Grassroots Climate Action

Climate Change Personal Writings

            New Orleans       We agreed to do a series of two-hour Zoom training sessions on community organizing for a coalition of grassroots frontline groups dealing with climate impacts from toxics to flooding to sea rise and storm preparation.  The last session was on campaigns, and the groups and organizers who had been participating were asked to submit their issues, so they could put into groups for a planning exercise.  The submissions were varied, but we ended up with an air group and a water breakout.

One person from the Pacific northwest said her group wanted to deal with heat, which was certainly timely.  Louisiana was under an emergency heat protocol issued by the governor, while we were zooming. Similar warnings ran from Houston to Tampa, with records falling more often than rain.  We used to say in New Orleans, it’s the humidity not the heat, but this August, it’s the heat not the humidity.  It had hit 100 degrees before a brief afternoon downpour broke the temperature down to 80 which is where we still stand now with a 90-degree expected high.  It’s a cold front.  We put the heat issue in with the rest of air and pollution.

The news is reporting that the temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are so warm that they are going to accelerate the ferocity and frequency of hurricanes this year.  I was with the water groups, but storms were less on their minds than flooding married to development, whether in coastal North Carolina or in neighborhoods in Birmingham, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi, or rural counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma.  These creeks and streams are not what comes to mind when we think of wild and raging rivers, but flooding remains an issue in these areas, and undoubtably thousands of other communities around the country out of sight and out of mind, but definitely in harm’s way.

The main targets triggering many of these problems were developers on the private side and the Corp of Engineers on the public side.   The developers, usually with governmental support and sometimes with their financing, want to build in these floodplains and low lands or in the case of the Carolina coastal region in the face of rising tides.  The Corps is often doing too little and too late or supporting developers while leaving local families in the lurch.  All of these folks were spunky and game, but terribly outgunned by deep pocketed private and public entities.  The sessions were intense but fun.  These community leaders and erstwhile activists and organizers are committed to the fight, but were desperate for tools they could use to win.

This coalition has several hundred members of all shapes and sizes, but working with the groups that had signed up for these short trainings in community organizing principles and practices, I was left wondering how many thousands of small efforts like these might be nascent in America now.  Moreover, with every rise in water and temperature issuing warnings of climate change, how many more thousands are going to be mobilizing and demanding change and protection in the years to come?

We’re not ready.