I’m Will Charouhis. My hometown Miami, Florida, once known as the Magic City, is now dubbed by the press as America's ground zero for facing the worst effects of sea level rise. Scientists predict my city, which sits near sea-level, will be uninhabitable due to floods by the year 2050. In 2017, after my city and our neighboring Latin American communities sustained catastrophic losses from hurricanes intensified by climate change, I was inspired to act. I founded We Are Forces of Nature, a youth organization working to provide coastal protection by planting a million mangroves; distributing weather-related disaster relief to hurricane victums, and educating youth on the solutions we need to take now to halt climate change.
When the pandemic hit, I spent the long months of the lockdown in the mangrove forests, cleaning up mangrove roots along the Miami shoreline, which is the fastest way to regenerate growth. In November 2020, Central America suffered massive mudslides after being hit by Hurricane Eta, and I expanded my coastline protection project to provide hurricane relief to the Latin American communities whose receding coastlines left many of them with nothing.
In June 2021, when an oceanfront condominium building collapsed in my neighborhood due in part to saltwater intrusion rusting out the foundation, our mayor invited me to bring the youth voice to experts investigating the causes of the collapse. Advocating for coastal protections, I'm calling for mangrove restorations, building setbacks, and increased green space. Recently, I began partnering with US State Department vistors from Gabon and Cameroon, in the hopes of expanding research on how we can improve success in growing and replanting mangrove seedlings.
At COP26 in Glasgow, I had the opportunity to meet with Peruvian farmers and the Ministers of Small Island Nations, including Fiji and the Seychelles, hear their coastal concerns, and discussmangrove regeneration as a path forward for mitigating climate change. In a closed meeting with Barack Obama, he discussed risks his home state of Hawaii faces. I also had an opportunity to educate on trees' ability to sequester carbon in panels with Dr. Jane Goodall at the United Nations General Assembly, and the UN Conference on Climate Change COP26, as well as share my reseach at Stockholm+50 and Pre-COP27 at UN Headquarters in Bonn.
Mangroves protect against sea-level rise, provide a breeding ground for fish, and serve as nature's best carbon sink. Because mangroves grow to maturity in 10-20 years and have a large root system, they sequester atmospheric carbon at 5 times the rate of tropical forests and 10 times the rate of evergreen forests.
Youth today suffer from eco-anxiety. A lack of knowledge about solutions, and a lack of ability to feel control over our destiny exacerbates climate-related fears. This project allows everyone to play a role in protecting our coastline communities. Pull a group together to clean up ocean trash that clogs mangrove roots. Clean ups allow what Mother Nature does best - restore itself. If everyone in the world plants just seven mangrove seedlings a year, or cleans out the roots of just one bed of mangroves, we can amass enough forest area to absorb a third of carbon emissions, and reach the planet’s imperative goal of net-zero.
I will continue to provide mangrove restoration education, as well as work hands-on, because I want youth to know that they can channel their fear into action, and make a difference.
Check out my latest research. I'm splicing mangrove seedlings, sealing them with biodradable wax, and replanting in an effort to double regeneration rates. I'll let you know how it turns out. So far, It's working!
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