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Domestic Violence and Abuse

WID Report: New Earth Disability


Hi everybody, and welcome to the WID Report. My name is Alex Ghenis, and I am a research
Specialist at the World Institute on Disability. And today I’m going to talk about the intersection
of climate change and disability. So first I’ll tell you a little bit about
myself, and how I came to this. When I was in college I was very involved
in the Berkeley disability scene, and then within my first couple of years, actually
the first few years I got a little bit burned out on it. I wasn’t involved in the policy so much
as the University, and universally politics, and university education. It was a big part of my life, and all of a
sudden I took one course on climate change, and saw, it changed my perspective on the
world. All of a sudden that ignited kind of a passion,
and I went into climate change and then I realized the seriousness of climate change,
and the fact that it’s going to keep on going. After that, and I’ll talk a little bit more
about climate change and the dynamics of it in a minute. After that, after college and graduate school,
I worked at the California Energy Storage Alliance. And why, and why is this important, and connected
to disability? It’s important because the world is changing,
and it is changing in a couple of ways. Climate change is here, we have limited resources
and limited fossil fuels and everything to power, power plants, to power transportation,
even to construct things like wheelchairs. And I got into energy storage to help move
off of fossil fuels, to help cut down emissions, and then as I looked at it and I realized
that we are getting off of emissions, I’m sorry we are trying to cut down on fossil
fuels. I realized that we still need to keep the
lights on and I still need to keep charge my wheelchair every night. And if we are going to install a bunch of
solar panels that put out power in the middle of the day, and I charge my wheelchair at
night, how are we going to do that? Well energy storage is a series of batteries
and other things plugged into the energy grid, this came together and made me realize that
as someone with a disability and the world is changing, I am especially vulnerable, and
I’m especially vulnerable to these disruptions, and it’s going to take a lot of focus and
very concentrated efforts to make sure that I protect myself, and we protect all people
with disabilities, as especially vulnerable people in a changing world. Climate change is another aspect of that and
after leaving the California Energy Storage Alliance, I ended up looking at climate change
and the impacts of climate change on people with disabilities, the vulnerabilities there
and what we can do about it. So I’m going to talk very briefly about
climate change and how climate change works. Wow, my mouth gets – I got some coffee earlier,
and it gets more dehydrated than I thought. I’m going to talk about climate change and
the dynamics of climate change, how it will impact people with disabilities, and what
we can do about it. So climate change, it was called global warming,
and then we start calling it climate change. It was called global warming, that was kind
of in the popular vernacular, because on the average the world is heating up. And the reason for that is because we are
putting out more more carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, and the interesting thing about greenhouse
gases is, they are the only thing that keeps us from being basically the temperature of
space. And people look at how much carbon dioxide
is in the atmosphere, before the Industrial Revolution, it was like 270 parts per million,
which is .027% of the atmosphere. And now it’s at, we just crossed where it’s
been at 400 parts per million for a year straight, that just happened last and it’s a huge
milestone. So we went from .027% over to 0.04%. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when it’s
the only thing keeping us from being the temperature of space, it makes a big difference. So we are seeing an increased average temperature,
we are going to continue seeing an increase of average temperature. So for the those of you who are seeing the
Copenhagen talks, and all the things that are coming up right now talk about cutting
emissions, everything is talking about bring us down to 350 parts per million and 2°C.
