Good afternoon Fearless Youth Warriors!
I offer you the love, admiration and commitment that we, the 42,000 members of the New York State Nurses Association bring to this historic event.
Why do I say warriors? Because war has been declared on our planet by greedy corporations who see profit instead of people, who embrace destruction instead of sustenance who are leading humanity down a path of total devastation…
And we must fight them with every ounce of strength that we have.
People ask me: Why are nurses concerned about the climate? What business is it of your union to get involved in something that has nothing to do with your profession?
And we say, it has EVERYTHING to do with our profession, our union, our patients and our future.
Who do you think rescues and cares for victims of...
heat waves that cause untold deaths and serious heat related complications;
wild fires that increase in severity as I stand here;
floods that cause toxic molds, pneumonias, asthma, lung and heart damage;
droughts that cause unprecedented food insecurity, starvation, malnutrition;
fracking, pipelines, bomb trains and diesel fuel exhaust that poison nature’s precious, life-sustaining gifts to humankind—our air, soil and water;
super-hurricanes and typhoons that devastate whole populations and towns in a single day, obliterating islands in the global south, leading to long-term illnesses and creating conditions for new bacteria and viruses to thrive?
WHEN HURRICANE SANDY HIT
ALL OF THESE EVENTS lead to homelessness, depression, suicides and massive migration.
The victims come to us desperate, lost, suffering, terrified, asking, “What happened? What kind of life can I look forward to now, now that I’ve lost everything…”
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey, we were awakened to the enormity of the storm. And as we cared for folks whose health and lives were upended by it, we knew we had a moral responsibility to not only treat patients, but to research, comprehend and take a stand against the CAUSES of the climate catastrophes that are engulfing our world.
We formed collectives of volunteers who were ready and willing to go to regions impacted by the deadly effects of climate change. We sent multiple teams to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands after Hurricane María and we continue to travel all over the world to do what we can to mitigate the horrific impact of these events.
We literally saw with our own eyes where the bodies were buried when there was no refrigeration in morgues and no roads or fuel for transport. Imagine watching your mom take her last breath before your eyes because she couldn’t get oxygen or a nebulizer for her emphysema—and then burying her body in your back yard... We saw this…
AN HONORABLE PROFESSION
And so, our union, our nurses continue our work in our honorable profession inside the walls of our hospitals, on the mountainsides, and in marshlands, cities and jungles of our planet.
But this work is only a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.
Our planet is crying out to us to heal its wounds, to remove the cancer that is destroying the only body we have as a people, to save it from its ultimate destruction.
We promise to work with each and every one of you, our youth, the unsung heroes of the universe. You hold the future in your hands and in your hearts.
We stand by your side with our stethoscopes, with our voices and with our bodies and souls, because saving the planet is saving ALL of our lives.
And saving lives is our business.