We Are Unstoppable; Another World Is Possible (Sandy Edition)

Climate Change is finally back in the US discussion after being belittled by the know-nothings on the reich and ignored by both major candidates on the campaign trail.  Finally, finally US political ads are appearing that focus upon climate change.  And remembering this storm, preparing for the next, will perhaps keep Americans from being lulled back into denial by corporate mouthpieces.  Perhaps we’re finally ready to get serious about clean energy and restoring the damage we’ve inflicted.  Time to wake up America. Nap time’s over and the Climate Deniers’ 15 minutes are up.

But there’s another thing happening on the East Coast after Sandy…something that often happens to human beings when disaster strikes.  Compassion.  Humanity.  Love.

Over 8.5 million people lost power; as of this writing power has been restored to all but about 1.5 million people.  But that’s a LOT of homes, apartments and businesses still in the dark and cold.  Up to 40,000 people may be left homeless.  In situations like this, tempers fray, and looting can be expected.  But unexpected acts of community and generosity are everywhere.

Feeding people on the street

Where people were hungry, other people shared their  food — for free.  Restaurants, community groups, and individuals pitched in to share what they had with others.  Makeshift food serving areas spontaneously sprang up on city streets.

Occupy Sandy , which began Wednesday as an amorphous effort by members of Occupy Wall Street, the environmental group  350.org, and a host of community groups to offer relief to devastated areas of the city, had taken a very definite form over the last 72 hours.  Bases like Jacobi church were created to bring people together and concentrate efforts, while satellite locations were established in areas crippled by the hurricane, in Far Rockaway and in Staten Island. Both types of hubs had been wildly successful at collecting and distributing aid and mobilizing volunteers, and now the links between them were being strengthened.  Read the entire article at Alternet

A Huffpost headline proclaims Occupy Sandy as a Relief Organization for the 21st Century, utilizing social media along with their unique horizontal group-sourced approach.

Occupy Sandy, an off-shoot of Occupy Wall Street, has undoubtedly been a leader in spreading the word about local volunteer and donation efforts online, and thereby spurring real, tangible responses. Though certainly not a well-oiled machine by any means — seamless organization is hardly expected, anyway, in a movement that sprang up so quickly — the group’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have posted up-to-date information about exactly what is needed and where. And while the Red Cross doesn’t take donations of individual household items and certain bare necessities, these very same needs have become Occupy Sandy’s primary focus. – HuffingtonPost

And Occupy has continued helping throughout the height of the storm and its aftermath.  Even while the storm raged, while most people were seeking shelter, Occupy volunteers were there helping the community get to safety, helping coordinate families, and then later assisting people with power, clean water, medical assistance, food.  All this without a formal top-heavy “organization”. Just people helping people, networking and growing in an organic fashion.

Occupy Sandy’s #Medics hashtag on Twitter found doctors for their hubs in Brooklyn and Queens. Hot meals are being prepared every day and night, with volunteers setting up makeshift food kitchens in the Rockaways, Coney Island and Sunset Park.

To receive donations, Occupy Sandy has an Amazon Wedding Registry Page where you can purchase items that are desperately needed.

National Guardsmen brought food and supplies to an Occupy center called YANA (“You Are Not Alone”).  The amazing this is, a year ago,  these guardsmen would probably have been arresting or even beating citizens who chose to Occupy.  Today, they worked together.

Occupy volunteer Sofia Gallisá Muriente talks about this encounter with the National Guard, military, the police and other adventures in this video.   At one point, groups of people created a human chain and unloaded supplies alongside  the National Guardsmen, and spontaneously began chanting “We are unstoppable, another world is possible”.  It must have been an amazing moment… one of countless moments of people helping people, compassion in action… and human beings at their best.

Volunteers take turns on the bicycle generators

Do you remember the bicycle-powered generators that were used by Occupy at Zuccotti Park?

“I built these bikes for the Occupy Wall Street protests,” bicycle mechanic and Time’s Up New York volunteer Keegan Stephens said. The bicycle-powered generators he built were originally used to bring power to people in Zuccotti Park. After police broke up the protests, Stephens wasn’t sure the bikes would ever be used again, but kept them in the back of his Rivington Street bicycle repair shop next to ABC No Rio.

After the storm, the bikes were back and generating pedal power courtesy of Time’s Up New York. The “direct action environmental group” set up two stations in Lower Manhattan, one on Rivington Street and another at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space. Volunteers pedaled to power 20 or 25 cellphones at a time for local residents badly in need of a way to communicate. –HuffingtonPost

Occupy Sandy has several sattelite locations where volunteers feed and distribute necessary goods to people in striken areas

Signs went up at places that had power, offering free charging of cell phones…restaurants, homes, and even mobile news vans – freely shared what power they had with strangers.

As families returned to devastated homes, neighborhood volunteers pitched in to help in cleaning up flooded homes – and stayed to share meals together.

“They took the streets again Sunday…emptied homes that had been flooded and piled the debris outside, so the Sanitation Department could come and load it into containers and take it away”.-SILive

Speaking of Sanitation Departments…let’s not forget those who work for government.  Community volunteers and individuals often worked side by side with another group of people who have been so vilified by deficit hawks: government first responders.   And thankfully, these trained professionals were at the ready, often risking their lives for strangers.  With all our unease with “big government”, I suppose it was almost shocking that FEMA  generally did what it was supposed to in this emergency: coordinated rescues, offered assistance and shelter. We’ve become so used to thinking of government as inept and corrupt, that we sometimes forget that government was originally supposed to be PEOPLE – not plutocrats and corporations.  Although even FEMA was not big enough to cover such a huge area as quickly as we wanted, it was a far cry from the sloppy and halfhearted, underfunded handling of Katrina – for example, 20,000 people have not been herded into a Superdome and held under armed guard without food, water, or showers.  The blend of individuals empowering each other, and available government assistance where necessary, has allowed hope to rise within the despair of Sandy’s destruction.

Groups that feed the homeless suddenly found themselves feeding the well-to-do, who now were thrust into the experience of being homeless and hungry and cold.  The lesson wasn’t lost as one homeless man held a sign that said “I’ve been without power for 3 years.  Hang in there.”  Is this an opportunityin empathy for us all?

People who never knew their neighbors suddenly became family.  You know that feeling of connectedness when strangers reach out to one another in solidarity and compassion?  You can feel it just hearing the stories and seeing the photos, reading the tweets.  You get a momentary image of what a healthy society could be like.  Ironically, it is our own self-created climate crisis that has birthed these moments.

Thankfully, peoplewere not only doing their best to rescue and help their fellow humans.  More than 600 companion animals have been rescued so far.  Evacuees, reunite with your pets call the NY city hotline at 347-573-1561, In New Jersey call 1-855-407-HSUS

or visit https://www.facebook.com/SandysPets

Check out more companion animal rescue pics here.  This link also has info on donations to help the rescue efforts.

Lets take a moment to imagine what we could do about climate change if we approached it as a nation, similar to JFK’s  project to put a man on the moon.


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