OPINION — Snowy Winters & Smokey Summers: Preparing for the Future

OpEds by Got Green appear in the South Seattle Emerald every month.

by Hodan Hassan and Tanika Thompson-Bird

The climate is changing. We know that, but the past few weeks brought it to the forefront of our minds. Remember the snow? The snow that fell from the sky and trapped us in our homes for days? That was a sign of how the changing climate is impacting our weather patterns — snow storm in Seattle, a rainstorm in Southern California and 60-degree weather in DC. Seattle is not prepared for snow in any capacity. The streets weren’t cleaned, public transit was a disaster, and people couldn’t get out of their homes.

We know that climate change is a threat multiplier, which means when there are natural disasters the inequities that already exist get worse. For example, when the snow trapped people in their homes, the people who were already food insecure didn’t have access to food.

How does an individual without a car get to work or even the grocery store to purchase necessities such as food for their families when there are 4 to 5 inches of snow on the ground and no buses running? Food is a necessity and key to our survival. Why were food banks closed while grocery stores were open? What about those who count on assistance from resources such as food banks to feed their families?

Seattle did not take low-income communities into account or have infrastructure in place to protect us during the weather emergency. Many people became first responders for their neighbors, giving rides to grocery stores, shoveling snow and pushing cars stuck in the middle of the street. Those are all examples of how people were helping each other in time of disaster.  So, right now the big question in my mind is where was the city government that is meant to support us?

We should be ensuring that people without homes are not out on the streets unprotected and at risk of hypothermia. There should be a safe place in every neighborhood for us to go so that not one of us has to go without the bare necessities. Making the streets of Seattle safe to drive on is great, but for who? Where are they going and will they have what they need when they get there? If so, then plowing the streets is essential to our survival, right? (This last sentence is following several questions, so the “If so” mechanic is a little confusing, making the reader ask themselves which thing the “If so” is referring to.

I have been wondering what neighborhoods were actually plowed because the street that I live on in South Seattle was not. I know that they interviewed a man on the news the day before it snowed who said that they were getting ahead of the weather, making the streets of Seattle safe for its residents. Not where I live, in Rainier Valley and that’s the problem.

Please know that from our criticism comes the birth of our motivation and acknowledgment of the need to do something about it. While we need to continue being first responders, we also need to know that there are systems in place in times of such great need. During California wildfires, emergency hubs were opened. Shouldn’t we have done the same thing?

City of Seattle, you can do better, you must do better!

Got Green organizes for environmental, racial, and economic justice .  We are a South Seattle-based grassroots organization led by People of Color and low income communities.  

Our work cultivates multi-generational community leaders to be central voices in the Green Movement.  We build to ensure that the benefits of the green economy (green jobs, healthy food, energy efficient & healthy homes, public transit) reach Black and Brown families.