Thanksgiving Day is approaching. I’ll offer some thoughts for the season.
FIRST: I’m very grateful for this Sierra Club discussion. Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast at the end of October, but there are thousands of people in the Northeast who are still dependent on emergency housing and soup kitchens. Gasoline is still rationed in some areas. Bit by bit, we’re becoming aware of the full extent of the damage in our region. I work with some advocates for immigrants and low-income people, and we’re starting to hear about problems in New York’s Chinatown and in other neighborhoods that were “overlooked” after the storm.
SECOND: ”Is this what climate change looks like?” I really don’t know. Maybe you should ask the scientists…. Still, if this isn’t climate change, call it something else. In some ways, it doesn’t matter what name you select…. Americans went through some difficult times during the summer of 2011. And, then, there were more problems during the summer of 2012. Millions of people suffered because of droughts, heat waves, forest fires, crop failures, and a long list of related events…. And, then, we got hit by Hurricane Sandy. Call it whatever you like.
THIRD: On Cape Cod, our little Sierra Club group started to experiment with something new in 2011…. Instead of talking about climate change as a possible problem for the future, some volunteers started to address climate change as a “here and now” concern. We started to do some outreach work about preparing for disasters, responding to local problems, etc. West Nile virus has been identified in our mosquito population and the Lyme disease season has been extended because of the warm weather. Our little exhibit has a sign that says, “Your Health and Safety in a Changing Environment.” Some volunteers, including myself, received Red Cross training and special training from the state Department of Public Health.
When Hurricane Sandy hit, volunteers were ready to help with emergency services. Some volunteers are still involved.
LAST: What next for the Sierra Club? Our Club has lots and lots of conversations about activist networks and climate change. During the months ahead, I encourage the Sierra Club to build on this experience…. At the grassroots level, one of the best things that activists can do is to connect to community groups that are responding to local problems. Talk with your neighbors about their concerns. Don’t say, “We told you that this was going to happen.” Instead, just ask, “How can the Sierra Club be helpful?”
The conversation about climate change is changing. It’s moving away from college classrooms and into the neighborhoods. Try to be helpful.
With best wishes in every season,
(Submitted by Bob Murphy, who is the chairman for the Cape Cod and Islands Group, in Massachusetts.)