The regulars asking for money on the corners and medians of North Main Street have been there so long that I greet each one as a regular acquaintance as I walk by and they greet me the same way, even recognizing each other when we meet in other parts of the city. I became more friendly with the person who worked the corner closest to my house. He now has supportive housing, though he was living rough when i met him first. And he has not been on the corner the last few weeks as he has picked up work as a painter, though not on any regular payroll, and likely to end as soon as it gets too cold to work outside. No one has really claimed that corner, though it gets used regularly by various folks, so he is likely to reclaim it this winter.
The unemployment rate in Rhode Island is as low as it has been in a generation, but there are still thousands of people being left out of the economy or subsisting right at the edge. While unemployment is low, it is because so many people have just plain dropped out of the labor markets, knowing that they will never get hired for anything, with skills, health (physical and mental), regularity, and so many other factors leaving them out. A Meds and Eds economic plan, mixed with tax stabilizations for luxury housing, will never reach them and welcome them back into the work force or provide opportunities for a bountiful life.
Hurricane Michael crossed a record warm Gulf of Mexico and slammed into Florida as a category 4 storm with a record increase in wind speed over the last day at sea. A month after Florence tore up and flooded the Carolinas. There is no doubt that warmer temperatures are creating ever warmer oceans, are spawning bigger and more powerful storms that carry ever more rain. But the same way our political system ignores the people on the corners of North Main St, the powerful and the willfully blind ignore all the signs of climate change and continue to insist it is a Chinese hoax as people die,. The real estate industry complains when we refuse to let folks build in flood zones after the neighborhood was washed away. And climate deniers demand their god given right to rebuild exactly in the same place with tax payer dollars. The climate deniers the hurricane victims keep sending to Congress are making things worse rapidly, while also providing anti environment cover for ignoring the flood zone maps, and in the case of North Carolina, saying it is illegal to use the new maps since they take into account sea level rise. I suspect that if the climate deniers are not sent packing soon, a lot of their voters are going to turn into permanent refugees.
We have public officials trying to cram fossil fuel infrastructure (think Burrillville) down our throats even as they set up task forces to study climate adaptation. The way this works is the study commissions study to death while nothing gets done, the storms get worse, the costs to repair communities skyrocket, and our opportunities to remedy the problem recede into the haze. There are many already mourning the loss of the habitable planet, but thankfully many more are continuing to organize. Recently the word came down that the judge had acquitted 3 activists in Minnesota of tuning off a pipeline as the state supreme court had ruled they were allowed to make a necessity defense, i think the judge and state did not want a real trial after that as some very powerful testimony about the harms of fossil fuels would have come out.
And I look at what the people of Burrillville have done right here in little Rhody, fighting invenergy to a stalemate until the facts caught up with the situation and the plan began to fall apart of its own weight. And remember what so many of you are doing between now and the Day after Thanksgiving, November 29, a day we in RI gather together as many winter coats as we can and distribute them to those in the community who have need of one.
We started the Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange because it was what we could do to address poverty and address environmental destruction together in a unified and synergized way while providing tangible benefits to those most in need in our community and tweaking the noses of the powerful who insist consumerism is actually a good thing for our community and inequality and ecological collapse is grand.
Lauren and Pam have thankfully relieved me of the actual work of organizing the event, finding the sites, seeing who is running them, making sure the publicity gets out, and lining up the inclement weather site. The site is way more organized and orderly than when I ran it, but the spirit lives on and the good works get done. So I once again encourage all of you who can donate a coat, organize a coat drive, help with publicity, and volunteer on the day of, to do so. And i welcome all who need winter coats for themselves, their families, and their communities, to visit the site on the Statehouse lawn, and all the other places around the state holding events that day, and take the coats that will keep you warm in the wintry days ahead.