The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral

Florida State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani talks about her fierce environmental advocacy in the face of long odds in Florida

June 15, 2022 Oscar Corral
Florida State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani talks about her fierce environmental advocacy in the face of long odds in Florida
The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral
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The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral
Florida State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani talks about her fierce environmental advocacy in the face of long odds in Florida
Jun 15, 2022
Oscar Corral

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, a young rising star in Florida’s Democratic Party and an outspoken advocate of better environmental policies, talks about her optimism despite her party being mostly locked out of power in Florida’s government. Her fierce criticism of Tallahassee’s catering to special interest groups at the expense of voters and everyday people has helped her make a name for herself across the state. She talks about the influence of corporations like Florida Power and Light and Mosaic mining, and what people can do to change things. She says FPL’s efforts to undermine roof-top solar energy in Florida was a classic example of a corporation undermining not only efforts to stop climate change, but also other smaller businesses that are providing thousands of jobs by installing panels on roofs. Hearing Rep. Eskamani, one gets the sense that environmentalism in Florida is in the process of being wrested back from the clutches of partisan politics, because although her views are progressive, many of the things she says in this interview would strike a cord with people of any party in the state. We all love our waters, our beaches, our springs, our air, our forests. Those are not partisan passions or loves. Those are things we all love as Floridians.

Show Notes Transcript

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, a young rising star in Florida’s Democratic Party and an outspoken advocate of better environmental policies, talks about her optimism despite her party being mostly locked out of power in Florida’s government. Her fierce criticism of Tallahassee’s catering to special interest groups at the expense of voters and everyday people has helped her make a name for herself across the state. She talks about the influence of corporations like Florida Power and Light and Mosaic mining, and what people can do to change things. She says FPL’s efforts to undermine roof-top solar energy in Florida was a classic example of a corporation undermining not only efforts to stop climate change, but also other smaller businesses that are providing thousands of jobs by installing panels on roofs. Hearing Rep. Eskamani, one gets the sense that environmentalism in Florida is in the process of being wrested back from the clutches of partisan politics, because although her views are progressive, many of the things she says in this interview would strike a cord with people of any party in the state. We all love our waters, our beaches, our springs, our air, our forests. Those are not partisan passions or loves. Those are things we all love as Floridians.

00:00:02:10 - 00:00:16:20
Unknown
Welcome to the nature of Florida, the Sunshine State's only podcast dedicated to its wild and natural places and the fight to preserve them. I'm your host, Oscar Corral, a two time Emmy Award winning filmmaker and journalist. I've dedicated much of my career to making films about environmental issues.

00:00:16:21 - 00:00:32:04
Unknown
Tune in each week to hear from a broad range of voices from scientists to surfers, activists to mermaids who are working on the front lines to save what's left of Florida's natural beauty and its wildlife. Welcome, everybody, to another episode of The Nature of Florida podcast.

00:00:32:13 - 00:00:53:06
Unknown
Today, I want to give a warm welcome to Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani. Ana is a rising star in Florida's Democratic Party and a tireless advocate for progressive causes causes around the state. She represents a district in the Orlando area, and she pushes for better health care, education, government accountability and for the purposes of this podcast, better

00:00:53:06 - 00:01:09:08
Unknown
environmental policies. On her website, she says dysfunction and failed policies rule in Tallahassee and that corruption is rampant with a never ending culture war and a disregard for science. Her website goes on to say she stands for integrity and decency.

00:01:09:15 - 00:01:31:19
Unknown
Welcome, Anna. Thanks so much for having me. It's great to be here. So, Anna, I've I've met you once before, and I've I've had the opportunity to ask you some questions before. And although your website is kind of thunderous in terms of its critique, I sense that you have a kind of irrepressible optimism.

00:01:32:07 - 00:01:59:14
Unknown
And I want to ask you how you do that. I actually totally do. I mean, I don't think you could live in Florida as a progressive unless you have optimism, unless you have hope. And what grounds me every single day is what what potential we have in this beautiful state to protect environment, protect our people, and have

00:01:59:14 - 00:02:16:02
Unknown
shared collective prosperity for everyone. I know it's possible in our state, but the politics have been co-opted by the biggest special interests and by those who are more power hungry than thoughtful to what it means to share and build power.

00:02:16:21 - 00:02:37:24
Unknown
So that philosophy, for me, it's very values driven and that's what keeps me focused and keeps me running for reelection. It keeps me committed every day. And some of these dark moments in the legislature when bad bills are being pushed forward, it's like gives me the motivation to stand up with my microphone by hand and ask those

00:02:37:24 - 00:02:54:24
Unknown
tough questions, to hold my colleagues accountable and try to tell the story. Because I think when more Floridians understand what is happening in places like Tallahassee, they get outraged and they get motivated to do something about it. And I want to be there to help facilitate that change.

