St. Etienne As the organizers shook of the aftermath of fellowship-and-solidarity time that had gone on until the wee hours and included robust singing with new verses to all ACORN songs, they hunkered into the discussions of how ACORN was addressing both climate change and politics.
There were two approaches that organizers argued on raising the environmental issues expressed by our membership to a clearer level. One was to look strategically at precarious areas where low-and-moderate income families lived in our community in order to analyze whether or not we were addressing the issues effectively. Flooding and sea rise along with fracking and train routes were seen as worth review in the United Kingdom.
The other strategy involved reframing some of our classic and constant campaigns, especially in housing, along a climate axis. Retrofits in Canada, the US, and France have been ongoing demands, many of which we have won in terms of modernization programs while others are still in contest. In Ontario we had won huge commitments to insulate and retrofit social and lower-income housing, but new premier Ford had made canceling the program one of his first acts.
As the discussion proceeded, it seemed like a plethora of our issues and campaigns were environmental. The fights for access to potable water in Cameroon, Kenya, Honduras, and Peru were historic. Eliminating lead in water fountains in Houston schools and throughout Louisiana and now Milwaukee were all part of our work, as well as pushing for soil contamination remediation in playgrounds, parks, schools, and elsewhere. Bioswales or rain gardens have become part of the demand of our affiliates in New Orleans in the 9th ward to prevent future flooding in those areas. It became clear that we need to be clearer in and outside of our membership that environmental issues were part and parcel of all of ACORN’s work.
When it came to politics, the reports were not encouraging at the national level in our countries. Local politics continued to be the key focus where we could have some impact in the era of Trump, Macron, Ford, and soon to be Boris Johnson. There was discussion about deepening the political education of our membership through our leadership training program with a continued emphasis on voter engagement, registration, and turnout across the board. There was consensus that in a divisive time in so many countries we needed to make sure that within ACORN there was unity as the first order of business so that we could prevent political division.
These are difficult times for our work, but the commitment of everyone to ACORN standing tall and stepping up was unanimous.