Emerge Activist of the Month: Celeste DePalma

Every month we bring you a profile on Emergers doing all manner of great stuff in the community. See a project they’ve got going on and like their style? Come to an Emerge Miami meeting every Tuesday evening from 7-8 at Sweat Records to learn more, get involved, and meet new friends!

This June, we would love to introduce you to Celeste DePalma– a local advocate for Everglades preservation and fostering awareness for our precious water table. Check out our conversation:

Q: What is your Day Job?

Celeste: I’m an Everglades Policy Associate at Audubon Florida

Q: How did you come to Miami?

Celeste: Argentina’s economy crashed… again! So after the many ups and downs my parents endured throughout their lifetime, they decided to move to the ‘land of opportunities’ so that my brother and I could have a more stable future. That was a pretty brave move. I’m now grateful to them for it, but back then I was not such a happy camper.

Q: What do you love about Miami?

Celeste: Our cultural melting pot. It’s what makes us so unique and vibrant– and dysfunctional at times. We need to work on the “togetherness” aspect of it still, but I love that I see so many different people every day. It makes for great people watching, plus I can get food from every corner of the world. I can’t picture myself living in a place where I only hear English being spoken. Miami spoiled me pretty badly

Q: What is the hardest thing about living here?

Celeste: At first, making friends. I had multiple groups of friends come and go. Miami is still a very transient place. Now, I’d say the hardest thing about Miami is finding a place to live without having to spend more than 30% of my paycheck on rent! It’s crazy. Also, pay to play. Everything here is costly. I was just in Washington D.C. and I went to so many museums for free. We finally have a state-of-the-art Science Museum that’s gorgeous but it’s $30 per person to get in. It saddens me, because I really believe Miami could grow so much more if it would invest in providing cultural opportunities for the entire community. At $30 per person, I know not everyone will be able to visit and make use of the science museum. Everybody could use a little more science, a little more art. It makes for a better society.

Q: Was there a moment when you knew you had to become involved?

Celeste: Yes. You know how people say that a teacher can make you or break you? Well, I’d say that thanks to Dr. Riach’s class in college I felt I could do something with my life to make this a better place. Had it not been for his class, I would probably not be involved in environmental policy today.

Q: What are you working to change about Miami?

Celeste: I’m trying to make Miami more resilient by restoring America’s largest wetland ecosystem. The Everglades used to cover two-thirds of Florida. With just half of the original ecosystem left, this massive River of Grass is Miami’s best weapon to slow down saltwater intrusion from sea level rise into our drinking water supply. Wetlands are the most efficient ecosystem in sucking carbon out of the atmosphere, so restoring the Everglades is a matter of protecting everything we love about Miami. Not to mention, this ecosystem supports a large chunk of our tourism-based economy and it’s just amazing.

Q: What’s your best “only in Miami” story?

Celeste: I have many… One year, I was driving back home after work around the holidays and I saw this van entirely wrapped in Christmas Lights blasting “El Burrito Sabanero” on I-95. Talk about being extra. It totally made my day. I didn’t even care about gridlock traffic.

Q: Have you ever been to Bayside without a visitor from out of state?

Celeste: Yes, when I first got to Miami… you know, I was once a tourist here, too!