00:02:55:22 - 00:03:14:04
Unknown
I get the sense that in Tallahassee we have one party rule, so a single party rules a state and there's really very little checks on the powers of that party because there's no filibuster, for example, in Florida. So the minority party, which is the Democratic Party in this case and you're a member of that party, is often

00:03:14:05 - 00:03:30:10
Unknown
left trying to figure out how to stop these a lot of these policies from being passed. But yet that doesn't stop you from advocating. Tell me about the importance of not feeling defeated and being defeatist and continuing to advocate for things you believe in in those conditions.

00:03:31:05 - 00:03:45:16
Unknown
It's an inside, outside strategy, right? So you do what you can on the inside to impact change, to stop a bill or amend a bill to build those relationships with your colleagues across the aisle. So I believe they still listen to your concerns.

00:03:45:16 - 00:04:01:02
Unknown
They don't always act on it, but you have a clear line of communication and try to reduce the harm policy proposals, while at the same time you're working with the community groups, you're working with folks on the ground and you're using your bully pulpit to it to amplify them.

00:04:01:05 - 00:04:19:16
Unknown
So whether it was Natalie Water Bottle Company trying to get the permit from the locals, wanting water management district to pump endless amounts of water a day. In that case, not only did we work with the community groups to join them in their advocacy, direct more people towards them.

00:04:20:01 - 00:04:32:08
Unknown
But I sent multiple letters. You know, I used my bully pulpit to amplify this issue to a national audience. Same thing on the net metering fight. You know, I'm one of the only lawmakers who is willing to call out FPL.

00:04:32:15 - 00:04:45:19
Unknown
And to the point where I did an amendment to change the name of that bill to the Florida People Lose Act. And my point in doing that was to highlight this is an FPL priority. It's not a best interest of Floridians.

00:04:45:19 - 00:05:01:18
Unknown
And, you know, things get a little contentious on the House floor, but I'm proud to be able to, you know, amplify those moments that if you're watching Tallahassee for the first time, you share my outrage. But you're also not demoralized because you do see people who are fighting for you.

00:05:02:03 - 00:05:14:00
Unknown
And I do think it's an inside, outside strategy that is the key to our success, because not only can that be implemented during legislative session to try to, like I said earlier, you know, stop or mend these bills.

00:05:14:08 - 00:05:35:23
Unknown
But that's also what translates to political action on the campaign trail. And the incredible thing about environmentalists is that it's not one party. There's Republicans, Democrats, no party affiliation, voters who care about Florida's water, who care about clean energy and energy security and climate change, who care about their parks and green spaces.

00:05:36:12 - 00:05:57:17
Unknown
And so it's so important to work within those coalition spaces because that's what we can. That's what we can really inspire and leverage to try to actually have an impact in places like Tallahassee. I'm really glad you brought up that point, that across the aisle in the Republican Party, there are many members who are also conservation minded

00:05:57:17 - 00:06:13:10
Unknown
and environmentalists. And in Florida, to get something done, as you mention, it's important to form coalitions across the aisle and and be on the same team for a cause, even if you're not necessarily on the same party in the same party.

00:06:13:10 - 00:06:24:12
Unknown
Correct. All right. So to give a little bit of background on what you mentioned before, you mentioned FPL, Florida Power and Light. Florida Power and Light is the largest utility in Florida, and they are owned by NextEra Energy.

00:06:24:12 - 00:06:42:08
Unknown
NextEra Energy is the largest utility in the United States. They're extremely powerful and they're very influential. And this year they went out of their way to advocate for a bill that many critics say will destroy rooftop solar in Florida.

00:06:42:08 - 00:07:02:20
Unknown
In other words, it will have the result of decimating or can have the result of decimating the rooftop. Solar industry in Florida at a time when we are trying to turn a corner for climate change in order to avoid the worst results of an increasing in a warming climate, especially in Florida, which is very vulnerable to rising

00:07:02:20 - 00:07:19:14
Unknown
sea levels. Ana, tell me about the the bill. What happened with that? Give me a little bit of background. What what happened with that bill and what was the result? Well, folks also need to realize just how powerful of a political force Florida Power and Light is.

00:07:19:15 - 00:07:39:13
Unknown
It's one of the largest contributors of political donations in the state. And back to his point about it being bipartisan. They contribute to Democrats and Republicans, and they're always going to contribute more to the majority party. But to be clear, FBI has hired past Democratic Party chairs to be their lobbyists.

00:07:39:14 - 00:07:59:20
Unknown
They've they've hired former Democratic representatives to be their lobbyists. And so it's a system that transcends party lines and their influence. And you saw that with the votes in every committee and all the Senate House floor where there were some Republicans who voted no and some Democrats who voted yes.

00:08:00:17 - 00:08:21:16
Unknown
And so this bill was pushed through the process. I have to be candid about this. You know, the only people who stood in support of this bill in committee for the public were basically front groups for appeal. There was one former public service commissioner who is very much in the pocket of appeal.

