Jordan Melograna, Right to Be Rescued

“No disasters are natural.” This is the opening line of the short documentary, The Right to be Rescued, which documents the experiences of people with disabilities during Hurricane Katrina. When communities do not make emergency plans that serve the needs of everyone, it causes a human-made disaster for those left out and left behind. As severe weather events such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires become more likely due to climate change, it is more urgent than ever for communities to develop inclusive emergency plans.

Unfortunately, such plans are rarely put in place before it’s already too late. In 2005, New Orleans’ preparedness plan and rescue effort were famously inept, causing an outsized negative impact on people with disabilities. The confusing evacuation orders were a problem for everyone, but for those with disabilities who do not drive, or who cannot afford a car, evacuation wasn’t even an option. Stuck at shelters like the Superdome, many found the conditions deplorable. Even worse, in a city that lacks good accessible transportation options in the best of times, getting to a shelter in the first place was impossible for many people with disabilities. For those stranded on freeway overpasses, the Louisiana summer impacted everyone. But for some, who depend on medication, are vulnerable to extreme heat, or depend on life-saving technology like oxygen tanks or ventilators, the situation was deadly. …

Glen Gawarkiewicz, WHOI

There was a period in early October when Hurricane Matthew was still in the Caribbean, a category 5 monster, when long-range forecasts indicated the storm could travel up the I-95 corridor from Miami to Boston within a week. If it had, we might now be talking about a colossal disaster spanning the entire Northeast. Instead, we in the Northeast watched a week later as Matthew raked Florida and the Carolinas before turning east and fizzling out in the Atlantic.

Despite Matthew’s sudden change of direction, forecasters have made great strides in recent years in improving their predictions of storm tracks a few days in advance. They have been less successful in being able to predict storm intensity, as measured by wind speed, when it arrives. This is a crucial piece of information for emergency managers who need to prepare for potential wind damage and storm surge flooding. …

Christine Nannicelli, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign

Last night, many of you met a group of individuals in Waukegan, Illinois who inspire me every day.

You met Dulce Ortiz, Reverend Eileen Shanley Roberts, Julio Guzman and many others who are part of the Clean Power Lake County Campaign. They fight every day to find ways to make their community better. America Ferrera had the opportunity to meet these incredible leaders this past year, but this team has been hard at work for years.

I met many of these folks years ago as an organizer with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. Since 2013, grassroots volunteers with the Clean Power Lake County Campaign have asked NRG Energy and public officials to establish a responsible transition plan for the outdated Waukegan coal plant. Clean Power Lake County members advocate for a long-term sunset date for the coal plant, a proactive transition plan for impacted workers, redevelopment ideas for the lakefront site, and opportunities to bolster clean energy development in Waukegan. …

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