Drought and Disruption: A Community Event

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by Stephanie Spitzer

Countries in East Africa feel very far away when you’re in the middle of a bone-chilling Minnesota winter. But for many communities in the Twin Cities with strong ties to East Africa, that’s where their friends and families live. And their home is just as affected by climate disruption, if not more so. Drought and Disruption: Impacts of Climate Change in East Africa on Tuesday, June 5, 2012, brought interested people together in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis to discuss how climate disruption is affecting East Africa and what Minnesotans are doing right now to help East Africa and mitigate climate change.

Many great organizations got together to co-sponsor this event, such as Somali Family Services and Oxfam, two organizations that also lent speakers, Jamal Osman and Elizabeth Harper, respectively. Activist Zainab Hussein and Sierra Club staff organizer Jessica Tatro also presented. Each presenter tackled some aspect of climate disruption between the United States, East Africa, and what efforts are underway to mitigate it. Karen Monahan from the Sierra Club moderated the discussion.

Zainab Hussein talked about the overall situation in Somalia. She has done research on environmental issues and wrote “Dumping on Somalia: A Plea for Environmental Justice,” published in The Horn of Africa journal in 2009.

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Jamal Osman filled the audience in on the economy in Somalia, and how the only work to be had is in producing charcoal, which other countries have banned the production of but still import from Somalia. Charcoal, however, leads to clear cutting of the forests in Somalia, which has its own bad consequences.

Elizabeth Harper talked about how Oxfam has gotten involved in relief efforts in East Africa and other parts of the world, including mitigating hunger.

Finally, Jessica Tatro gave a presentation on carbon pollution and current efforts to mitigate it in the United States.

In addition, a question and answer period after the presentations allowed members of the audience to interact with the presenters to learn more about the impacts of climate disruption in Somalia and how they can get involved.

All co-sponsors had tables at the event explaining what their organizations are doing to fight climate change and how people in the audience can get involved here in our local community. The Sierra Club’s Clean Air and Renewable Energy Committee (CARE) collected postcards to the EPA in support of the New Source Performance Standards so that everyone could leave the event having taken an action to protect the environment. You too can sign on in support by filling out the form on this page.

Co-sponsors included Sierra Club, Somali Family Services, Oxfam, Fresh Energy, MN350, American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA), and the American Refugee Committee (ARC).

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