00:08:21:22 - 00:08:44:04
Unknown
And then there was a big seniors organization that is funded by FPL. I mean, you just can't make this kind of stuff up, right? Meanwhile, those are the opposing side, are small business owners, are environmentalists, are Republicans. We have to remember that after the 0809 recession, a lot of construction workers and and owners went into solar because

00:08:44:10 - 00:09:06:14
Unknown
the Obama administration was putting money towards clean energy jobs. It's one of the fastest growing sectors in our state, whether it's renewable energies or energy efficiency. And so this is not a field dominated by Democrats. These are just these are hardworking folks that have created a successful business model that Floridians want more of.

00:09:07:02 - 00:09:25:20
Unknown
And yet their voices were ignored. You know, when it comes to the final votes and the bill was amended throughout the process, but it's still very harmful. They're still concerned that's going to decimate the rooftop solar industry and all because FPL doesn't want you to save money on clean energy.

00:09:25:21 - 00:09:39:12
Unknown
They want you to be tied to them as a regulated monopoly. So the intention of appeal is very is very greed driven. And folks should realize this is an investor owned utility company. Their job is to make money.

00:09:40:00 - 00:10:05:21
Unknown
And the same company has lines to funding three fake ghost candidates in different states Senate races. And of course, all three of the Republicans who won those races voted yes on this bill. Wow. So NextEra Energy, which owns FPL, is is pouring money into the state of Florida not to help people get solar, rooftop or rooftop solar

00:10:06:09 - 00:10:21:19
Unknown
to produce power for themselves, but to stop that industry, which is. From what you're telling me, a budding growing. Good job factory in Florida. In other words, it's a growing tech industry in the state of Florida to combat climate change and to help people.

00:10:21:19 - 00:10:44:21
Unknown
Producer on energy. But the largest utility in Florida apparently doesn't want competition from rooftop solar. So they have stepped in to try to maintain their monopolistic hold on people's ability to produce power. Incredible. So so the rooftop solar industry in Florida is just one example of many of the environmental battles that are being fought in the state

00:10:44:21 - 00:11:02:16
Unknown
capital. And there's other there's there's many, many more. And for example, let's talk a little bit about about the springs and water in the Everglades in Florida. You come from a district that is near some really beautiful springs near you, in or near your district.

00:11:02:16 - 00:11:16:18
Unknown
You have a Rock Spring and Kelly Park. You have Volusia Blue Spring, which is a haven for manatees in the winter. You have well, Kyra. Well, Kyra. Well, Kyra, I always pronounce I wrong. You have DeLeon. You have some beautiful springs in your area.

00:11:16:18 - 00:11:37:04
Unknown
And and from what I understand, you've visited those springs before and you enjoy them. Tell me about the importance of of protecting Florida's water and what's happening at the state level right now. Well, it seems like anyone who wants to pump water is getting that permit to do so at at ridiculous rates.

00:11:37:04 - 00:12:00:10
Unknown
And I think the other part of the challenge we have, especially in central Florida, is mass developments where we just can't keep up with the growth. And that's kind of like the elephant in the room, honestly, is that Florida is so driven by short term economic gain, like the mass development of subdivisions, these white picket green lines

00:12:00:10 - 00:12:24:19
Unknown
that have to use fertilizer to maintain their quality. Meanwhile, we don't have enough water to sustain this. We just don't. And while there's a huge growth of of people needs of Florida and of new developments, which is decimating wetlands and building, you know, less dense neighborhoods that require more driving in a place that has no public transportation

00:12:25:18 - 00:12:52:11
Unknown
. We also see the ag industry really just be domineering throughout the legislative process, especially sugar, alongside, you know, issues around water bottling companies, as I mentioned earlier. Lastly, which it reminds me of the net metering site because it's, you know, we could just turn on the faucet, get water right at a much cheaper rate than buying it

00:12:52:12 - 00:13:06:20
Unknown
bottled. But these companies want they marketed advertised for you, the model that makes them the most money. And it's the same thing with net metering. It's like each one of us should be able to harness the sun and, you know, produce energy from that.

00:13:07:08 - 00:13:20:05
Unknown
The sun touches us every single day. And yet basically what FPL is doing is saying, we don't want you to have that power, only we can harness the sun, even though it's a resource that each one of us feels and sees every day.

00:13:21:06 - 00:13:38:13
Unknown
And so the struggle for me when it comes to water is that Florida will put money towards water projects, but we're not actually getting to the cause of the problem. We're not holding polluters accountable. We're not strengthening our our palms.

00:13:38:24 - 00:13:57:02
Unknown
We're doing the bare minimum and saying that this is good enough when it's clearly not. And when it comes to our water management boards, they're not protecting water. They're approving permits left and right despite huge local public opposition and backlash.

