COMM students collaborate to work towards climate change legislation in Florida

An environmental project (known as “Project Nero”) was set up by Florida State University (FSU) students to bring forward climate change legislation and awareness in Florida.  The initiative was highlighted in a story featured on March 2, 2014, by WTXL-TV news in Tallahassee, Fla.

Project Nero logo“Project Nero” was developed in a Digital Media Production course taught this spring 2014 semester by FSU School of Communication associate professor, Dr. Andy Opel, who collaborated across colleges with an Environmental Science & Policy class offered by professor, Dr. William (Bill) Landing.  Students from both majors worked together with the goal of answering the questions:  “Who is blocking climate legislation in the State of Florida and why?”

Dr. Opel said, “In effect, we are searching for the modern Nero who is fiddling while the planet burns.”  Hence, the project’s name, Nero, is after the fifth emperor of Rome “who is rumored to have fiddled while Rome burned.”

Their website describes this initiative as “a student led documentary project in citizen journalism.”  Through civic engagement, it addresses climate change issues to the Florida legislature.  This project also strives to educate Floridians who elect these lawmakers about “the direct economic and environmental effects that global warming can have on the state” if new steps are not taken.  The students involved with this initiative hope to positively impact Florida by encouraging implementation of a climate action plan that will limit the pollution of fossil fuel companies and promote proactive alternative energy use.

On March 4, 2014, FSU students participating with Project Nero attended the first day of session outside the Capitol building in Downtown Tallahassee.  Their goals were to inform state legislators of current environmental issues and draw attention to those who are currently blocking effective climate changes in the state.

Despite many Florida legislators not returning phone calls to students throughout the semester, Dr. Opel is proud of their hard work to try and make a difference.  They have gained first-hand experience with some of the difficulties and roadblocks often encountered in politics

A few exceptions of Florida politicians who were receptive to sharing advice with the class as guest speakers were Republican Rehwinkel Vasilinda, and several Democrats who Dr. Opel mentioned “instructed the students not to use the words “climate change” or Republicans would not speak to them.  For the Environmental Science student majors, the realization that a majority of an entire political party is unwilling to use the language of science – the facts students have studied for the past 3.5 years – was a stunning blow to their view of the political process.”

With the official Project Nero course and the legislative session ending soon, Dr. Opel mentioned final thoughts on how “with over 7 million Floridians living within 5 feet of sea level, billions of dollars in roads, schools and public infrastructure in this zone and the salt water intrusion into our aquifers that will accompany sea level rise, Florida is the most vulnerable state in the union to the effects of climate change.  The students know this but the governor and legislative leaders did not want to even talk about it.”

The project will continue throughout the 2014 legislative session and you can follow the progress on their website’s blog ( or see some of the work of Project Nero at the links below.  If you want to support their work, “like” them on FB and Twitter and repost their links.

Outside Legislature
FL Legislature
Environment FLLegislature roomCharlie Christ