Climate Justice

Nurses know that the climate crisis is also a health crisis. As frontline caregivers, we see firsthand the impacts of climate change, including increases in disease and catastrophic harm from extreme weather events. We have an important role to play in reducing harm to our patients—and the planet.

Clean air, land, and water are all essential to good health. But climate change is threatening our natural resources, our health, and our lives, as it increasingly devastates communities with extreme weather, hurricanes, wildfires, and drought. That’s why NYSNA fights for a healthy environment in New York and beyond.  

How New York Nurses Fight for a Healthy Planet  

NYSNA has been on the frontlines of the climate justice movement since our members acted heroically in the face of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Nurses went above and beyond to safely evacuate hundreds of patients and resume quality patient care. In the days and weeks after the storm, NYSNA members went door-to-door in affected areas to assess medical needs and provide medical attention to people without electricity or running water.

NYSNA has deepened its commitment to combating climate change and supporting communities in need since then. We started the NY Relief Network (NYRN)which has deployed medical missions to the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan; and to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. We created the NYSNA Climate Justice Committee to combat the effects of climate change, such as disease from air pollution, inadequate access to clean water, and substandard housing. And NYSNA is part of coalitions that work on forward-thinking clean energy and good job solutions and build the movement for climate justice, like NY Renews, Climate Jobs NY and Climate Works for All.

Resources and How to Get Involved

You can be part of the movement of frontline caregivers for climate justice.

How Superstorm Sandy Spurred Action on Climate Justice

When Superstorm Sandy tore through New York, taking lives, destroying neighborhoods, leveling homes, damaging hospitals and wrecking vital energy and transit infrastructure, NYSNA knew that we had reached a turning point. With global warming posing a cataclysmic threat to public health, it was clear that our work caring for patients and communities would require that we charge headlong into the fight for climate justice.

The science is in: the climate is hotter than it has been in all of human history, and unless our society can make a dramatic break from its addiction to fossil fuels, it will only get hotter, threatening further catastrophic weather events and even greater destruction.

It's not just carbon emissions, either. The overarching problem is that our energy and environmental policies have been written to maximize the profits of the energy industry, no matter the devastation to life on earth. This leads not just to a hotter atmosphere and more extreme weather, but also contaminated water and air, extinction of wildlife, drought and displacement, and communities choked with rotting garbage and festering toxic waste.

Sandy showed us what the climate crisis looks like up close, but we also know its effects are felt very far away — all over the globe.

In an earth whose shared resources — the water, air, land, weather, and atmosphere — are poisoned, destroyed, and reserved for the exclusive use of profit-driven corporations, we cannot truly foster healthy patients and communities. The cure for our energy system is the same cure we prescribe for our healthcare system:  It’s time to put people over profits!

So how does a statewide nurses' union do battle on a global scale? Every way we can. NYSNA nurses are on the front lines in protecting our air and water from pollution, working on forward-thinking clean energy and good job solutions, and working in coalitions to build the movement for climate justice.

"Nurses are part of a larger movement, not just to heal our patients, but to rescue the world." Check out this powerful video looking back at nurses' role during Superstorm Sandy four years ago and how it has shaped our involvement in the climate justice movement ever since. 

Nurse at the Peoples Climate March
As nurses, we are on the front lines of public health and our dedication to our patients means advocating for them when they come to see us, but also making sure they live in healthy communities. Learn about opportunities to take action against climate change. Sign up to join NYSNA’s Climate Justice Committee today.

As environmentalists, labor unions, and local, state and world leaders come together to find solutions for a healthier, more sustainable environment, nurses are there.