00:13:57:03 - 00:14:20:13
Unknown
And so, you know, we need a lot more courage in these in these agencies. And I and it's really unfortunate because I know there's good people at FDC who care about these issues. I mean, I work with our local folks all the time when it comes to wastewater issues and live stations failing and and, you know, trying

00:14:20:13 - 00:14:35:00
Unknown
to hold these developers accountable. But the other day, the the agency heads, they they are appointed by the governor. So they are going to respond to what the governor's agenda is. They're not going to stray away from that.

00:14:35:16 - 00:14:51:13
Unknown
And I do think Governor DeSantis is known as the go water governor, but it's more about funding water projects and like sitting next to the Everglades and saying, you know, we're putting money towards these projects versus what are we doing to actually stop the source?

00:14:51:20 - 00:15:05:08
Unknown
It's really frustrating, just the power of these special interests, and that's what we're up against every day is helping to persuade lawmakers to be brave enough to challenge them. I want to go back to your point about the boards, the water management district boards.

00:15:05:15 - 00:15:30:09
Unknown
That's that's so important because those those agencies and FDP are stocked with very competent, very honest, very hard working scientists who know what's happening and know what's what's what the problem is. But the decisions at all of those agencies are made by people appointed by the governor, in this case, Governor DeSantis, or maybe some holdovers from Governor

00:15:30:10 - 00:15:49:00
Unknown
Rick Scott. And so you have this this situation where the environmental consequences of of all these policies are being ignored. And and the people who are appointed by the governor are often people who are benefiting from consumptive use of water, are people who work in agriculture and development.

00:15:49:15 - 00:16:08:19
Unknown
So the people who are deciding whether whether to grant these massive permits are people who work in industries that are benefiting from these policies. So I don't understand how that situation can continue forever before we see massive destruction, because the people who are on these boards making the decisions don't know anything about science.

00:16:08:19 - 00:16:21:02
Unknown
They don't know anything about. And not only do they not know, they they don't care. They're not that's not how they make their living. That's not what they were educated in or trained in. These people are there to make as much money as possible and to continue this.

00:16:21:02 - 00:16:38:10
Unknown
And so in the case of Nestlé, Nestlé, which is now they've sold their water, bottled water business to another entity. But they paid $110 to be able to pump a million gallons a day from Johnny Springs, $110. That's pocket change.

00:16:38:10 - 00:16:49:11
Unknown
That's that's the kind of money a lobbyist pays to take up, you know, a politician out to lunch at a restaurant in Tallahassee. And you mentioned and you mentioned and a lobbyist. I have to tell you the story.

00:16:49:11 - 00:17:03:21
Unknown
When I started going after Natalie and calling them out for that a permit request, sure enough, the lobbyist and thusly is asking for a meeting with me and I met with them and it was a pretty tense conversation.

00:17:03:21 - 00:17:23:22
Unknown
But for them, so much of this is about like it's about coercive behavior towards anyone who challenges them. So you shut that down immediately. You intimidate them, you harass them. I've already been the target of smear campaigns from FPL, so that's how they operate.

00:17:23:23 - 00:17:44:01
Unknown
That's our M.O., right? And if you challenge us and we're too embarrassed to try and shame you. Right. And then on top of that, when you look at the actual science and the data, they'll produce their own science, you know, and then they'll they'll put marketing dollars behind it.

00:17:44:01 - 00:18:03:13
Unknown
And when I'm in Tallahassee, I don't have cable in Orlando, but when I'm in Tallahassee, the place that we stay has cable. So I'll put on CNN while working and just listen to the background, the number of nasty commercials last session and now the number of FPL commercials.

00:18:04:02 - 00:18:20:17
Unknown
I mean, it's just it's so funny. It's so funny. And it's it's all about branding for them. I remember arriving in Tallahassee this session for for a screening for the documentary that we did that you attended. And I appreciate very much that you attended that screening of the documentary The Fellowship of the Springs is about the challenges

00:18:20:17 - 00:18:37:01
Unknown
that Springs are facing. Anyway, I drive, I fly into Tallahassee, I get off at the airport and greeting me is a huge advertisement on how how beneficial fossil gypsum waste from phosphate mining is and how you can recycle it and do many things with this toxic waste.

00:18:37:04 - 00:18:56:07
Unknown
Got that is crazy. And I thought to myself, wow, what a well-timed advertisement for fossil gypsum waste. As we know, there's a disaster going on in the Piney Point fossil gypsum stack in the Tampa area right now. That last year leached tens of hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic water into Tampa Bay.

00:18:56:20 - 00:19:10:24
Unknown
And so now that industry is trying to tout the benefits of having these great stacks of gypsum in your backyard, and I just thought that was that was hilarious. But but I don't know. I mean, is it true, you know, there's questions about that.

00:19:10:24 - 00:19:24:18
Unknown
I mean, maybe they're you know, they they produce this research and pick out these ads to cast doubt and to create doubt among people. And it created doubt even among me. I thought, hmm, is this true? Is fossil gypsum weight waste actually beneficial?

