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Will Gulf Coast hurricane season impact this year’s vote?

Climate justice organization 350.0rg is hosting an online forum on Wednesday called “Stronger than Storms,” where leaders from U.S. communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis will share their experiences. One organization participating in the forum is the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy based out of Sidell, Louisiana. NewsHour Weekend’s Ivette Feliciano spoke with the center’s founder, climate activist and Obama Foundation Fellow, Colette Pichon Battle, about civic engagement in the face of hurricane season.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    On Wednesday, the climate justice organization 350.0rg will host an online forum called "Stronger Than Storms," where leaders on the frontlines of the climate crisis will share their experiences.

    One organization participating in the forum is the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy based out of Slidell, Louisiana.

    NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano spoke with the center's founder, climate activist Colette Pichon Gattle, about civic engagement and climate realities in the gulf coast.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, climate activist and lawyer Colette Pichon Battle left her corporate law job in Washington D.C. and went back to her hometown of Slidell, Louisiana.

  • Colette Pichon Battle:

    I camped in a tent in my grandparents yard for a second, and then in a FEMA trailer for a couple of years. I think that it's really been in the recovery where I've made my assessments around justice and equity.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    That year, Pichon Battle founded the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, a multi-state climate justice and human rights organization. In 2019, she became an Obama Foundation Fellow, and gave a TED Talk about her work in the Gulf Coast, advocating for the needs of communities of color on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    Why is the work that your organization does so important?

  •  Colette Pichon Battle:

    Because there's a global climate crisis and the rest of the planet is engaging in this reality while our country is still trying to figure out whether they believe it's true. Meanwhile, communities like mine are experiencing devastating impacts of a new climate reality that has to be acknowledged. I think the work is mostly important because communities like mine will be erased otherwise.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    We spoke with Pichon Battle a few days after Hurricane Sally battered the Gulf Coast this month.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    What's been going on for you and your community there?

  • Colette Pichon Battle:

    We've had several storms. Hurricane Laura, which hit a couple of weeks ago, hit our southwest side, those communities are still reeling. In southwest Louisiana, there was a chemical fire and the chemical fire had chlorine gas clouds. And it's a chemical corridor and an industrial corridor that is subject to a climate reality that's going to put a lot of people in danger, either from toxic air, toxic water, floodwaters or really strong storms.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    Another concern she has for the Gulf Coast, voter participation in the November elections. Pichon Battle says that after Katrina, voting became a major challenge, particularly in communities of color, due to extensive damage to voting precincts, the fact that people could not return to their homes, and Louisiana's complex absentee voting rules.

  • Colette Pichon Battle:

    Climate change disperses people one way or another. Either you left before the storm to stay safe or the storm has moved you and you're in a traumatic space and another location. And in either of these situations, you're not where you normally are on a nice Tuesday morning to just go cast your vote and then go to the grocery store. And if you didn't follow deadlines, you'll find yourself on Election Day in another place, not able to have your voice heard. We have to think more innovatively about how we're gonna get through this, because this is only going to get worse.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    In the midst of hurricane season yet again, Pichon Battle and her team are educating voters about the importance of connecting civic engagement and climate change.

  • Colette Pichon Battle:

    What does it look like to vote in the aftermath of a climate disaster? What does it look like to redistrict after a census where folks can't complete it because of climate disaster? What does it mean to actually have representation in Congress based on numbers that were skewed because of climate disaster or numbers that are changing very quickly, quicker than 10 years because of climate disaster? These are things we have to really get our minds around because our democracy is at stake. This is about can we uphold our Constitution given this new climate reality? I'm not sure we have enough folks telling the truth about climate to ensure that the best outcome will occur.

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