Prevent disaster capitalism and commit to just recovery

Establish democratic and community-led processes for climate change planning, adaptation, and recovery.

A significant degree of climate change is unavoidable due to historic greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere. In the face of extreme weather events, economic disruption, and political instability, our policies must prevent disaster capitalism that seeks to extract profit from crises, and instead bolster disaster collectivism, community-self-governance, ecological restoration, and local economic resiliency.

In anticipation of climate impacts and in the process of just recovery, decision-making and local governance must be led by those directly impacted by shifting conditions. Furthermore, key economic assets and natural resources must be placed within local community-control. 

Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine describes the process by which private interests exploit crisis moments to push through extreme policies to further consolidate wealth and power. According to Klein, while the public is in a collective state of shock, grief, or mourning, they often aren’t in a position to mount adequate or organized resistance. Certainly this was the case in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, when developers were allowed to enter the city long before residents were allowed to return to their homes. 

However, Klein and grassroots organizations around the world argue that disaster capitalism is not an inevitable outcome of climate change. In fact, during moments of crisis, disaster collectivism has emerged as an equally powerful force. Organizations in Puerto Rico, Houston, and other parts of the Gulf have begun using the term “Just Recovery” to describe both their demand and strategy. Disasters reveal the cracks in dominant systems–many of which were not working for these communities pre-disaster anyway–and through a commitment to just recovery there is an opportunity to reorganize local resources and governance to be more just, democractic, and sustainable. Ultimately, climate change is a crisis driven by a global capitalist system built for infinite growth on a finite planet. Reorganizing our world towards climate justice reveals the imperative of rapidly transitioning from the extractive economy to regenerative economies where people and planet thrive.

Establish community-participatory planning for climate change impact

  • Review zoning codes and local ordinances to take into account changing environmental conditions
  • Align participatory climate change planning with participatory budgeting processes to allocate funds proportional to the climate vulnerabilities of different neighborhoods and communities
  • Place a freeze on potential developments that displace communities into further climate vulnerable regions
  • Invest in drought, flooding, and forest fire prevention strategies
  • Remove financial and political barriers to climate change adaptation and disaster-response for vulnerable and impacted regions

For example:

  • Following Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico in 2017, local organizers knew the Just Recovery wasn’t possible without cancellation of Puerto Rico’s debt, reversal of all austerity measures, and lifting of the Jones Act.

Invest in crumbling infrastructure that will support evacuation, migration, and survival during hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods, etc…

  • Repair and strengthen water and sewer systems
  • Repair roads, bridges, and rails
  • Invest in and modernize affordable housing to be weatherized
  • Build community emergency centers that can withstand extreme weather and are equipped with the energy and resources necessary to support communities without power and water

Establish climate justice resiliency funds and programs

  • Allocate necessary funds to support relocation of displaced communities, both temporarily and permanently

For example:

  • The Climate Displaced Persons Act which would establish a federal program, separate from the existing refugee program, to take in a minimum of 50,000 climate migrants starting next year

  • Dedicate resources for vulnerable populations: Elderly, families with infants, hospitalized
  • Establish an Office of Climate Resiliency for people with disabilities

Guarantee free access to communications, news, aid, and transportation during and following disasters

  • Resource the transition to cooperative or municipal broadband
  • Invest in community-run emergency response networks and mutual aid systems during disaster

Guarantee community-led rebuilding processes with transparent governance and resource allocation

  • Ensure residents of disaster-impacted communities have the right to return to their homes
  • Establish community-governance programs to manage and distribute aid resources

For example:

  • Participatory budgeting processes for aid allocation and rebuilding priorities

  • Require development projects to commit to a Community Benefits Agreement

For example:

  • Between 2012- 2014, following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the Far Rockaways in Queens, NY organized a campaign for more equitable development and rebuilding of an 80-acre vacant property. The campaign, led by Rockaway Wildfire, pushed for a comprehensive Community Benefits Agreement and dedicated commercial development for worker-owned cooperatives.

  • Designated funding for rebuilding that prioritizes new economy strategies, such as cooperative businesses and community land trusts.