Alexander Nobel, October 26, 2020
As we have seen out west and on the Gulf Coast, the effects of climate change are already impacting our everyday lives. As forest fires, hurricanes and other climate-related disasters become more frequent, the likelihood of the government being able to help local communities decreases exponentially. We have already seen governments fail to protect their citizens during major hurricanes and in major health crises throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. When a crisis occurs and governments are nowhere to be found, it is up to each community to organize itself in order to survive. Climate change makes it more likely that a disaster will strike in your area, but a strong community can withstand any crisis.
In late October of 2012, walking around my neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn in New York City felt surreal. Stores and houses were boarded up. Fallen trees lay across streets and on electrical wires. There was a boat in the middle of a road. Soaked books and clothes littered the sidewalks. Hurricane Sandy had devastated the area, killing 48 and causing more than $70 billion in damages, and the small neighborhood of Red Hook in South Brooklyn was one of the hardest hit. With its long coastline on New York Harbor and its low elevation, much of the neighborhood was flooded. Red Hook residents were left with nothing, particularly those living in public housing, who were left without heat for the winter. Both city and state governments were slow to aid those who needed it most, leaving communities to fend for themselves.
Following the breakup of Occupy Wall Street, a protest movement against growing income inequality, participants reconvened for a new mission. A group, Occupy Sandy, set up distribution hubs to allocate food and equipment and organized teams to clear debris and clean out neighbors’ basements. In a time of chaos and uncertainty, it was the strength of the community that brought the residents out of the crisis — without any help from the government.