Community Spaces are Essential

Background: Kitchen Table Activism (KTA) is a monthly activity by the Rural Organizing Project. The idea is that small actions can lead to powerful collective results when groups of people gather to complete the same action across the state of Oregon. ROP works to keep each KTA easily achievable so that groups with other projects or groups with limited immediate energy can still complete the KTA each month.

What is the activity?

The cooler temperatures and bouts of rain have many of us feeling less anxious about wildfire, smoke, and supporting our neighbors through the heat, but also have us looking ahead to prepare for winter storms and the coming summer. Now is a great time to look at community infrastructure like libraries and post offices that have been or can be used for warming or cooling centers, overnight shelter in case of climate crises, and places for neighbors to gather to figure out how to meet the most important needs in the community.

We recently read this article in High Country News: Why investing in libraries is a climate justice issue and it struck a chord. We saw libraries and other publicly funded buildings around the state available as cooling centers during our summer heat waves but we heard about just as many communities that did not provide any type of shelter because they didn’t have adequate HVAC systems, did not have any accessible buildings, or simply didn’t have adequate plans in place. 

Why this activity?

Climate emergencies are not going away and our back-to-back heatwaves this past summer saw some unfortunate loss of life around the state and highlighted the need for better emergency planning. It is important to have a designated facility that will be open and available as an emergency meeting space in your community and to ensure that the most vulnerable folks are informed and have access. If you live in a community that does not have an emergency shelter designated, now is a good time to imagine some of the possibilities and work toward getting an emergency plan in place. 

How to complete the Activity:

1. Gather your human dignity group together to read and discuss Why investing in libraries is a climate justice issue

2. As a group, discuss the following questions about your community’s climate emergency plan. If there are questions your group doesn’t have answers to, consider assigning members to conduct more research and report back to discuss at your next meeting.

3. Does your community have a public space open as a cooling/heating center in times of emergency? Who runs it?

4. Does the space have adequate cooling/heating capability and back-up generators?

5. Is the space fully accessible, including the restrooms?

6. How is information about the facility distributed? Is the notification amplified in multiple outlets (for example: newspaper, radio ads, social media, flyers) and in multiple languages? 

7. Is the building in a centralized location? If not, are there services in place to help with transporting those in need to the facility?

8. Does the facility allow pets? Some folks are hesitant to leave furry family members behind.

9. If there is not a space already designated, what are some spots that might be considered? Some examples: school buildings, post offices, city halls or community centers, museums, local nonprofits, churches, or friendly local businesses. Does anyone in your group have a connection to any of these locations? Who do you need to contact to authorize the potential spot? Are there other ways your group can organize to help the community during times of climate emergency?

10. Let ROP know what you came up with! We would love to hear if this KTA inspired your group to establish a climate emergency shelter in your community or organize additional support for an already established location.  Contact your local community organizer or email and tell us your story!

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