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Hurricane Ida leaves vulnerable communities in ruin

This past week, Hurricane Ida devastated communities throughout Louisiana and surrounding states, sweeping in on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Now, residents are dealing with the aftermath and the long road ahead. For many, the damage is the least of their worries as city-wide power outages threaten the health of residents. 

In New Orleans, a major transmission tower collapsed, resulting in residents of the city and surrounding western suburbs waking without power on Monday morning, the Washington Post reported.

Ida aftermath deepens the poverty gap among vulnerable communities 

As residents anxiously await power to be restored, many have been left to mourn the loss of their homes with no plan for the future. 

Carmen Girton, 43, a resident of Shady Nook Mobile Home Park in LaPlace, Louisiana, told The Washington Post that her trailer had been completely “shredded” in the storm. Girton lived there with her boyfriend, children, and two grandchildren.  

“It’s scary,” she said. “I’m so afraid. It’s devastating, having no home. We don’t know what we’re going to do. We don’t have insurance. None of us have insurance out here. We worry. What are we going to do?”

In Lafayette, Elsa Lopez, along with dozens of family members, congregated at her son’s Duson home to take shelter. Much of the family lived in mobile homes and Reynieri Castro was the only one whose home had a solid foundation, Indystar reported

Castro opened up his home with open arms, not only to the family but to the Latino community at large. “Yesterday, I was announcing that anyone who needed refuge or help, we would be available for them, supporting the Latino community,” said Castro. 

However, the Lafayette community was lucky, with much of the community being spared by Hurricane Ida. 

Still, devastation and wreckage throughout Louisiana and surrounding states will require communities to come together to support and rebuild.

Power outages leave communities vulnerable to rising heat 

Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida on August 29 as a powerful category 4 major hurricane. Date: 29 August 2021. Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Currently, it is estimated that power could take anywhere from seven to 10 days to be restored, according to Entergy, the region’s main energy provider. Though other areas may face longer delays as much as three weeks. Without power, residents could face health emergencies as heat rises throughout the week. 

This summer, the US has seen record-breaking temperatures, resulting in an increase in heat related illnesses and in extreme cases, death–such as the migrant farmworkers who have died working the fields recently. These cases, unfortunately, are more likely to affect low-income communities and communities of color who, historically, have been disadvantaged. Wealthier communities will be able to get by on generators or have already evacuated and relocated. Meanwhile, those who have been left behind in the aftermath face the threat of the oncoming heat.

For ethnic communities, such as Hispanics and Latinos, the statistics reveal a startling disadvantage. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “extreme weather driven by climate change can also make the pollution burden worse for Latinos. For example, after Hurricane Harvey, the petrochemical industry reported releasing 320 tons of extra toxic pollution in Houston, nearly all of it concentrated within four miles of a neighborhood that is 98% Latino.” 

You might be interested: A world on fire: How to survive the rising heat

Additionally, Latinos are 21% more likely than whites to live in “urban heat islands.” These heat islands can be “up to 22 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than rural and suburban areas because a large portion of city surfaces are covered in pavement and concrete and lack tree cover.” 

A local weather advisory following Hurricane Ida read, “Heat is one of the most deadly weather hazards — don’t underestimate it.” 

The Washington Post reported that giving residents “access to power-charging stations, cooling stations, oxygen, and other needs” is the focus right now according to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D). 

Global Climate Action Day: Organization calls legislature to demand climate justice NOW

Today, Puerto Rican climate justice organizations are calling for action, demanding “no more empty promises” in regards to the climate crisis. Amnesty International and Sierra Club summon citizens this March 19th to “a call” to the Puerto Rican legislature to demand climate governance. 

climate justice

Climate Action NOW. Call Puerto Rican legislatures to demand for climate justice.

In the midst of the various public health, socio-political and economic crises that the world continues to face this new year, as part of the Climate Action NOW Campaign, the organizations Amnesty International Puerto Rico and Sierra Club Puerto Rico are demanding immediate and concrete action by legislators in response to the current climate crisis on this March 19th, Global Climate Action Day.

Latinas in Business board member, Maria Santiago-Valentin, has been actively involved with these organizations and other grassroots movements to push for climate justice. She is also the founder of the Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance whose mission is to  “[apply] the power of deep grassroots organizing to win local, regional, statewide, national and international shifts” regarding climate change and unjust exposure of marginalized communities to its damaging effects.

The “call-athon” hopes to bring legislatures attention to the important climate issues in Puerto Rico. Part of what activists want to emphasize is the urgency to take immediate action and to consider three urgent elements to legislate and ensure climate action. 

climate justice, Global Climate Action Day

March 19: Global Climate Action Day. Organizations summon citizens to call legislatures to demand climate action in Puerto Rico.

The 3 key elements to consider are:

Make sure PUBLIC FUNDS RESPOND TO THIS CRISIS.  We have a unique conjuncture: millions of dollars in mitigation funds for infrastructure, research, database creation, jobs and recovery. The use of these funds requires a common thread with the climate issue and social and racial justice.

That they ACTIVATE AND LEGISLATE SO that land use planning responds to sustainability in the face of the climate crisis. The current Joint Permit Regulation will worsen the crisis. It is vital to repeal them and begin a broad process for a new regulation in keeping with what is stated here. 

That it be INSPECTED AND LEGISLATED FOR THE PROTECTION OF OUR COASTS. We already see the impact of the increase in sea level on our coasts. In other places they are preparing to protect the coasts while here construction continues in the maritime terrestrial zone. It is time for them to STOP the sale and destruction of our shores and beaches. OUR CONSTITUENT COMMUNITIES, PROPERTY AND ESSENTIAL INFRASTRUCTURE ARE AT RISK.

Hernaliz Vázquez Torres, from the Sierra Club organization, declared that “what we need now are not false promises. The climate crisis is here and the most affected people and communities have to deal with floods, displacement, deforestation, air pollution, food insecurity and loss of homes. Our lives depend on immediate action.”

For more than two years, Amnesty International Puerto Rico and Sierra Club Puerto Rico have taken to the streets demanding climate justice. Currently, with the COVID-19 pandemic, actions will take different forms and they make a call for # NoMásPromesasVacías calling on all people to join in making a “call” to the legislature asking them in phone calls to their offices to sign and publicly commit to the Citizen Declaration for the Climate Crisis.

This today, the organizations summon all citizens to call the legislature to demand Climate Action Now. “We are fed up with empty promises,” Vázquez declared.