Climate justice leaders from Texas and Florida held a sit-in, with a banner reading “Climate Change → Strong Hurricanes”.
WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, a delegation of survivors of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma occupied Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Capitol Hill, demanding he acknowledge the role of climate change and the fossil fuel economy in making these storms worse. The delegation was led by members of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) and the New Florida Majority as leaders in their communities fighting for climate justice. These leaders called for action from lawmakers at the scale of the climate crisis, including a commitment to 100% clean energy, stopping new fossil fuel projects, and a just and equitable energy transformation. During the sit-in, nearly 200,000 petition signatures collected by 350.org, Oil Change International, Daily Kos, ClimateTruth.org, and Greenpeace USA were delivered, calling for Congress to commit to real climate action in the wake of these storms.
“Climate change is not a distant reality, we are living it,” said Yvette Arellano with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.). “Rising temperatures and warmer waters lead to larger hurricanes. Every hurricane and chemical spill is worse than the last, every flood is record breaking and life-threatening. In the energy capital of the nation, home of the largest petrochemical complex in the nation we feel the day to day impacts of the fossil fuel industry. Environmental justice communities can no longer be the sacrifice zones for the fossil fuel industry. Our churches, schools and parks are poisoned and while people turn a blind eye we are fighting for our survival and for that of our children.”
The sit-in was held in response to Trump and his allies in Congress’s refusal to address climate change and its root cause in the fossil fuel economy. Senator McConnell, along with Senators Cruz and Rubio from Texas and Florida respectively, have refused to acknowledge the role that fossil fuels play in worsening climate change, and the way climate change is exacerbating disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. While fossil fuel billionaires profit off the planet warming, the brunt of climate impacts is beared by low-income communities, people of color, and vulnerable regions around the world that have done little to nothing to cause the crisis. At the same time, these communities are made into sacrifice zones for fossil fuel exploitation.
“Communities of color have been historically overburdened by both the causes and consequences of climate change, including hazardous air pollution, water quality and accessibility to energy,” said Nancy Metayer with The New Florida Majority. “Now is the time to right the wrongs of history and ensure that these communities are not overlooked as we all try to make the earth a better place to live and grow.”
“We must pay attention to what mother nature is trying to tell us, that climate change is real,” said Jessica Lorena Rangel with t.e.j.a.s. “We’re being reminded year after year, when hurricanes and devastating tropical storms hit our area and more lives are being lost because of it. At the same time, our undocumented community is being exposed to polluting chemicals from fossil fuels every single day. Children being born with asthma is now seen as normal and lung cancer rates in these communities are at an all time high, yet there is nothing being done about it. There needs to be accountability, our lives can no longer be put at stake so the rich man get his paycheck.”
The connection between the destructive force of recent hurricanes and climate change has been made clear by scientists and echoed by everyone from local officials to climate activists to Beyonce. Yet the Trump administration, their allies in Congress, and several major news networks have maintained their climate silence. The delegation of hurricane survivors that led this morning’s action is continuing to meet with Congress members, urging them to support a plan to stop new fossil fuel projects and move the country towards a 100% renewable energy economy.
“We’ll never be prepared for disasters like Harvey, Irma, or Maria while climate deniers are still in office, pushing dangerous fossil fuel projects forward,” said May Boeve, 350.org Executive Director. “Public officials like Mitch McConnell have been putting profits before people from the start, leaving communities in the path of destruction. The fossil fuel industry has a hold on our government, and we are taking it back. Today is a line in the sand, drawn by communities dealing daily with the impacts of the climate crisis. Real climate action isn’t just saying the right words, it’s standing up to the fossil fuel billionaires and building a clean energy future that works for all.”