Flood survivors join forces to change policy, fight climate change

United Flooded States of America

Flood survivors join forces to change policy, fight climate change

By Flannery Winchester

Climate scientists have been clear that a warming world means more flooding. Warmer air, warmer water, and changing precipitation patterns are a recipe for this particular disaster. This year alone, the Midwest and Southeast have been drenched, affecting everything from farmers’ planting schedules to public safety. 

Umair Irfan, science writer for Vox, explains:

The warming the planet has experienced so far is already driving up the likelihood of extreme rainfall events. And as temperatures continue to rise, the odds of heavy rain will continue to increase. The number of one-in-five-year rainfall events is on the rise. And the amount of rain poured out in a once-every-30-years precipitation event is going up too.

But it’s not just about the record-breaking rain—it’s about the people whose lives are upended when their homes and businesses are damaged by floods. “We’re hurting,” says Harriet Festing. “After this year’s record-breaking flooding in the Midwest, we agreed that the time to speak up and go national is now.” 

Harriet leads the Anthropocene Alliance and Higher Ground, the largest flood survivor network in the country. Now, she’s convening local flood survivor groups and amplifying their voices in an initiative called the United Flooded States of America. More than 30 community and regional leaders from 15 states are working together on this national campaign. The group wants lawmakers from the local to the federal level to take action “to stop development in wetlands and floodplains, reform flood insurance laws, and reduce human-caused greenhouse gases that cause global warming.”

United Flooded States of America

“I’ve been working with some of these community leaders for almost two years, helping them find the resources they need to rebuild,” Harriet explains. “But every time we meet, the subject returns to how to stop future flooding, not just recover from past disasters.” Now, in addition to supporting each other after flood events, they’re working to stop these crises from getting worse and worse in the future. 

For more than three months, CCL’s Director of National Outreach and Partnerships, Stephanie Doyle, has been supporting the United Flooded States of America members with advice from CCL’s own experience, such as how to reach members of Congress effectively. “I’ve been on calls with them and their members, answering questions about getting Congress’s attention, and giving advice on how to set up meetings, how to contact members via social media, and having a specific ask,” Stephanie explains. 

This collaboration was intended to help the Anthropocene Alliance and Higher Ground gain grant money and bring attention to the impacts of climate on flooding around the United States. And in fact, they have recently received a grant from the Environmental Defense Fund, which will set them up to better coordinate their efforts and advance their cause. 

To support this important work, follow the Anthropocene Alliance on Twitter or join the Higher Ground Facebook group. You can share their posts to raise awareness about flooding and about their advocacy efforts, or make your own posts using the hashtag #UnitedFloodedStatesofAmerica. If you want to join the campaign yourself, email harriet @ anthropocenealliance.org.

Flannery Winchester
Flannery Winchester has put her words to work for magazines, for marketing agencies, and now for our earth as CCL's Communications Director. She is grateful to spend every day working to preserve this beautiful planet.