alumnus climat change book

Climate catastrophe

By A&S News

Climate catastrophe

By A&S News
MFA graduate writes book about Miami’s future on the shores of climate change.

There is no denying that Miami is on the brink of climate change disaster. From its flooded streets when the tide is high to the threat of sea-level rise and the destructive power of stronger and bigger hurricanes, the future of Miami and its residents hangs in the balance.

In his first published book, DISPOSABLE CITY: Miami's Future on the Shores of Climate Catastrophe, University of Miami alumnus Mario Alejandro Ariza, who earned his MFA in Poetry in 2018, highlights issues not commonly associated with climate change, from health disparities to food insecurity, urban planning and design, and the systemic and historical racism that has shaped Miami’s past, present, and climate catastrophic future. 

“The gravity of the situation is such that it demands people contribute to solving the problem in whatever way they can,” said Ariza. “I hope that readers walk away from the book with an acute sense of the vulnerability that everyone who lives here shares, regardless of class, race, color or creed.”

A&S News had a chance to connect with Ariza to discuss his book and his academic career in the Creative Writing Program.

A&S News: You are currently a local reporter with the Sun-Sentinel. What’s your beat?

Mario Ariza: Before the pandemic, my beat was the federal court system and the Department of Justice, so drug traffickers, money laundering, and white-collar crimes. My editors threw me onto the pandemic beat now that jury trails are suspended, and this is where my science writing skills came in handy. The parallels between the failures in our coronavirus response and our response to climate change quickly became evident.

A&S News: Is there any connection with your MFA in Poetry and the foundation for writing Disposable City?

MA: The MFA literally gave me the time, space, and creative community to ideate, research, and sell the book. It's no exaggeration that it wouldn't have been possible without the guidance of the UM faculty in the Creative Writing Program, and without the fellowship funds the program so generously awarded me. 

A&S News: Why did you decide to write this book?

MA: Disposable City is my contribution to the struggle for Miami's survival in the new climate normal, and my hope is that anyone who picks it up can go from 0 to 60 on the subject of climate change and South Florida in a relatively short amount of time.

A&S News: Your academic career is really interesting, from political science to studies in Hispanic culture then your MFA in Poetry. Why did you decided to earn your MFA in Poetry at UM and what do you miss most about UM and the Creative Writing Program?

MA: UM was kind enough to offer me a fellowship at their Creative Writing Program at a time when I was transitioning out of being a high school teacher. The fact that it was a program in the city where most of my family lived helped clinch the deal. I really miss the unstructured time. UM's program is really unique in that its third year is incredibly hands off. I was incredibly lucky to have that time to develop Disposable City and to work on my journalism while in the program. It's why I was able to transition into a new career writing journalism full time and get the book published shortly after graduation.

A&S News: Who are your mentors and beloved poet(s)? 

MA: I do have a list of people, alive and dead, whose books and works have mentored and moved me along: Pedro Henriquez Ureña, Ursula K. Leguin, King Tubby, Kamau Braithwaite, John Murrillo, Martin Espada, Lorgia Garcia Peña, and Rita Indiana.

A& News: Did you have a favorite professor in UM’s Creative Writing Program? 

MA: I owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Maureen Seaton. She creates spaces where artistic experimentation and personal growth can happen, and it's largely because of her class on "the lyric poem" that this book became a reality and I found my voice as a prose writer.