MIAMI — The youth of Miami continues to strike for climate change in their streets under the blazing sun, especially during a time where Art Basel is taking place in the city.
Urged by the diligent protests of youth activists, city officials declared a climate emergency this November. But, the young organizers are not done fighting.
Their recent strike, which took place on Friday, December 6, is Miami Climate Strike’s second most significant strike thus far. The youth protestors and supporters of the cause gathered and began on the steps of the Miami-Dade County Courthouse as they made their way to their final stop, the Torch of Friendship in Downtown Miami.
Miami is one of America’s major coastal cities considered to be “ground zero” for sea-level rise, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And, this strike is significant because of the relevancy of Art Basel Miami Beach and the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 25 occurring in December 2019.
“This strike takes place on this date because the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg calls for climate strikes every once in a while when there’s a momentous event happening in order to create meaningful climate action,” says John Paul Mejia, head organizer of Miami Climate Strike.
John Paul is a native to Miami. In a conversation with Hyperallergic, he elaborates how climate change personally affects the way his future will continue since his home, as he says, has become a frontline community of destruction.
John Paul wasn’t always aware of the local climate community until he participated in a walkout at his high school, Miami Beach Senior High School, on March 28, 2018. Soon after, a couple of people from different climate action organizations reached out to the 17-year-old climate activist to collaborate and create a coalition of different climate groups, which comprised most of who participated in this strike.
A concern with large-scale art fairs like Art Basel Miami Beach is the carbon footprint left behind by attendees, artists, and the artwork traveling by plane to attend the event. In 2018, the show attracted an attendance of 83,000 people in five days, according to Art Basel.
With all this global and high-profiled attraction, it raises the concern if anyone is aware of the imminent danger Miami faces with climate change as it erodes away and if anyone is doing something about it.
Miami neighborhoods like Little Haiti are catching the eyes of developers due to the fact it sits on a higher sea level than areas like Miami Beach and Downtown Miami.
“Being born and raised in Little Haiti, flooding is something I am accustomed to. It is clear to see that the most vulnerable communities are suffering the worst from climate change,” says Jessica Saint-Fleur, Organizer for Engage Miami.
Miami artist Eddie Arroyo, known for his political paintings, centered Little Haiti in a series about gentrification that was on display in the recent Whitney Biennial.
“Art should be used to make a political statement,” says Andrew Weaver, press director of Miami Climate Strike. He says that local climate activists will use similar awareness tactics as they have for Art Basel to capitalize on the impending Super Bowl, taking place in Miami in early 2020, saying, “We are definitely going to make a political statement.”
As part of the talks and debates this year at Art Basel Miami Beach, a panel event on confronting climate change denial focused on the art market’s need for high consumption while grappling with trying to resolve climate change.
A spokesperson for Art Basel tells artnet News the symbiotic relationship of art fairs with climate change by saying, “Art fairs are not by their nature environmentally friendly as they require extensive travel and shipping and create waste. Addressing the environmental impact of the international art world is a pressing issue.” (Art Basel has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for additional comment.)
Flooding during heavy rain season and storm surges in the midst of hurricanes is becoming a new normal in Miami Beach. For some, like the Bass Museum of Art, the threat is already being felt.
Silvia Karman Cubiñá, the Bass Museum’s executive director and chief curator, tells Hyperallergic the museum is no stranger to climate change and has become a topic that has been present through the art exhibitions and events at the Bass.
“With the reopening in 2017, just weeks after Hurricane Irma, the museum has had to create a hurricane awareness plan and make adjustments,” Karman Cubiñá says in an email.
Those adjustments include moving its art to a storage off-site on mainland Miami, and it now considers the exposure of saltwater and the blistering sun reflected from the ocean when planning installations. And, when there is a hurricane warning, the museum has a contract with a crane company to de-install the artwork immediately.
However, the Bass declined to comment if Art Basel is looking to improve their ecological footprint through any partnerships with the local museums to combat climate change.
The bellies of the youth, climate activists of Miami, are fueled by local non-profit organizations like the CLEO Institute. Those who spoke at the strike in Downtown Miami are all certified speakers by the institute’s GenCLEO youth program. Members attend climate trainings to stay updated to the latest climate change science, share ideas and network to build community leaders.
The founder of the CLEO Institute and it’s Senior Climate Advisor, Caroline Lewis, speaks fondly by saying, “They are so unapologetic for a livable future. We, as adults, should be the wind beneath their wing to give them the opportunity to affect change. I can do nothing but applaud that.”