40 Communities Worldwide Organize Actions to Protest Dirty Energy and Highlight Urgent Need to Address Climate Change
Solidarity actions are taking place in more than 40 communities around the world protesting dirty energy and spotlighting an urgent need to address the climate crisis during the week of action Nov. 14 to Nov. 20. Following a summer of unprecedented extreme weather and the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy the Tar Sands Blockade, a sustained direct action campaign based in Texas against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, has called for this week’s actions.
The closing of the hottest year on record and this summer’s dangerous extreme weather demonstrate that communities all across the world are already experiencing the effects of a rapidly destabilizing climate system. These actions are part of a burgeoning movement of activists who are self-organizing in their neighborhoods, schools and community centers to draw the connections between the ever-more reckless extraction of energy by the profit-driven fossil fuel industry and climate impacts already on their doorsteps. They are building the resilient and resistant communities needed to ensure all people and the planet are healthy and thriving.
Climate change continues to put a disproportionate burden on low income communities and communities of color around the world, and this weeks events highlight this struggle as locals rise up to defend their homes from climate chaos. These events serve as a reminder that we are part of a growing movement to demand climate action. Get ideas for your own local action here.
“Communities around the world are working together to expose the threat that the fossil fuel economy poses to families everywhere,” said Arielle Klagsbrun of Missourians Organizing for Empowerment and Reform. “As extractive industries grow increasingly desperate for profits, corporations like Peabody Coal and TransCanada are resorting to the most dangerous of energy reserves, like hydro-fracking, tar sands exploitation and mountain top removal coal mining.”
On Nov. 14, nine members of Rising Tide Vermont interrupted a Shell Oil executive while he was speaking on a panel about Big Oil in the Niger Delta. Activists shared testimony from Niger Delta community members suffering the impacts of Shell Oil operations on their homeland. Shell Oil has a long-standing relationship with Nigeria’s various military dictatorships and has been implicated in the genocidal devastation of ecosystems and communities in the Niger Delta. They also read statements from members of communities in Nigeria, Alberta, facing toxic tar sands extraction.
On Nov. 14, more than 30 people gathered in Helena, Montana’s Constitution Park to support the venerable U.S. tradition of civil disobedience. Immediately before an omnibus court hearing for the 23 people arrested during last August’s peaceful protests against coal exports at the Montana State Capitol in Helena, the group gathered with signs reading “Support the Coal Export Action 23” and “No More Coal Exports.” Several people addressed the crowd, including some of the 23 who had been arrested in August. “I came to Helena, to my own statehouse and got arrested because it looks to me like there is no more time for writing reasoned letters to the editor or having meetings with the politicians,” said Linda Kenoyer, describing why she participated in last summer’s civil disobedience. "The time has come to put my body on the line, to risk my safety and clean record if that’s what it takes to get someone’s attention.” View more photos and read about the action on Coal Export Action’s blog.
On Nov. 14, hundreds marched through the streets of Manilla, Philippines toward the U.S. Embassy to call for urgent action on climate change. Rising sea levels caused by climate change are a matter of survival for the thousands who live along the coastline of this island nation. Marchers connected the dots on climate change and other climate super powered storms like Hurricane Sandy with their signs. The march featured street theater and giant puppets organized by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice as part of the Global Week for Climate Justice, which listed Tar Sands Blockade’s Mass Action on Monday Nov. 19 as part of their global week of action.
On Nov. 15, four people were arrested for shutting down an American Petroleum Institute luncheon in the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana. Yesterday's action, in solidarity with Tar Sands Blockade, was in response to Hurricane Sandy and the newly approved Parkway Oil Pipeline that would endanger the cities beloved Lake Pontchartrain. New Orleans residents understand what the impacts of climate change mean for the health and safety of their community. The climate super powered storm of Hurricane Sandy serves as an all too familiar reminder of the devastation these more frequent storms will bring to the most vulnerable families around the globe. Yesterday, more than a dozen organizers marched in the streets and shut down the American Petroleum Institute's luncheon to protest Big Oil’s stranglehold on our economy and our livable future. They chanted: “No pipeline! No tar sands! No destruction of Louisiana land!”
Here is a sampling of upcoming events this week:
Sunday, Nov. 18: More than 3,500 people are expected to rally at the White House to call on President Obama to reject the permit for the Keystone XL northern segment. Event organized by 350.org, Sierra Club and other allies.
Monday, Nov. 19: Dozens of community members will rally in Nacogdoches, Texas to oppose the construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from endangering their homes. Tar Sands Blockade will be taking nonviolent direct action to halt its construction.
Monday, Nov. 19: Community organizations in St. Louis are taking action to target JP Morgan Chase for bankrolling the tar sands extraction. Event organized by Missourians Organizing for Empowerment and Reform, and Climate Action St. Louis.
Monday, Nov. 19: Residents of Salt Lake City are performing theatrical exhibitions outside the Bureau of Land Management for its approval of public lands for the first tar sands mine in the U.S. Event organized by Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance.
Tuesday, Nov. 20: In London, UK Tar Sands Network, Rising Tide UK and others will protest a meeting of Canadian Tar Sands executives, banking industry representatives and government leaders meeting to discuss further expansion of Alberta tar sands extraction.
More events are on the map in these locations: Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; Norman, OK; Charlotte, NC; Denton, TX; Eugene, OR; Middlesex, NY; Corvallis, OR; Seattle, WA; Fairfax, CA; Bridgeport, CT; Bloomington, IN; Burlington, VT; Helena, MT; Nashville, TN; Cincinnati, OH; Port Townsend, WA; Jefferson, NH; Santa Clarita, CA; Albany, CA; Burlington, VT; New Orleans, LA; Salt Lake City, Utah; Austin, TX; Eureka, CA; Portland, OR; Denver, CO; Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY; London, UK; Minisk, NY; Astoria, OR; Wilton, NH; Swarthmore, PA; Philadelphia, PA … and counting!
“It’s encouraging to see these solidarity actions spring up across the globe in response to the escalating devastation of climate change,” said Nicole Browne of Tar Sands Blockade, who helped put out the call for the solidarity actions. “From the Alberta tar sands to the forests of East Texas and all around the world, these actions give hope to people everywhere who are defending their homes from reckless energy extraction that is fueling climate chaos.”
Clearly widespread adoption of renewable energy must be a top priority for all nations. Help encourage the U.S. Congress to expedite renewable energy by signing EcoWatch's petion that demands our leaders take seriously the energy and climate crisis, and immediately work to implement the policies to move our country toward a sustainable future.
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Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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