00:19:25:07 - 00:19:44:01
Unknown
They have no idea what to do with that. You know, like and there is research towards trying to, you know, reduce the waste happening. But these just in stacks across Florida. I mean, once it becomes just a stack, there's you know, I know there's been some efforts to try to change one and take a golf course or

00:19:44:01 - 00:20:02:13
Unknown
something. But, I mean, it is so environmentally degrading. And of course, Mosaic is a very large political contributor as well, right? Yeah, that's right. They are going back to going back to your your website. And what I read you said Tallahassee is anti-science.

00:20:03:13 - 00:20:19:08
Unknown
And I find that to be kind of a sad statement because Tallahassee can find many solutions to their current problems with good science. And oftentimes it doesn't have to cost, you know, tens of billions of dollars. It can be something reasonable.

00:20:20:01 - 00:20:33:18
Unknown
Tell me about that mood of anti-science in Tallahassee and how you navigate that honor. So it's such a great question. It's not it's not even just about what what data do we rely on to make decisions that that is an important part of the conversation.

00:20:34:11 - 00:20:50:01
Unknown
But even a staff analysis, which is supposed to be objective, can be influenced by special interests who might have relationship with the staff, director and with staff. And so they're going to get their messaging into that staff analysis.

00:20:50:10 - 00:21:07:03
Unknown
You also have situations where there's just a blatant attack on higher education, and this session was a clear example of that. There were last minute amendments to bills to change the tenure process in our schools, to change the accreditation process in our schools.

00:21:07:22 - 00:21:27:24
Unknown
We saw last year the censorship of UF professors who wanted to testify on a lawsuit challenging the governor's voter suppression bill. And eventually they were able to testify. But it was only after national outrage and the you president resigning that you know that outcome.

00:21:28:12 - 00:21:46:00
Unknown
And there's still a lot of hesitation by higher ed institutions to challenge the legislature because they need the resources in the day. These are public universities that need the state to fund them, so they speak up on some of these other issues.

00:21:46:01 - 00:22:07:18
Unknown
There's a fear that their funding will be at risk. And on the second last day of session, there was a last minute amendment to a conforming bill for the budget that essentially would target higher ed institutions. With House Bill seven, which is the anti CRT bill.

00:22:08:08 - 00:22:22:16
Unknown
And and it's so unreal because critical race theory and those concepts are taught in higher ed institutions. They're not tied to K through 12. So now you're going after higher ed. And let me let me be clear on this.

00:22:23:12 - 00:22:40:11
Unknown
If you a student, for example, or a professor feel like this subject matters, making you uncomfortable. You could go to a court of law or the board of governors, which is appointed by the governor or a standing legislative committee.

00:22:41:04 - 00:22:55:19
Unknown
And if just one of those entities agrees with you that schools funding would be withheld, their performance funding would be withheld like that is a direct assault on higher ed institutions and on the First Amendment and on the First Amendment.

00:22:56:00 - 00:23:15:01
Unknown
And is and it's just shocking to me. And I felt like I was in this like, you know, Twilight Zone, like asking Randy Fine or was it already fired because she was the one who carried this language? And I and I asked him point blank, I said, okay, so if a court of law says, no, this university

00:23:15:01 - 00:23:32:08
Unknown
did not break HB seven, but then I go to the legislature and you all say differently, does that what opinion stands? No. Answer, whatever the opinion stands. I mean, it was such bad policy and that is now going to be enforced a lot.

00:23:32:23 - 00:23:54:10
Unknown
And so when I say that we're anti-science, it's not even just issue based. It's like this collective mentality of attacking higher ed, which is so disappointing. And if you care about top talent, if you care about the Space Coast workforce, if you care about manufacturing jobs, you care about state employees, then you should support our higher ed

00:23:54:10 - 00:24:10:02
Unknown
institutions. But it's been the complete opposite the last five, six years. I know. Let's take a step back. I want to look at the big picture. What is Florida facing with climate change right now? Oh, disastrous consequences. I mean, we're a peninsula, so we're surrounded by water.

00:24:10:11 - 00:24:26:02
Unknown
We already see the impact. And in many parts of south Florida, my brother lives in Miami. And so, you know, there's a clear indication of when some parts of Miami just are not accessible anymore. And of course, we have to be clear about this.

00:24:26:09 - 00:24:44:17
Unknown
It impacts every person. But those who impacts in a more negative way are going to be poor people. It's going to be folks who work in the sun like our farmworkers and construction workers. It's going to be folks who don't have the ability to harden their homes and of course, climate refugees.

00:24:44:17 - 00:25:02:00
Unknown
But we already saw from Puerto Rico with Hurricane Maria folks coming to Florida in droves for help and of course, the Bahamas with Hurricane Irma. And so, I mean, my God, look at the Panhandle right now with with fires and with Hurricane Michael.

00:25:02:08 - 00:25:19:06
Unknown
You know, these are the consequences of not taking action on climate. And so we're in a very difficult, difficult moment in global history. But in Florida history and the apathy and the lack of attention is shocking to me.

