Skipping School with George
When Roy found out he was allowed to skip school and go to the beach, he said, "Awesome!"
"Come on," said his older brother George. "Let's put on our bathing suits."
"No," said Mom. "Wear collared shirts. We're going to take some pictures." Roy and George looked at each other and groaned. Even at seven years old, Roy knew what that meant--going to work with Mom again. Still better than school.
At windy, chilly Miami Beach, Roy saw a few families swimming, their skin sunburned red.
"Tourists," said George. He and Roy didn't usually swim in winter because Mom said the air was too cold. Roy loved it anyway--running along the sand and diving into the waves with George. And Roy knew the water would be warm. In fact, Mom said, the water was getting too warm.
Mary the photographer had set up equipment on three legs. She asked George to stand in the water up to his neck while she snapped a photo. Roy could see George looking doubtful.
"Why does he have to stand in the ocean with his clothes on?" Roy asked his mother.
"Because in the picture, people need to see something is wrong. You know at work I study how fast the ocean is rising, right?" Roy nodded. Mom had explained that the sea level was rising because Earth's temperature was rising. Melting polar ice caps were filling the oceans like a bathtub. And as the sea got warmer, it also took up more room, like boiling water trying to overflow the pasta pot. "George standing in water up to his neck shows how high it could rise in his lifetime."
Roy frowned at the thought of wearing his favorite green shirt into the ocean. "Why can't you just tell people that the sea level is rising?"
"I do try to tell them every day." His mother pointed. One family had left their blanket close to the water's edge. The high water mark--the place where the waves carried the seaweed and left it to dry in the sun--lay three giant steps behind the blanket. Roy hadn't been surprised when a wave floated their cooler. He hoped their radio still worked. Mom said, "But they don't understand the situation until they see their stuff getting wet."
Roy thought about how sometimes, when he was supposed to do homework, television made him forget. "Maybe they're having too much fun to think about the blanket."
George came out dripping and Mom wrapped him in a big towel. "Exactly. So will you help me show people how much the seas are rising?"
Roy waded into the ocean, proud to help his mother with her work.
author's note: Serena works at the Center for Environmentatl Studies at Florida Atlantic Universtiy. See the photo gallery illustrating Sea Level Rise