I hate to be a Debbie downer, but that’s not going to happen. Climate change is going to keep on going,
and people are talking about mitigation, and cutting emissions, and that’s the only thing
that people are talking about. And nobody’s talking about getting ready
for it. And yet were seeing things like projections
that a lot of the low-lying areas of the bay and New Orleans in southern Florida are probably
going to be underwater, which is the truth. That we are going to see more and stronger
storms, that we are gonna see more heat waves, that we are gonna see drought and food insecurity,
that we are going to see all of these negative impacts. And those are the symptoms of climate change
and global warming. And people aren’t really accepting that
and realizing that we need to get ready. I was actually at an event recently, with
somebody who’s a politician and a bunch of scientists and I asked them they are all
talking about “climate change is coming, we need to cut down on emissions, we need
to cut down on emissions,” and I at the very end I said “hey, you’re talking about
mitigation and reducing emissions, what about adaptation and getting ready for it?” And all the scientists said “yeah, yeah
you’re kind of write about that” and they switched over to the politician, and she had
no clue know what to say. And she does switched over to “yeah, well
we need to cut down on emissions and keep us below 2°C.” Because that’s all the
politicians know how to talk about. So step one we need to adapt as a society,
and step 2 we need to look at vulnerable populations what’s going to happen to them and specifically
address their needs. So now I’m going to talk about people with
disabilities and how climate change is going to hit us. So the way that I look at it is to identify
a strategy. So number one, to identify the impact of climate
change, to kind of identify the symptom of climate change. Number 2, to kind of identify the experience
of people with disabilities within that section of climate change. Number 3, to strategize solutions and actions
and move forward to implement those actions and I have here in parentheses and find funding
to do that). And that’s kind of a big deal, so kind of
seriously I was reading an article about what’s going on in Alaska right now, and Alaska is
actually, to fund the adaptation for climate change, is looking to increase fossil fuel
production, so they can get revenues from the fossil fuel industry and levies on fossil
fuel extraction. And they have to pay for that because there’s
one town of 400 people, that’s going to be flooded and it’s going take about $100
million to relocate that town of 400 people. And they don’t know what to do it’s difficult
and it takes a lot of money. Number one is storms. We are going to see more frequent and stronger
storms, and a lot of people have heard about the experience of people with disabilities
in for example Katrina and Sandy. And so they are looking at a huge increase
in the frequency and strength of extreme weather events. So storms are one of those, especially hurricanes
and large typhoons. What happens with storms is number one destruction
of housing and living spaces, number 2 interruption of services and infrastructure. Number 3 there’s going to be storm surges
in some places will be simply impossible and people will need to evacuate. So using this as an example, and actually
storms are good starting place, because it’s something that’s more tangible with work
that people are already doing. Which is around disability -related disaster
preparedness, relief and recovery. A lot of people are already saying, simply
after Katrina and Sandy, that hey this is an issue, even if the amount of hurricanes
and the amount of storms stays exactly the same, people with disabilities have had a
hard time doing all of these things, doing things like locking down, having the money
to establish an emergency kit, having a support network that stays and is available during
the storm. Having sustained medical care and being able
to evacuate ahead of the storms, say when somebody is reliant on transit and doesn’t
have their own accessible van. The funding to go find housing outside or
accessible housing outside, etc. etc. And actually in Katrina, there are stories
of people who simply didn’t make it because they couldn’t evacuate. We already have work on disaster relief and
recovery, so things like support with evacuation, things like ensuring that there is sufficient
medical care and supplies in storm shelters. Identifying and keeping lists of people with
disabilities within the community, and people checking up on them, maintaining support networks
etc. etc. Those are things that people are already doing,
and so what we can simply say is this is an important topic to address, this is an important
action to take, and by the way it’s going to be more and more and more important in
the future, so please get on top of it. And let’s prepare, let’s prepare not only
in general but in more areas and other places where there might’ve been a 1000 year storm,
that would happen every 1000 years, might happen every 100. What’s happening in South Carolina is a
great example, massive flooding. So that’s number one. Number 2 heat waves, if you go on the WID
website we have the New Earth Disability project, that is available on the website a couple
