As Florence Makes Landfall, Poorest Once Again More Likely to Suffer Most From Storm's Destruction
By Jessica Corbett
As Hurricane Florence officially made landfall Friday, and forecasters warn of "life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding," some attention has turned to residents across mandatory evacuation zones in the Carolinas and Virginia who chose to stay or were unable to leave, and how the poorest often pay the highest price when faced with a natural disaster.
Responding to a New York Times report in which an Edenton, North Carolina man who cares for his father—a cancer patient with whom he shares a double-wide trailer—explained that his family doesn't have the resources to leave, author and activist Naomi Klein tweeted Friday, "These disasters drag into the light exactly who is already being thrown away."
Climate chaos is a justice issue. Economic justice. Racial justice. Migrant justice. Gender justice. Justice for th… https://t.co/aZ9gvUxvlh— Naomi Klein (@Naomi Klein)1536935629.0
"Poverty lies in the path of Hurricane Florence in eastern N.C.," the Asheville Citizen Times declared Thursday. "Some people are getting out of town, but that's not an option for me. I have no money, no job, no connections," Tony Clower, a 39-year-old homeless man living in Kinston, told the newspaper. "I want to cry. All I can do is put my hands together and ask God to keep me safe."
This worries me the most about #HurricaneFlorence. “The path of Hurricane Florence sees it going over some of the… https://t.co/89atZihm25— Jim Keady (@Jim Keady)1536897886.0
A Vox article outlining common reasons people don't always abide by evacuations orders noted that "there are people who don't leave due to disabilities—they simply can't get out of their homes and don't have anyone to help them." Some don't want to leave behind their pets, and can't find a shelter or hotel that will allow animals.
Others may underestimate the threat or not receive timely storm updates—though Vox pointed out, "in an age when warnings can be blasted out via radio, TV and smartphones, and through old-fashioned door-to-door notifications, this is becoming less likely." And then there are those who fear their home will be looted, or those like Clower, who cannot afford to travel and stay somewhere safe.
Kathy Sexton, a 56-year-old resident of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, spoke with the Washington Post about the various reasons she is trying to ride out the storm in her two-story townhouse:
[She] had thought about staying with relatives who live six hours away, but the long drive would be detrimental to her elderly mother, whose damaged spine keeps her from being able to sit for extended periods. She would've booked a hotel further inland, she said, but she couldn't afford the cost. She would've stayed at one of the emergency shelters, but pets aren't allowed there, she said. Sexton has two 15-year-old cats that both need medication, and she said there's no place to board them. Even if there was one, she doesn't trust anyone else to take care of them. "They're like family. There's just no way," she said.
Emergency rescues already have begun for those who wouldn't or couldn't evacuate, after coastal communities were struck by the outer bands of the storm on Thursday. In New Bern, North Carolina, as of 2:27am local time, about 150 residents were still waiting on assistance from FEMA crews, according to the city's Twitter account.
"People surrounding me are under water. They have been trapped in their attics," New Bern resident Tonya Moore told NBC News while awaiting rescue with her mother, husband, and five children. "Every road is flooded. There's nowhere to get out over here."
"We are hearing from emergency responders that they are encountering folks and chest deep water," New Bern Police s… https://t.co/kkcLAa5LBX— CBS News (@CBS News)1536931437.0
As Florence continued its crawl along the Southeast, FEMA on Friday cut off vouchers for 987 American families living in hotel rooms across the country after being displaced from their homes in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the U.S. territory last September. FEMA offered them one-way tickets back to the island—which is still struggling with widely ridiculed recovery efforts—but that offer also expires Friday.
Some of these families spoke with NBC News about their difficulties finding longer-term housing they can afford. Vimarie Cardona is a single mother of three who has lived in an Orlando hotel with her children since November. Now working as a housekeeper at Disney World, Cardona explained that landlords have refused to rent her one-bedroom apartments because of the size of her family, and two-bedroom options are outside of her price range.
"I started looking for apartments. Even before they said [the voucher payments] would end I started looking," she said Wednesday. "From day one it was hell."
Florence also comes just days after the conclusion of a multi-week nationwide prison strike to demand improved living conditions and an end to "modern day slavery" that was organized in response to an April riot at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina, where guards waited several hours intervene in violence that killed seven priosners and injured more than dozen.
As the hurricane approached this week, multiple other South Carolina detention facilities made headlines for refusing to evacuate inmates despite being located in a mandatory evacuation zones. Spokesmen insisted to VICE and BuzzFeed News that the facilities can safely withstand the storm.
However, as VICE outlined, there is a long history of inmates facing dangerous conditions after officials decline to evacuate due to a hurricane—or prisoners being abandoned altogether:
Inmates left behind at a federal prison near Houston following Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 reported food shortages, no drinking water, and sewage flooding. Many inmates weathered the storm still locked in their cells. And as Puerto Rico reeled in the devastated aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons began evacuating inmates from its easternmost facility in Rio Grande due to sustained power outages. During the chaos of the relocation process after the hurricane, 13 inmates escaped.
City officials also reportedly abandoned inmates at the New Orleans Parish Prison during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Human Rights Watch reported that correctional officers left more than 600 inmates in one building without supervision to weather the storm. Some inmates say they were left locked in their cells for days as flood water seeped into the jail, eventually reaching chest level, before they were evacuated.
Ahead of the storm on Wednesday, a group of prison reform activists gathered outside of the South Carolina statehouse to protest against the decision to keep inmates in facilities located within evacuation zones, pointing to post-Katrina conditions as well as prisoners who have died even when there isn't a hurricane forcing so many others to flee.
"In perfect conditions we see people dying," activist Stephanie Serna told The State, a local newspaper. "What makes us think that in an emergency situation they'll do better without any accountability?"
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.