Up on the 16th floor of a midtown office building, as rain pelted the windows and tourists scattered for cover down on the street level, a group of dedicated Organizing for Action volunteers showed that campaign groups can continue to meet and plan even after their candidate has successfully been elected. This group was doing just that as the New York Mayoral Candidates wrapped up their campaigns and Borough Presidential Candidates frantically looked for opportunities to meet with their constituents.
But this meeting wasn’t all about politics. Once everyone was settled, the group began to earnestly discuss the possibility of an event to combine politics and climate change. These topics should seem to mix well together, except that politicians have been avoiding openly discussing their views on climate change like one avoids the plague. This event would theoretically bring together a variety of politicians, academics and possibly even a real climatologist in a room and have a town-hall-like discussion without characterizing the event as a debate. Not that a debate could never ensue, but for the purposes of making the event attractive for all to attend, the group decided it should not be framed in that way.
Many ideas were bounced around in terms of location. Since the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy is coming up, Staten Island seemed the obvious choice, since it was not only severely affected by Sandy, but a lot of residents of the island continue to be climate deniers. Perhaps if the residents of the South Shore could be enlightened about the root causes of the disaster, the group reasoned, more people could be convinced that climate change is a real, serious issue that deserves their attention and action.
The disadvantage of hosting the event on Staten Island is obvious: not many people are going to be as willing to make the trek out there to attend a loosely-defined event without a great deal of prior notice. Members of the group differed as to whether this was a serious obstacle and whether a Manhattan location would be better. Before breaking for a film screening to follow the meeting, the more vocal members of the Organizing for Action in attendance decided to scour their contact lists to see who might be able to help make their ideas a reality, or whether there were other similar events they might be of assistance with.
I was there representing the Human Impacts Institute in my first official act as an intern, and found the experience very informative. Events such as those planned by Organizing for Action will play a role in commemorating the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy in the continued efforts to convince more people that the realities of climate change effects are upon us, now. That was the idea behind Organizing for Action’s efforts in the first place, and they will continue to work towards that goal at future meetings and events. A few members also came to our networking hour at the theater and film festival event, which featured “Don’t be Sad, Flying Ace!” during the 10 Days of Climate Action series. I’m sure our two organizations will continue to have a mutually beneficial relationship as we work towards our shared goal of making a positive impact against climate change.
By Rose Bowen, 2013 Environmental Leadership Intern