November 27, 2013


A full year after Hurricane Sandy battered the eastern seaboard, we can begin to glean valuable insight into the community-led relief network that sprung up in response, also known as the Occupy Sandy network. In late October 2012, as the “Superstorm” was approaching, Occupy Wall Street participants focused social media and interpersonal networks in preparation. By the following morning, the group had already begun to use social media and network-based communications to amplify the relief efforts in some of the the hardest-hit communities across New York City and New Jersey.

In the days and weeks that followed, Occupy Sandy helped create and connect a complex, nimble, and oftentimes haphazard relief network. Donation centers, mutual aid hubs, open-source needs assessments, and volunteer assignment systems sprung to life, seemingly overnight. Drawing on the strengths of network-based organizing, these efforts were often more effective than the work of traditional, top-down aid organizations like the Red Cross.

One of the tens of thousands of people who came together to make this network thrive was Sofía Gallisá Muriente, who spent the last year organizing in Rockaway Beach. Listen to her share her experiences from the effort and her thoughts about the future promise and latent perils that the Occupy Sandy network now faces.

Organizing during disasters is becoming an increasingly important role of the social justice movement, particularly as climate change threatens to wreck havoc upon nations and people who are the least responsible for the pollution and exploitation of the earth. Today, tens of thousands of residents of the Philippines are organizing to survive amidst the devastation wrought by the most recent typhoon. So-called elected leaders refuse to address this crisis, evidenced by the utter failure of last week’s climate summit in Warsaw. Since politicians and the powerful continue to work for the fossil fuel industry, we must work for the people -- both to slow climate change by forcing an end to consumption and fossil fuel burning, and to organize survival networks that protect ourselves and our fellow humans against the climate genocide.

As this talk demonstrates, this work has already started. Now, we must amplify it.

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