From DEL-MEM student to tour guide extraordinaire…

January 3rd, 2015

Have you ever traveled to an old familiar place and realized it wasn’t as familiar as you hoped it would be?

A small group of first and second year DEL-MEMs converged on south Florida today for a new 1 credit course – ENV 956: Restoration Science, Policy and Leadership in south Florida. “But I don’t want to travel to south Florida in January” said no one…ever…Most of us were traveling from much colder locations and today’s weather was a high of 79 degrees with strong Christmas winds and a sky full of sunshine. It was absolutely perfect!

Our first night will be spent in the town of Hollywood, FL located just south of the city of Fort Lauderdale. On the agenda for tomorrow is a boat tour of the nearby West Lake Park to learn about mangrove restoration. Having lived in Hollywood from 2007 to 2010 I was eager to travel to a familiar place with a new perspective – a DEL-MEM perspective!

A few of us arrived earlier in the day and all we could think about were food and sunshine. Being the displaced Floridian I jumped at the opportunity to show a couple of my classmates my “old stompin’ grounds”.
At my suggestion we decided to walk from the hotel to Hollywood Beach. “It’s just down the street” I explained and we soon found ourselves on a two hour adventure.

Once we arrived at the boardwalk we were on a quest for sustenance, but I couldn’t help recognizing that things were not how I remembered. The beach I used to walk on was twice the size of what we were warming our toes on now. Any bit of space between existing structures was filled with new structures, making any possible view of the ocean from A1A difficult. I mentioned this to my classmates and a conversation about coastal land use and the effects of erosion and commercial development quickly ensued.

Hollywood Beach at low tide, c. April 2010
Hollywood Beach at low tide, c. April 2010
Hollywood Beach at low tide, January 3, 2015  (Photo courtesy of Lee Ellen Carter, DEL-MEM ’16)
Hollywood Beach at low tide, January 3, 2015
(Photo courtesy of Lee Ellen Carter, DEL-MEM ’16)

While walking I kept thinking to myself, how could this have changed so drastically in such a short amount of time? But was there hope? We came across areas roped off from public access for what we later learned were dune restoration projects. But is this enough? Can we do more? How do we do more?

Hollywood Beach, January 3rd, 2015
Hollywood Beach, January 3rd, 2015

We continued our trek and conversation about the efforts and actions we would take if this was our restoration project. If only we were kings! Shortly after we found food and our discussions quickly turned to “should I get the conch or the grouper?”

While writing this post I tried to think about what I took away from today’s experience, and the experiences I’ve had thus far in the DEL-MEM program. As an individual I feel overwhelmed by many environmental issues and how I will somehow fix them. But throughout this past semester and our trek on the beach today, I am quickly reminded that fixing our environmental issues is not an individual task. That’s why we’re all in this program and that’s why we’re all here in Florida (well, that and the sunshine!) We are learning ways to come together and effect change, influence others to effect change, and make an impact on the world so those who come after us will have a template of environmental management to follow for years to come.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Albert Einstein