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“The more you learn, the more your eyes open…with the burden of knowing you can help open up the eyes of those who don’t know.” The words of biology graduate, environmental advocate and NASCAR driver, Leilani Munter, a headlining speaker for the first ever Sustainability Symposium in Orlando, Florida. An event featuring hot topics in the sustainability field and a panel of speakers from diverse disciplines. This so called “burden of knowing” she speaks of are quite frustrating at times for Munter as a race car driver. She spoke of her desires to change the face of NASCAR so that the organization rely less on oil and switch to electric-powered vehicles and provide vegan food options at races. It is a bold desire but one she is passionate about. I am confident she won’t give up on her desires either as her top three solutions for environmental sustainability include solar energy, veganism and electric cars.
Leilani referred to herself as a “fat bumblebee”, one that has a hard time flying but keeps buzzing on spreading her message. Her analogy made me realize that we need more of these bumblebees buzzing around. To stand up for what you believe in despite the status quo is courageous, brave and quite honestly beautiful.
In some ways, I can relate to being a “fat bumblebee” myself especially at Varano family functions. For example, I asked my grandfather why he doesn’t believe in recycling and he tells me that it’s a hoax by the government. I ask an aunt why she buys plastic silverware and she replied with “Oh Kaila, my hippy niece you can’t save the world.” Maybe I can’t save the world, but I can definitely change it and I’ll continue to let my family know why I feel the way that I do. Thanks to Leilani, I feel more empowered than ever to keep striving for the world I want to live in. Or in the words of Mahatma Gandhi,” Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
Munter, among other speakers contributed her expertise to the table and one couldn’t help but feel motivated after the event. Mayor Phillip Stoddard of South Miami changed my attitude towards politicians when he said, “I use my position in the public eye to help save the planet”. It’s refreshing to hear from the mouth of an elected official that they are using their place of power for the greater good of the people. Some of Mayor Stoddard’s initiatives include building more bike lanes, building the city more sustainably and bringing back a sense of community in the Miami area.
With an ever-increasing population in Florida, Stoddard also realizes that issues involved with urban sprawl but remains hopeful, “What’s missing is an urban planner, so it’s a place where living next to each other is an asset, not a burden.” Even in a jam-packed city, like Miami, Stoddard still sees the light at the end of the tunnel and poses his own solution. Mayor Stoddard in a way is his own “bee” posing his own ideas on how believes we should deal with sustainable living solutions even if it’s different from the current model. Case in point, your elected officials do have your back and your vote does in fact make an impact on what type of city, state, country and world we live in.
[Pictured: urban sprawl of Miami, Florida]
After attending the Sustainability Symposium, I feel motivated to make my life more sustainable and urge you to do the same! Here are a few things you can do to make your world a bit greener and be your own “bumblebee”.
- Attend city hall meetings and speak to your elected officials. Speak up and let them know what matters to you as a resident so that they can help get the ball rolling.
- “Burn fat, not oil”, in other words find ways to use your car less. See if you can use public transit, carpool, bike or walk to nearby locations. You’ll be surprised just how beautiful your city is when you travel outside of your vehicle and as a health bonus you’ll be getting plenty of vitamin D from the sunshine.
- Like I mentioned before, VOTE. Vote into office officials that align with your values and re-elect officials who do the same. Believe it or not, your vote does matter and can really be “felt” at the local level.
- Be proactive and get out in community cleanups, clubs, protests, community BBQ’s and even a symposium like the one I attended. The best way to “be the change you wish to see in the world” is to live by the words you preach and get involved.
[Pictured: IDEAS for UCF Chapter being “bumblebees” by cleaning up an aquatic ecosystem]