of posts. There I started out, the first posts were
on heat waves. And the newer ones are on migration, which
I’ll talk about in a little bit. Heat waves, if you can imagine there will
be stronger, longer and hotter heat waves. We’ve had them, we’ve seen that there
was one in Europe in 2003 that is estimated to have led to 75,000 excess deaths. And people with disabilities are specially
impacted by heat waves. Number one because the body’s excess difficulty
kind of dealing with heat stress and stresses in general, difficulty cooling down. Often substandard housing, often living in
urban centers where urban centers have what’s called the urban heat island effect, which
means that urban centers are hotter than surrounding areas because of all the concrete. Reduced access to air-conditioning within
the home and then also difficulty getting cooling shelters and lack of support and medical
support at cooling shelters. So these are all things that are issues. One of the recommendations I have for example
was providing, during heat waves, providing excess paratransit and highlighting accessible
cooling centers. Which simply can be air-conditioned malls. Ensuring that local social service agencies
are able to provide excess support during longer and stronger heat waves, at those cooling
shelters and again similar to the stronger storms, being able to do outreach and communication
to people with disabilities that might be more vulnerable to these heat waves. So that’s another aspect of climate change. Moving forward, what was the… These are the kind of, there’s 2 of these
that I’m going to talk about right now. They are kind of the longer-term and much
more difficult to deal with and strategize about aspects of climate change. Number one, food and economic insecurity and
number 2, migration. So food and economic insecurity, if we are
going to have longer droughts in California and we’ve seen reduced agricultural yields. The same thing has happened in Africa and
the Sahara, you know all over the world this is harder to deal with and really gets to
the issues of social inequalities, and especially social inequalities for people with disabilities. We need to find out how to cut down on food
waste, I’m actually a vegetarian and you know the meat production takes up a lot of
excess resources for food production, so really rethinking society-wide how we run food systems,
and then ensuring that people have the economic ability or at least some sort of support systems
in order to maintain their diets, maintain healthy diets, and I believe Marsha and Elizabeth
are gone, but there is clearly very connected to something through talking about earlier
in the FEAST project. Economic insecurity, economies will be someone
in disrupted at the end of this. So it’s all about economic instability and
inequality that we need to address. We all know that we need to address it in
general, and this is yet another reason to get on top of it and have a talking point
that highlights the urgency of listening to all of the concerns that we already have as
a community, that we already care about as a community and there is the issue of raising
our hands and saying social justice social justice, and then there is the issues of raising
our hands and saying social justice and – by the way, future survival. Because it’s going to keep snowballing a
little bit right now. Migration. This is a long thing that I’ve been writing
about and it’s interesting, because migration is something that – it’s a three-part
piece and the 3rd part is about to be published, there’s like a paragraph left up on the
website on the W ID website – is I was looking at mass migration due to climate change, which
I talked about southern Florida kind of flooding through sealevel rise. Same thing is looking at what’s happening
in Bangladesh, the Gulf Coast, various parts of the Bay Area, potentially New York. People are going to have to move, there’s
other aspects that will lead to migration. There’s a lot of literature out there on
simply climate change and migration. And as I was going through writing about this,
I said I’m going to break it up into 3 pieces. Number one is climate change and migration,
number 2 is how it will impact people with disabilities, number 3 is what to do about
it. There’s so much information about number
one. And for number 2 and 3 searched far and wide
and I said I just need to pull this off the the top of my head. There’s one exception, which is refugees
and the experience of refugees with disabilities as kind of been studied. And we can use that as something to build
off in terms of to climate change. And climate change-related migration will
happen for a few different reasons. I say 3 different reasons. Number one is unlivable homes, which would
mean sea level rise, which would be, say, say living in areas with areas that have so
much excess drought that they simply run out of water. So if, there are actually people in the southern
Central Valley that have begun moving, either because they are running out of water or because
they were farmers and they just can’t farm anymore, and they have to go somewhere else
to make a livelihood. So it is happening to a certain extent. We are seeing that in the Sahara, and drought
across the Sahara so that’s becoming an issue. Number 2 is destruction of homes and environments
