Climate Refugees in the USA

I found this Huffington Post article rather compelling and fitting for this site, especially the title. The short entry reads as follows:

“This is a chilling video of a voicemail from a Hurricane Sandy victim in the Long Island neighborhood of Rockaway Peninsula. With scientists telling us that climate change is raising sea levels — storm surges and the intensity of hurricanes — there is only one way to describe these folks: they are among the first North American climate refugees”

It is so important that we tell the stories of those people who are currently being impacted by climate change. There already are thousands of climate migrants from Mexico (also a part of North America) that have been leaving their homelands as farmlands dry up since water once flowing from the Colorado River now is at a trickle to supply cities like Las Vegas with their ever growing thirst. Thousands also lost their homes with Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August of 2005, many of whom have not been able to return. So yes, the people without shelter in Rockaway are now part of the thousands and will soon be a part of the millions of people struggling to survive the impacts of global climate change. That is unless we do something about it.


Hurricane Sandy aka Frankenstorm in Images


and least we forget that Hurricane Sandy has touched down in more places than the USA.

Here are some photos and a video from Cuba.

Hurricane Sandy in Cuba / source:
Hurricane Sandy in Cuba / source:

Click here for Guardian video of damages in Cuba

Photo and Video from Haiti

Hurricane Sandy in Haiti / source:

Photos and Video from Dominican Republic

Hurricane Sandy in the Dominican Republic / source:

Hurricane Sandy in the Dominican Republic / source:

Hurricane Sandy in the Dominican Republic / source:

These images tell some of the stories of those impacted by this Frakenstorm. In the Caribbean over 65 people lost their lives (with 51 of those people from Haiti.) In the United States, the death toll has reached 48. On the night before Halloween, Hurricane Sandy as the new normal is something that seems too scary to be true. But this is the reality that millions of people are facing and it’s only going to get worse. Devastating droughts, wildfires, snow storms and yes, hurricanes. Extreme and unusual weather directly linked to climate change. The reality that we are currently facing the impacts of climate change is now undeniable. The question remains, however, if we will take the steps necessary to curb our (by which I mean the US’s) greenhouse gas emissions so that the world and humanity can be saved. Will we act for climate justice?

A friend of mine from college wrote a compelling post about her re-found commitment to taking action to stop the worst impacts of climate change. Now is the time for “a little less TV, but a little more tuning in.” Check out what she’s got to say here:

“I’m a little concerned at the particular way in which we’ve all been watching the news, trolling every weather site for new photos and videos of sensational storm coverage. Though initially it comes from a place of concern and awareness, it can also border on selfish– as if we’re using serious damage and danger for entertainment.

But when I step back and check myself, I realize that to continue watching dramatic mass-media news from a place of fascinated pornographic greed seems excessive, wrong, and unjust. As if we’re doing “our part” by gluing our eyes to the weather channel and marveling the destruction. Why did nobody (including me) pay this level of attention– or even know– when Sandy hit Cuba (see photo below)? And where are the practical articles telling us what we can do to help with the relief efforts, or how we can raise awareness about climate change and extreme weather for the upcoming elections?

I am now focusing on praying for the safety of those most vulnerable: the homeless, the sick, the old, the displaced. A little less TV, but a little more tuning in.”

Read the entire post here:,0,2029431.story

Frankenstorm, Climate Change and the Ability to Adapt

Pictures show empty shelves that were full of water bottles and NYC subways stations that are shut down for the next couple of days. Hurricane Sandy could well turn into ‘Frakenstorm’. Just days before Halloween this year, much of the east coast and its approximately 60 million residents are coming face to face with what may be the worst storm in a century. “We’re not trying to hype it,” explains National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Kocin. Spreading across over 800 miles, there are predictions in some areas of 12 inches of rain, 2 feet of snow and sustained 40 to 50 mph winds. And most of the media is also reporting that Frakenstorm is worse than the sum of its parts.

Local news here in North Carolina is covering how the devastation spreads from the Outer Banks to upstate New York. Strong waves rip acorss the shore and in most major cities across the East Coast airports, trains and bus services have shut down. President Obama spoke out and said that everyone “across the Eastern seaboard should be taking this very seriously.” At a time when local media, our facebook/twitter friends and even the President of the US are calling on us to take this storm seriously, some climate justice activists are questioning why the issue of climate change and extreme weather weren’t topics in the recently Presidential debates. Neither Presidential candidate mentioned climate change even once during the Presidential debates; the first time since 1984 that has been true.

Some media sources are writing compelling articles questioning the connection. NPR questioned ‘Frakenstorm: Has Climate Change Created a Monster?’ and NY Times Blog explored ‘The #Frankenstorm in Climate Context’. Both articles straddle the balance of pointing out the connections of extreme weather and being true to science, with including the diverse voices in the ‘debate’.

Adam Frank’s NPR article begins: “It was not a good year for people, weather and climate. The winter was strangely warm in many places and the summer ridiculously hot. As a large fraction of the country suffered through extreme or even extraordinary drought many folks naturally wondered, “Is this climate change?” Then along came a presidential election in which the words “climate change” disappeared from the dialogue. Now, just a week or so before voting day, the convergence of westbound Hurricane Sandy with a eastbound cold front is creating a massive storm, a Frankenstorm even, that is threatening millions of Americans. Weird weather is making yet another appearance in our lives and once again we ask, ‘Is this climate change?'”

The question for climate justice advocates isn’t simply is this hurricane caused by climate change, but also what are the impacts that extreme weather like this have on the least capable of dealing with the devastation. What about the East Coasts’ poor, elderly, disabled and incarcerated peoples who are facing the full force of the winds and waves? It is troubling how these stories are not being told as broadly today.

One example of this can be seen in Mayor Bloomberg response to a reporter’s question about the evacuation plan for those incarcerated at Rikers Island. A breaking article about Mayor Bloomberg’s inadequate response explains, “According to the New York City Department of Corrections’ own website, more than three-quarters of Rikers Island’s 400 acres are built on landfill–which is generally thought to be more vulnerable to natural disasters. Its ten jails have a capacity of close to 17,000 inmates, and normally house at least 12,000, including juveniles and large numbers of prisoners with mental illness–not to mention pre-trial detainees who have yet to be convicted of any crime. There are also hundreds of corrections officers at work on the island.” When a reporter questioned about the safety of these people, Mayor Bloomberg apparently stated in an annoyed tone, “Don’t worry about them getting out.” In this he completely ignored the well being and potential safety of thousands of NY residents. This is not the first time that the well being of these inmates have been ignored during an extreme hurricane. Last year when Hurricane Irene hit New York, there was also no plan for these people to be evacuated.

We must start reporting these extreme weather events as a part of a global crisis. One that acknowledges their connection with climate change and the ways that we collectively have to figure out best adaptation practices that takes into consideration our disenfranchised communities. To everyone on the East Coast, those being forced to move and those being forced to stay, please be safe.