSweep Over My Soul”, 1999). Muscles, skills, practices, tools, all can be lost if not exercised; use it or loose it. The voice, pulled up from through the chakras and directed toward vibrating a clear message, can and will do so. Left to wilt and dwindle, grow flaccid, weak, and potentially ineffective, the voice too, will do so. Yogi, use it, don’t loose it.

Creation, the Universe, wants to hear your song. All things have ‘a speak’ and in nature, there is a natural expectation that each will tell its story; none would sit silent and hold its own tongue. Expression of emotions liberates them and the courage of the individuals who free them from containment. The internalization of that which has a natural propensity to be expressed is problematic and disruptive to the container; it will manifest as physical disruptions of the body.

The voice is not the only expressive tool of the yogi in you, but it is a very powerful tool when harnessed for the purpose of bhakti, the yoga of devotion.

Just as Kahlil Gibran tells us in The Prophet, “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair”(1923); the Creator, your creator, wants to hear your expressions, to know your joy and gratitude.

I recognize, during the chanting of Om specifically, when my voice reflects negative energy and feelings. As I chant, I raise those negative energies and feelings through my chakras and out of my system into the Universe with the intention that they transform to raw energy fit for karma. It is the same with all energies stored within. Often, as a feeling or negative perception passes up from my root to my crown it dissipates to irrelevance in the face of the powerful energy within each chakra. When chanting I am in transformation. I change as my voice is raised, as it grows in its ‘ringing radiance’*, and transforms the energies of the Universe in its interaction. I hear the change in my voice, the clarity of its vibration; as a smile creeps over my face, I feel the difference in my countenance; finishing with gratitude, no matter the starting point, is a natural, progressive result.

The yogi in you wants to experience its own ringing radiance, the vibration within as the voice is lifted through the Personal Self to the Universal Self.

Daily chanting of Om, the sacred and original vibration, can promote significant changes in breathing and thinking. It is a powerful meditation, certain to promote an individualized yogic experience. It is a great way to begin and /or end a practice, by chanting Om a number of times, I like 12, but sometimes there is only time for three, and then chant Shanti (peace), three times.

However, there a many ways to raise the voice. A few months ago I went to a kirtan, a yoga sing-a-long. It was fun, I learned, found fellowship, and had never been to one before. I love to sing, to chant, and find it to be a very powerful, grounding, healing human experience… even when we relieve stress by singing in our cars on the way home from work, or in church, or with kids.

Below are two of the songs I learned, they are both from a song sheet I was given. The first song was written inside of a hand drawn picture of a tee pee. The second song was written in the wavy, flowing fashion of a river:







I am one

With the infinite


Forever, Forever, Forever

(Phonetic translation:

Koo Wha Kay

Lane O Lane O

Ma Ho Tay




The English words are the language translation and should also be sung; simple enough message. We repeated it several times and it got faster as we went on with it.

This second song was referred to as an ‘old American spiritual’; the Mama and Papa phrases being interchanged through the repetitions and when they are sung the voice gets raised louder and stronger on the first sound of each Maaaa Ma or Paaaa Pa…..

The river is flowing, flowing and growing, the river is flowing down to the sea.

Mama, carry me

Your child I will always be

Mama carry me

Down to the sea.

The river is flowing, flowing and growing, the river is flowing down to the sea.

Papa, carry me

Your child I will always be

Papa carry me

Down to the sea.

The river is flowing, flowing and growing, the river is flowing down to the sea.

Mama, carry me

Your child I will always be

Papa carry me

Down to the sea.

The river is flowing, flowing and growing, the river is flowing down to the sea.

Papa, carry me

Your child I will always be

Mama carry me

Down to the sea.

Consider adding your voice to your practice; you may find a new strength and awareness.

Family singing time can also be very healthy and therapeutic.

The yogi in you will learn and grow with each vibrating breath.



*’Ringing radiance’ is a term used by  Sir Colin Garbett in his 1968 work of the same title; chant to understand what it feels like, start with Om, it’s simple and all humanity started there.

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Practice. Start a practice. Be it 30 minutes, 20 minutes, or even 10 minutes; if those are all you have use them. Endure the effort of creating a practice that exists in your life, if not daily, regularly. Incorporate your practice into your life’s routine as a consistent presence to which your yogi can retreat for rejuvenation, reflection, and return to self. In this space and time in which you create your practice engage your senses in your yogic experience, whether you assume prana (breath practice) or asana (posture practice) or a balanced combination. Allow your senses to be exercised in your yogic experience to tell the self about its present state. Allow the self to listen, unengaged, to these messages. The messages, they are present; you, you aware, and that is all. You are aware of your breath- cool and fresh entering your nostrils, warm and expired as it exits your nostrils; breathe in positive, breathe out negative. Start today. Practice.

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