that then leads to people evacuating, say from a storm, and not returning home. A lot of people that left New Orleans and
the Gulf Coast during Katrina simply didn’t return back. And that is in a way climate -related migration. And the last one is when climate change leads
to conflict and then people escape conflict. And actually will there is some literature
on, and people that have said that the war in Syria right now was not necessarily 100%
attributable to drought, but a factor in it was drought, limited water resources and conflict
over Limited and diminishing water resources. So if you have a war, the war in Syria that
is from climate change -related factors, and long-term drought somewhat contributed to
that conflict. And then now we have tens of thousands of
refugees going across the Mediterranean and Europe trying to figure out how to absorb
and accommodate all of that refugees, so then how does all of that work. So for people with disabilities, when it comes
to migration. Number one is simply difficulty moving, and
given you know physical challenges, need for accessible transportation, the need to maintain
support networks. So I have a set of personal attendants that
helps me in and out of bed. Well first of all, they aren’t family living
in the same home with me, they are people that I contract with I get paid through in-home
supportive services. And then all of a sudden they realize, say
hey, I’ve got to go, goodbye. My support, my support system disintegrates,
and then what do I do as other people leave ahead of me. How do I find accessible housing wherever
I move to? How do I maintain, not only support networks
or reestablish support networks, but also have the funding and social support, the social
services to do so. So things that I’ve looked at within that
in terms of solutions are, I’ll say this quickly. Is number one is create, expanding accessible
housing in general, which is something that we need to do. In Berkeley, right now there is something
that has passed city Council and is going in front of the disability commission to make
it so that at least 5% of all new housing construction has to have a roll-in shower
and be fully accessible, so looking at things like that. So expanding accessible housing, reinforcing
social services at areas where we can identify people will be moving to, create system so
that social services can be easily transported from one area to another. So start working with the Miami Center for
Independent living and then go to wherever seems like a place that people in Miami might
move and talk to their center for independent living, and their Medicaid offices etc. and
create easily transferable benefits. And then figure out actual accessible and
supportive transportation to move. So, those are those, I’ve got like 4 minutes
left for questions. Audience member: given that, I’ll speak
for myself, given that 50+ years living in California and hearing that the next big earthquake
is going to happen now. It’s not that I don’t take that seriously. So when we are talking to people about the
things you’re talking about today, what kind of timelines are we talking about that
these things? How soon are we going to have to look about
perhaps moving? So there’s the city and the Alaska, that
I think was mentioned in the news first 3 weeks ago. So I I’m just trying to get a sense of,
you can’t give me a day and a time… Alex: so, the tricky thing about climate change
is – this is actually my frustration with people saying “we’ve got to stay below
2°C,” and setting a hard number about it. Climate changes in about a hard number, it’s
gradual. So instead of saying we’ve got to say below
2°C that we should change above preindustrial levels. So what we need to say is, we need to stay
as close to 2 as possible, and it’s looking like 3 or 4 right now, and please don’t
let us get to 8. And what’s happening is that to migrate,
and it’s going to accelerate. Time frames are fuzzy and flexible. But one thing is that preparation, reinforcing
social services and building of accessible housing, is not something that can happen
in a week or a month, that also takes years. So it’s best to start early regardless
Audience member: is there a way of looking at this as an economic, and economic opportunity
rather than a horrible thing? Is there an way to look at it as an economic
opportunity instead of a horrible thing? Alex: well yeah, I think that, I think that,
okay it’s similar to what I was talking about with the disaster prep. Is that there is so much inertia keeping us
without any action being taken, and that, and that, this is an opportunity to say “hey,
really really really keep us in mind.” And really as far as jobs and economic opportunity,
preparation and utilizing the knowledge of people with disabilities to help people do
policy planning, to help reinforce and build up social services, is absolutely an opportunity. Audience member: I’m talking about the economic
for the whole, for the whole society, not only for us
Alex: well yeah, it reminds me of the New Deal after the Great Depression. Is that collective action towards buildup
of infrastructure and resilience, absolutely. And this is something to rally around, yes

Cesar Sullivan

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