00:25:19:12 - 00:25:42:07
Unknown
And it was really interesting on the House floor, there was a resiliency bill and Representative Ben Diamond tried to add amendments for issues around climate and issues around, you know, stopping pollution, stopping the production of of of carbon and trying to make this a more holistic package.

00:25:42:15 - 00:25:56:14
Unknown
And the response the bill sponsor is or opposition to those efforts was, we're not here to politicize this. You know, we just want to get real work done. That's like that is such a sad talking point. We're not trying to politicize this.

00:25:56:23 - 00:26:10:23
Unknown
This is what we need to do to actually have an impact. But their pivot to, you know, ignore us is just to say that we're politicizing the issue, which is a very common, like, you know, pivot scene we've seen from conservatives.

00:26:10:23 - 00:26:27:16
Unknown
And they don't like something we're saying they just try to pivot and project to something else. So it further demonstrates how we have to stay focused and we cannot get distracted. And I mean, I think I read a report from the United Nations that sea levels are expected to rise.

00:26:27:18 - 00:26:42:11
Unknown
By a certain amount in 2100, I think it was like four feet, three or four feet. If the sea rises by three or four feet because of climate change, many parts of our of the biggest urban areas in Florida will become uninhabitable.

00:26:42:19 - 00:27:02:09
Unknown
They will not be. There will not be roads. Roads will be underwater. And so a lot of the infrastructure that we need to live there. That includes parts of Tampa Bay, of Miami, of the West Coast, like Naples and Fort Myers of the Keys, the Everglades, and up the coast of Fort Pierce and Vero Beach, etc., etc.

00:27:03:13 - 00:27:21:02
Unknown
. I think people like to pretend that that's going to happen. You know, at some far off point in the future that they're not going to have to worry about it. But imagine imagine the nihilism involved in the mentality of thinking that, well, my grandkids, because that's that's who we're talking about.

00:27:21:17 - 00:27:33:19
Unknown
My grandkids will deal with that. And, you know, and when they ask what we what we did about it, what we could have done about it, we'll say nothing. I mean, you know, what are they going to what are people going to tell their grandkids?

00:27:34:18 - 00:27:49:00
Unknown
You know, and I want young people in Florida to understand what's happening right now, because what's happening is that we have up the leadership generation in the state, basically ignoring climate change and acting like it's not going to happen.

00:27:49:00 - 00:28:02:03
Unknown
And they're they're trying to take initiatives to prepare for it and, you know, mitigate for climate change. You can't stop the ocean from rising. It's a limestone state. The water is going to come from somewhere. If it doesn't come over an embankment or over some sort of seawall, it's going to come from below.

00:28:02:03 - 00:28:23:12
Unknown
From the limestone. Absolutely. So so Florida Florida's really not in a tight spot. And and I think it all goes back to the leadership in Florida in the priorities and what you mentioned before, which is greed. And so how greed and and the incredible marketing campaign pushed by by corporations that are driven by greed and profit blind

00:28:23:12 - 00:28:43:08
Unknown
people to the possibility that part of their state and maybe their homes could be partially underwater in less than a hundred years. And so there are solutions to this, one of which is rooftop solar. But when we start the broken record again, you know, greed has prevented now has made it much more difficult for people to put

00:28:43:08 - 00:28:54:01
Unknown
rooftop solar in their homes. As an update to this podcast, between the time of this interview and the time of publishing, Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed the bill that critics say would have crushed the rooftop solar industry in Florida.

00:28:54:01 - 00:29:14:11
Unknown
So it did not become law in 2022. What do you foresee in the future, Ana? What do you think? What do you think's going to is going to happen? Well, we need to make these issues, political issues. And I tried really hard by breaking the ivory tower in explaining to my constituents what this looks like, how this

00:29:14:11 - 00:29:33:04
Unknown
is operationalized. You know, we talk about special interests. Sometimes it's hard to understand. It sounds more theoretical than real life. So that's why I get specific and I talk about what appeal does. I talk about what Nestlé and Mosaic do, what the ad industry does like.

00:29:33:05 - 00:29:57:22
Unknown
I'm not shy to say those things because I think if you only talk in in like, you know, messaging points, like theoretical people can't grasp it when you tell them, look how much money FPL gave and look at what this bill does rightly, I think that further amplifies for the everyday person, including young people, not only what's

00:29:57:22 - 00:30:12:03
Unknown
at stake, but why this system is corrupt, why it's broken, and what can I do about it? I haven't. You brought up a really important point, young people. You're you're a young woman. You've risen fast in party politics in Florida.

00:30:12:04 - 00:30:22:17
Unknown
You're doing well, made a name for yourself, and you're going to continue to make a name for yourself. How did you get turned on to these important issues and to this kind of this kind of priority in your in your young life?

00:30:22:18 - 00:30:36:20
Unknown
What what what drove you to to pay attention to these issues and to want to get involved? Oh, I love this question. I grew up as a working class kid, as a daughter of immigrants and parents, came from different parts of Iran, but met in Orlando.

