Group works to solve global climate change in residents’ backyards

Sustainability advocates in Naples have organized a week’s worth of free events Oct. 24 through Nov. 1 to raise awareness about climate change.

SATURDAY

International Day of Climate Action

■ Kids’ bicycle safety rodeo, sustainability displays, children building model village from recyclables, face-painting, music: 1 to 4 p.m., Fleischmann Park.

■ Dedication by Mayor Bill Barnett of the Sustainability Globe to hold community pledges to cut carbon footprint: 3 p.m., Naples Preserve.

■ Florida Gulf Coast University students planting 350 cypress trees on campus: 8 a.m.

SUNDAY

Dark Lights Night with telescopes for star-gazers at Lowdermilk and Seagate parks: 7:30 p.m.

MONDAY

Coastal resilience and sea level rise panel discussion: 7 p.m., Norris Center at Cambier Park.

WEDNESDAY

See “Changing Seas," a film about the oceans: 6 p.m., Silverspot theater at Mercato.

THURSDAY

"Going Green in Collier County," forum sponsored by League of Women Voters of Collier County: 7 p.m., Naples Hilton.

SUNDAY

"Celebration of the Gulf," drumming circle, song and dance. Instruments welcome: 5 p.m., Broad Avenue north of the Naples Pier.

Think global warming and many people think of polar bears, Al Gore, the Kyoto climate change treaty or melting glaciers.

Leaders of a movement taking root in Collier County say they hope more people will start thinking about their own back yards.

Organizers have scheduled a day of activities Oct. 24 to recognize the International Day of Climate Action, kicking off a week of events they are calling “Naples Leading the Way to Sustainability.”

“We’ve all got a little piece of paradise here, but how much is paradise worth if we’re not going to look after it,” said event organizer Dianne Rhodes, coordinator of the Naples Network for Climate Action.

While some grassroots organizers sense momentum in Collier County behind calls for sustainability, others see an uphill battle ahead.

“Some people see climate change as a political issue but it’s really not,” said Steve Hart, a leader of ResilientCollier, which works to raise awareness about sustainability in Collier County. “It’s a human issue.”

And it hits home in Southwest Florida, where the effects of sea level rise are likely to be felt, several studies show.

In a draft technical report this year, the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council calculated a 90 percent chance of a 5-inch rise in sea level in Southwest Florida by 2050 and a 10.4 inch rise by 2100. That is the best-case scenario, the report said.

The report calculated a moderate-case scenario of a 50 percent chance of a 9.4-inch rise by 2050 and a 19.8-inch rise by 2100.

In Florida, rising sea levels will mean higher storm surges, loss of beaches and fishery habitat and threaten water supplies and ocean health.

A Tufts University analysis projected Florida would suffer a $40 billion loss in tourism and a $23 billion loss in real estate if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed — and quick.

A growing body of science indicates that climate change is happening faster than earlier predictions and that its effects will be more disastrous.

The group 350.org is organizing the International Day of Climate Action to call for bolder action by the world’s nations to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 389 parts per million to 350 parts per million, the level that many scientists say is the safe upper limit.

Local organizers say they want individuals to take the 350 challenge too.

They will distribute pledge cards for people to commit to take specific action during the Leading the Way to Sustainability week to reduce their own carbon footprint — including cutting back on driving, saving electricity, eating meatless meals and using less water.

“We’re trying to empower people that they can make a difference,” Rhodes said.

Naples engineer Heidi von Korff, who saw sustainability in action during a 5-month tour of America, is hoping to bring the message home.

“People that know about it, want it. They just don’t know where to get it,” she said.

Von Korff, who has started SustainableCivil, a sustainable engineering and green building consulting firm, traveled to California and back, keeping an eye out for the next big thing.

She saw lawn-free homes in Colorado, a neighborhood in Seattle where the electrical meters ran backwards and a California school that captures coastal fog to make irrigation water.

“It’s become the mainstream now,” von Korff said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

It’s also become a social networking opportunity in Southwest Florida.

ResilientCollier has a page on the social networking site Facebook with 124 members.

Von Korff, a board member of the local chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, is chairwoman of the group’s Green Drinks event from 6 to 8 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month.

For the past year, as many as 50 people have shown up at the Hyatt Regency at Coconut Point in Estero to talk about sustainability over appetizers and drinks.

Rhodes, with the Naples Network for Climate Action, said the sustainability buzz is spreading.

“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Thank you for doing this. I thought I was the only one out there,’” she said.

Connect with Eric Staats at www.naplesnews.com/staff/eric_staats/

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