After Hurricane Irma, I Know Exactly Who to Blame

Experiencing Hurricane Irma has given me a more visceral reaction to the climate change impacts we are creating for our children. There is no safe place to go. The new normal is terrifying.

Irma Impacts in Gainesville, Florida

Fallen trees and debris blocked roads and downed power lines in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

I live in Gainesville, Florida and as the route of the hurricane moved west and the eye came for us, we again found ourselves dealing with the “unprecedented.” As the predicted route kept changing and the roads clogged with evacuees, I knew there was no escape. As a parent, when I was laying in bed listening to the wind get louder and louder, I was thinking how scary it is what we’re doing to our climate.

The urgent desperation of a changing climate moved from something I read about and work on to a panic beating in my chest.

I’m not even going to experience the worst of it, but my daughter will.

We came out alright. A large tree fell in front of my house and we lost power, outcomes that could be cleaned up rather quickly. Around me, rivers and lakes rose, already at peak levels after a record-breaking summer of rain. It could have been worse. For many in Florida, it was.

With Hurricane Irma, we weren’t just experiencing the impacts of extreme weather due to climate change, but every other aspect of being dependent on fossil fuels. Evacuees ran out of gas. Few rail options existed because Governor Rick Scott turned away federal dollars for high speed rail. My city almost lost our water supply due to fuel scarcity.

All of it just underscores something I’ve known for a long time, one of the things that brought me to Greenpeace in the first place — we’ve got to find our way out of this mess.

Day after day of the most “unprecedented” and “never seen before” events are happening at an increasing pace all around the world. Last week, most people I know throughout the country were dealing with extreme weather in the form of floods, fires, and storms.

An energy revolution is possible. But there are people working hard at every turn to block the progress we seek. And unfortunately, they’re our elected officials. In Florida, people like Governor Scott and Senator Marco Rubio are blocking progress on sustainable energy alternatives and raking in enormous sums of money from oil and gas corporations and utilities along the way. If we want to stop runaway climate change and prevent the next superstorm, we have to hold them accountable.

One of the most infuriating experiences of the week was getting a list of tips for things to do after the storm from Rubio’s office. I replied with a tip to him: get serious about climate change. The citizens he represents desperately need someone to represent us, not fossil fuel interests.

Citizens overwhelmingly vote for the environment in Florida and our state government betrays us. It’s clear who they work for, and it’s not us. Just last year, they tried to deceive us on solar and we overcame their lies once again.

Imagine what we could accomplish if our government fought for our future rather than fight against us.

Banning the words “climate change” won’t stop climate change. Climate change doesn’t care if you believe in it. I want climate deniers and the fossil fuel companies supporting them to get out of the way and let us move forward to a different future.

Nicole Sands, Greenpeace USA

© Greenpeace

Nicole Sands is the digital platforms manager for Greenpeace USA and a native of Gainesville, Florida. 

She and her family remained in Gainesville during Hurricane Irma, bearing witness to the destruction fueled by climate change first-hand. 


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