00:30:37:08 - 00:30:59:02
Unknown
So we didn't have a lot of money to go on vacations. I think my entire childhood my mom passed away. We only went on two vacations and they were in Florida. They were very short. And so I never really had you know, I'd even know how to swim until I was much older because I never had a

00:30:59:02 - 00:31:18:11
Unknown
pool, you know, it wasn't something that my family had access to. But what we did have access to were parks. We go to our county parks every weekend and, you know, scoot around or play football or whatever. We go to the beach a lot.

00:31:18:23 - 00:31:35:16
Unknown
And so some of these experiences that are just so natural for Floridians, you know, we take and take for granted. Right. And I remember actually going to Akiva Springs in fifth grade because every fifth grader gets to go in Orange County.

00:31:35:16 - 00:31:52:17
Unknown
It's like part of our curriculum. And just being really taken aback by its beauty. And I love it. I love animals. And like, I'm a I'm a vegan. And I just think that we got to do better for the little critters who call Florida home.

00:31:53:06 - 00:32:07:16
Unknown
And so it was a lot of mobility factors that when I decide to run for office, it's funny not taking money from utility companies and sugar was like a no brainer for me. Like, it wasn't even something I had to be talked into.

00:32:07:17 - 00:32:21:11
Unknown
I just knew because I remember FPL getting involved with the solar ballot amendment and like funding the the bad one. And so I was like, why do I want to take money from these companies? Like, these are really bad actors.

00:32:21:14 - 00:32:38:18
Unknown
It wasn't even like a debate in my head. And it was so funny because when I got to Tallahassee. Surprise, surprise, like that type of perspective is like very controversial, you know? And and I got in trouble, like, from Democratic caucus members who said I was embarrassing them.

00:32:38:18 - 00:32:55:09
Unknown
And, you know, my attitude towards groups like YAF was problematic to the caucus and stuff. And so I really have had to build a lot of courage, you know, these last three years to be myself and to stay with my values.

00:32:55:13 - 00:33:14:14
Unknown
And so that's kind of, you know, why I do this work and this, like, keeps me grounded. It's not easy, but it's the right thing to do anymore. Elected officials who are in it for the right reasons versus driven by some perception of power that is not shared, is not collective, and is short term.

00:33:14:14 - 00:33:27:14
Unknown
I want to build long term power for my communities and this is how you do it. Some people have labeled you as kind of the the voice for youth in politics in Florida, somebody who speaks from a young perspective.

00:33:27:14 - 00:33:43:22
Unknown
You're young yourself. You connect with younger people. How important is it to reach younger voters and and and and advocate for them and speak for them? It's incredibly important. I take a lot of pride in helping to as a millennial.

00:33:43:22 - 00:34:00:20
Unknown
I think part of my responsibility is to be the connector for multiple generations. And so we help folks that, you know, their first time getting political is supporting us. And they they have you know, I identify as Gen Xers.

00:34:00:20 - 00:34:18:05
Unknown
They they contribute a lot to our state and our community, but never politically. And we help them be those first timers, right. All the way to old jazzier that is super savvy on social media but doesn't know how Belleville becomes a lot or does understand how quickly things change.

00:34:18:06 - 00:34:32:12
Unknown
Like I had some folks over the don't say gay bill, for example. They thought an amendment that a Republican filed had passed. So I had to explain to them, no, actually AIDS in past know just because Republican bylaws amendment does doesn't mean it just sticks like they have to vote on it.

00:34:32:12 - 00:34:46:01
Unknown
So. So I kind of do what I can also kind of be that, that eskamani like kind of help folks, you know, like navigate the process. They build political power themselves then and then we're just there to compliment them along the way.

00:34:46:16 - 00:35:00:05
Unknown
And so, yeah, we take a lot of pride in being that connector for sure. I've heard the term Governor Eskamani kicked around a bunch over the last year or two. Tell me what you want for yourself and for the state in the future.

00:35:00:05 - 00:35:21:03
Unknown
And I'm talking about your political ambitions. What do you want to do? Well, I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you. I have to remind folks, especially especially supporters, that, you know, want us to make these giant leaps, whether it's Congress or somebody like governor, that we have to we you know, in Farsi, there's a

00:35:21:03 - 00:35:38:01
Unknown
phrase you have to wash. It means baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. I know that there is a temptation to just, like, jump to the top. But there's also reality where as a young woman of color, I don't get more than one shot.

00:35:38:24 - 00:36:01:09
Unknown
It's harder for women and women of color to jump back after a loss. And I think Florida has a long way to go in building infrastructure for strong Democrats to win, which is why I've also launched a voter registration organization last year that is training young people to do community outreach, to organize their campuses and to register

00:36:01:09 - 00:36:13:20
Unknown
people to vote. Because I want to help build that bench. But I also realize that we can't just, you know, jump to the top. You have to you have to earn it. And a part of that is is building, building, building.

