The War Resisters League has endorsed the Hurricane Sandy statement written by Movement Generation and reproduced in part below. The full statement can be found online at MovementGeneration.org
While millions were impacted, we know that people of color and low-income communities bear the brunt of extreme weather events as they often reside in unprotected areas stripped of wetlands and other protective natural barriers, and/or are contaminated by storm surges through toxic industry sites. in Haiti, when Hurricane Sandy hit, hundreds of thousands had only the shelter of make- shift tents since the January 2010 earth-quake destroyed existing housing.
As we learn the full extent of damage from this huge storm, we are struck by the need for our communities and movements to prepare for rapidly changing conditions.
From Haiti, Ricot Jean-Pierre, Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA) tells us, “The damage from the hurricane demonstrated how the environment in Haiti has been destroyed by neoliberal policies that disproportionately affect the poorest of the poor. Now, it is only through SOLIDARITY with one another and engagement with all sectors—popular movements, women’s movements, peasant movements, youth movements — that we will transform our environment, protect life, and preserve our right to sovereignty in the places where we live.”
There will be many more shocks — acute moments of disruption such as extreme weather events — and slides — incremental disruptions such as sea level rise that play out over longer timeframes in devastating ways, if we are not prepared. the question is, how can we prepare to harness these shocks and slides to win the shifts we need in favor of people and the planet?
For decades, scientists have been warning those in governance about the need to cut green-house gas emissions and about the potential impacts from climate change on different regions. But the politicians have been both silent and stuck.
In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, James Hansen at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York blamed climate change for excessive drought, based on six decades of measurements, not computer models: “our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. to the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.”
“Communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis have never been silent about the solutions that will save our planet and our soul as a society,” says Cecil Corbin-Mark of WE ACT for environmental Justice in West Harlem. “We have advocated for bus rapid transit, affordable safe housing and resilient communities, green jobs through public investment, and policies that cut and eliminate carbon.”
Yet the failure to take climate change seriously has hampered our ability to effectively respond to these predictable shocks.
The post-Sandy activity on the ground has already exposed the incompetence of governments to respond effectively — particularly to needs in workng-class communities—and, in their place, grassroots, community-based efforts are springing up to provide basic needs and resources to communities in true acts of resilience.
Says Helena Wong of the Coalition Against Anti-Asian violence (CAAAv), “today, we showed that the power of community can hold us together even through the toughest of times, and it was done with lots of love, laughter, and hard work. today, it was clear that even if city leaders do not acknowledge the work that we have done, we know we reached the people who needed it.”
An October 2012 comprehensive survey found that some states and cities around the country are beginning to draw up plans, but they’re nowhere near sufficient. “Most adaptation actions to date appear to be incremental changes,” the survey says, “not the transformational changes that may be needed in certain cases to adapt to significant changes in climate.”
While elites have been silent or stuck, grassroots forces in New York and New Jersey have been loud and clear on the path for real solutions. the efforts of these grassroots and indigenous groups are charting a path to new economies defined by public transit, zero waste, community housing, food sovereignty, wetlands restoration, clean community-owned power, and local self-governance. These efforts foster community resilience — critical to weathering the shocks and slides ahead.
The key to surviving these events and rebuilding thereafter relies on the creation and implementation of community-led solutions that value the lives of peo- ple and the health of the environment. this means transitioning out of an economy that makes some populations and communities vulnerable at the expense of others and toward an economy that works for people and the planet.
The days, weeks, and months ahead will be full of decision-making about how to invest precious resources in the reconstruction of communities. the voices of those working for root cause solutions must be heard! Community-led solutions will break the silence and move us toward a just transition.
Mandy Carter speaks at the 2012 Dellinger Lecture in commemoration of Bayard Rustin. The lecture was also the New York launch party for We Have Not Been Moved, recently published by WRL and PM Press.
Photo courtesy of Ed Hedemann