On October 6, The Hill published this op-ed on their website. Unfortunately, editorial liberties were taken without our knowledge or permission, including a re-writing of the last paragraph. Our efforts to address this breach of trust have not been successful. As a remedy, we’re sharing the original article and have asked The Hill to take down the questionable version they edited without our consent.
By Connie Leeper, NC WARN Organizing Director and Jodi Lasseter, NC Climate Justice Collective
Now that the winds and rains of Hurricane Florence have gone, North Carolinians are mobilizing a relief and recovery process for the eastern part of the state. Charitable and government assistance is flowing into the region. Donations from individuals, corporations and professional sports franchises are made to the Red Cross in such times of crisis. It’s first come, first served until the FEMA funds run out (or are redirected to programs like ICE), abandoning those who can not bounce back as quickly as the more affluent, if in deed they ever recover. Without an intentional focus on equity and access, this kind of giving often misses the people who are most in need of assistance and who have been leading the work to build community resilience long before this storm hit.
Just Recovery* is an alternative to top-down charity; it is a commitment to directly support and prioritize grassroots groups working at the intersection of racial, economic and environmental justice. It is an understanding that climate disasters amplify systemic harms and therefore require systemic solutions. Those of us who engage in climate justice efforts often use the term “first and worst impacted” to describe how communities of color and impoverished communities receive the brunt of the damage from extractive industries and climate disasters. We knew that Hurricane Florence would mean extreme devastation for poor communities that have been forced to live on the land most prone to flooding. Many of these communities have never received the promised recovery funding after Hurricane Matthew’s floods two years ago. We also knew that long-standing environmental injustices—such as water contamination from massive coal ash ponds and pollution from industrial-scale hog farms—would be exacerbated by this storm’s unprecedented, lingering, rainfall.
*The term Just Recovery was coined during a call convened by Bryan Parras to coordinate grassroots organizations’ response to Hurricane Harvey
When Hurricane Florence was advancing toward our coast, NC WARN was approached by the leadership of the NC Climate Justice Collective to help with another way of giving to recovery efforts. In partnership with community-based organizations in the eastern part of the state, NC WARN has established the Hurricane Florence Emergency and Recovery Fund specifically for—and administered by—the people on the frontline of climate and environmental justice. We have also partnered with other organizations in an ad hoc Just Florence Recovery coalition that takes its direction from grassroots leaders on the ground.
Because these groups have member networks in the most impacted areas, they have already been able to rapidly respond to changing conditions as rivers continue to crest. For example, they have been able to assess where to direct airdrops to flooded areas with no road access and to organize their own volunteers to unload the planes and distribute supplies to those most in need. Funds and supplies that flow to this effort are nimbly and effectively used. Through a Just Recovery approach, they are driving the process to address the most pressing concerns of under-resourced areas while strengthening their organizational capacity to win on long-term campaigns.
Hurricane Florence Impacts
- At least 45 people died in storm-related incidents – 35 in NC, 8 in SC and 2 in VA.
- More than 1000 people are still in temporary shelters
- Electric power is still being restored
- Agricultural crops like sweet potatoes are in jeopardized
- Flooding continues as rivers like the Cape Fear, Neuse and Lumber continue to overflow
- Thousands of gallons of untreated waste water flow into tributaries
- Three coal ash breached at three Duke Energy sites
- Manure pits at industrial-scale hog farms have breached and are spilling waste pollution adding to the ongoing health hazard for people in Duplin, Jones and Pender counties
- 7 million chickens were killed according to poultry producer Sanderson Farm
- 500 complaints alleging price gouging have been reported to the Attorney General
- 27 eastern NC counties so far qualify for federal disaster aid – Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, Harnett, Lenoir, Jones, Robeson, Sampson and Wayne
Another important aspect of Just Recovery is holding accountable the corporate and governmental bad actors that are contributing to climate disruption and environmental injustice. We recognize that superstorms like Hurricane Florence are the result of a broken economic and political system that dismisses the reality of climate change and continues with business as usual.
Meanwhile, thousands of low wealth people, including those in communities of color, suffer disproportionately because this country won’t find the political will to slow climate change. Our dependency on fossil fuels to produce electricity and power our vehicles is controlled by the corporations and politicians who continue to squash public debate on the harms of greenhouse gases like methane and the subsequent leaks and venting practices from the fracking industry and at compressor stations. Charlotte based Duke Energy, one of the larger utilities in the world, and the United States’ largest GHG polluter, clings to the discredited position that fracked gas is a bridge fuel between coal and renewables.
In addition to building the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (along with Dominion Energy) through several of the eastern counties receiving FEMA assistance post Hurricane Florence, Duke’s recent 15 year Integrated Resource Plan calls for building the equivalent of 24 large gas-fired power plants and to be only 7% renewable in the Carolinas. This is despite technological gains in battery storage which, combined with distributed solar, could rapidly and cost- effectively replace coal and “natural” gas while helping all customers, as shown in NC WARN’s Clean Path 2025 strategy. We continue contesting Duke Energy’s huge expansion of fracked gas and urging its leaders to use their enormous resources to help slow climate change instead of making it worse.
We urge you to send donations to the NC WARN Just Florence Recovery website at this link Hurricane Florence Emergency Relief and Recovery Fund. Checks can be mailed to PO Box 61051, Durham, NC 27715-1051 and marked for the HF Emergency Relief fund. Please contribute as generously as you can to ensure that no one is left to weather this storm alone. All proceeds will be sent to frontline communities in need. NC WARN is not collecting an administrative fee from these donations. Your donation is tax-deductible.