PerspectivesNikesha Elise Williams Jacksonville Today Contributor
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OPINION | Resiliency begins with us 

Published on August 16, 2023 at 4:15 pm
Jacksonville Today seeks to include a diverse set of perspectives that add context or unique insight to the news of the day. Regular opinion columnists are independent contractors who are not involved in news decisions. Want to submit your own column on a matter of public interest? Email pitches to jessica@jaxtoday.org.

Like most parents in Jacksonville this week, I saw my son off on his first day of school. I had met his teachers at orientation, ordered his school supplies and had them delivered to his classroom, and made the rounds at Town Center getting shoes and clothes so he too could be first week fresh. I knew he was prepared to return and I was ready for him to go after a lawless summer of beach days and no bedtime, but I had one nagging concern…the heat. 

This summer has been more than hot. It’s been stifling. Sticky and wet. Take-your-breath-away hot. So much so that even my 2-year-old daughter remarks, “Whew, hot!” when I pick her up from daycare and she comes outside for the first time in hours. And that’s my concern for my son. It’s my concern for myself. All of us really. 

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At 2 years old, my daughter is not going outside as often for her customary play time. While her class makes it out for morning recess at 10 a.m., the after-nap recess at 3 p.m. is now held in the classroom with an iPad connected to a Bluetooth speaker playing the greatest hits from YouTube Kids. 

Duval Schools has implemented a plan to limit recess if the heat index is above 100 degrees and cancel recess — moving it indoors — if the index rises above 105. This response by the school district, much like Mayor Deegan’s activation of cooling centers, reflects our reality. I have chosen not to use the words “new normal” because it’s not new and should not be normal.  

The warming of our planet has gone on nearly unchecked for the last 70 years. NASA says, “The current warming trend is unequivocally the result of human activity since the 1950s and is proceeding at an unprecedented rate.” 

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While plans to reduce reliance on fossil fuels in an effort to slow the warming of the planet have become yet another partisan issue to be debated along the left right binary, what’s not up for debate are the number of people who are dying from our destruction of the one world where we know we can live. 

There is a direct line between the disaster death tolls such as the wildfires in Maui, hurricanes likely on the way to Florida’s coasts later this summer when the season reaches its peak, floods, fires, and drought across the global South, and climate change. Our planet is becoming increasingly uninhabitable. Just look at the eight straight days of excessive heat warnings issued in Jacksonville over the past weeks — and we’re not even the southernmost point of the country. 

What we’ve written off as uncomfortable for a few months is a crisis of unparalleled catastrophe we are leaving for our children. While scientists predict we can overcome the worst of the climate crisis by getting to zero carbon emissions by 2050, even if we band together globally and pull that off, I am perfectly clear that enacting change and seeing results are two entirely different things. To be political for a moment, the election of President Obama was a change. The result was not an end to racism or white supremacy. Going back to the climate, even if the United States and other large global powers who are also the biggest polluters meet their stated “reverse climate change” goals by 2050, the temperature is not going to automatically plummet to a point where we’re back to balmy 85 degree summers with afternoon showers and a forecast of only two major hurricanes we call acts of God. Change doesn’t work that way. Not in politics. Not on the planet. 

And yet we still have a requirement, a mandate, to try. Wind turbines and solar panels, electric cars — even sending a vacuum to space to suck out all the carbon. I am clear my next car will be electric (partly because I’m sick of rising gas prices). I am clear that when I redo my roof in the next year or two, I will be adding solar panels to it as well. I am clear that change can begin with individuals just as it can be legislated by governments, city, state and federal. 

Just as the city of Jacksonville needs a resiliency plan, just like the state of Florida needs a resiliency plan, just like the United States needs a resiliency plan, so too do we as individual people and families. 

Let’s do our best so we can envision a world where kids will be able to enjoy recess, and when we take our toddlers outside to write on the sidewalk with chalk and blow bubbles, they won’t recoil: “Whew, hot!” 


author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Nikesha Elise Williams is an Emmy-winning TV producer, award-winning novelist (Beyond Bourbon Street and Four Women) and the host/producer of the Black & Published podcast. Her bylines include The Washington Post, ESSENCE, and Vox. She lives in Jacksonville with her family.

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Nikesha Elise Williams is an Emmy-winning TV producer, award-winning novelist (Beyond Bourbon Street and Four Women) and the host/producer of the Black & Published podcast. Her bylines include The Washington Post, ESSENCE, and Vox. She lives in Jacksonville with her family.


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