00:36:14:08 - 00:36:29:03
Unknown
And so I'm very content in the work we're doing now. And I also tenderly need to finish other things in my life. Like I'm still getting my Ph.D. right now. I can't finish a Ph.D. by run for something like that.

00:36:29:06 - 00:36:41:05
Unknown
Like, I just I have to get this done for the betterment of myself and my ability to serve my community. And so we'll see. You know, there's so many so much uncertainty out there and leadership rises amounts of uncertainty.

00:36:41:15 - 00:36:54:15
Unknown
But I know that things happen for a reason. I'm in the right place at the right time, and I'm going to keep giving it everything I got. Well, we're almost, almost through. But I do want to ask you, how can regular people get involved in environmental issues in Florida?

00:36:54:15 - 00:37:04:03
Unknown
What can book and the average person who, for example, is listening to this podcast right now and wondering, well, how could I get involved in an environmental issue? How can I take a stand? Any thoughts on what people can do?

00:37:04:19 - 00:37:28:08
Unknown
Of course. I mean, first of all, there's so many amazing organizations do get plugged into the stories, bring counsel to water conservation voters, Sierra Club. There's so many great organizations. Some are national, some are state based. Some are hyperlocal that you can get plugged into and volunteer and participate in their advocacy trainings and and, you know, help

00:37:28:08 - 00:37:44:03
Unknown
those help those groups help you. Right. Because these issues can be complicated and super wonky, but that organizations out there that will unpack it and make it more digest digestible for you. And I would also add, you got to get to know who your lawmakers are.

00:37:44:09 - 00:37:59:16
Unknown
Ask them where they stand on these issues. You can go to my Florida house, stuck up, find my raft. It'll tell you who your state house number is. Your state center is. Remember Congresses and ask them where they stand on these issues, follow them on social media, make sure they know what you're watching.

00:37:59:17 - 00:38:15:24
Unknown
I think that's really important. A lot of folks don't think when they vote that there's consequences. And so you've got to make sure they understand where you stand on these issues. The last thing I'll say is everyone is an influencer in your own circle, but you do have to make a commitment, right?

00:38:16:00 - 00:38:31:13
Unknown
I was connecting with some folks yesterday and a husband and a wife and a wife who is such a rock star. She wants to get more involved environmental issues. As she said once a week, she's going to commit to environmental issues.

00:38:31:13 - 00:38:48:13
Unknown
And so everyone has their own personal psychology and schedule to navigate. But you have to be intentional in saying, well, I'm going to read environmental news, you know, this day on this time, like give yourself a routine. So that's minute minutes, all but something you're proactively doing.

00:38:48:13 - 00:39:01:06
Unknown
And I think that also help you be consistent in your advocacy. And now any any last thoughts on the future? Let's let's try to end on a note of optimism here, although there is a lot to be optimistic about.

00:39:01:08 - 00:39:15:06
Unknown
Well, what do you what do you see in the future for Florida environmentally and and your role in it? Well, I think where I am in Orange County has a lot of good examples of optimism despite the state of Florida preempting rights of nature.

00:39:16:11 - 00:39:43:10
Unknown
Is the county. The county that I live in. Overwhelmingly approved. Rights to nature. Protections for specific waterways. Over 60% threshold. I mean that that is an election that is Democrats and Republicans and NCPA is Albany together and the recent Orange County we did pass an ordinance on urban fertilizer, which again is a small piece of the bigger

00:39:43:10 - 00:39:59:12
Unknown
puzzle. But it's one of the things that the state of Florida has not yet preempted. So we were able to successfully pass that. What does the what does that bill say quickly? I don't remember. So it's a county ordinance to regulate the use of urban fertilizer.

00:39:59:12 - 00:40:14:18
Unknown
So basically fertilizers in your yard. And the goal is that during very specific weather patterns, you should not be fertilizing. It puts restrictions that try to help reduce runoff when you are fertilizing your lawn, which triggers algae blooms.

00:40:15:01 - 00:40:30:21
Unknown
Correct. Correct. It's one of the other. It's a policy at a local level that has not been preempted yet. And so we just did in Orange County. And so I think that there is a lot to be hopeful for, but we have to translate our concerns into political power.

00:40:30:22 - 00:40:45:20
Unknown
That's that's the only way to protect the state for generations to come. Excellent. And Eskamani, thank you so much for joining me today. Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani, look out for her in the future, a rising star in the Democratic Party and a tireless advocate for progressive causes.

00:40:45:20 - 00:40:59:20
Unknown
Thank you. Thank you. This episode of The Nature of Florida podcast was brought to you in part by the Everglades Foundation, the Fairburn Foundation, the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Expliquer Media. If you're enjoying this podcast, remember to subscribe on our website.

00:40:59:21 - 00:41:09:17
Unknown
The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral The Best Outcome. That's the nature of Florida with Oscar Corral, Douglas, Broadcom. Or find us on your favorite platform and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.