On the Ark with Parched Lips

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, Program Coordinator, Word & World

The 2nd of a two-day report from Detroit.
Candles shine from one room to another while I write in the waning minutes of battery life on my laptop. This is our second power outage this summer. Some neighborhoods have had even more. Each a result of strengthening and unusual storms. Heavy winds and humidity followed by quick and fierce rain. A month ago, we experienced “the flood”- freeways eating up cars needing divers to go below in search of bodies. Thousands of basements filled three feet with sewage as the pipes couldn’t hold the 5 inches of water we got in one day. It was indeed what engineers plan for as the “hundred year storm.” The fear though is that it won’t be another hundred years til it comes again.

This summer comes after one of the hardest winters we’ve had with snow on the ground from the beginning of December to April. Add the polar vortexes and we were facing temperatures unheard of in these parts. Snow day after snow days for the kids, but unsafe to go outside and enjoy it.

This all while California suffers another year of drought. Our friends, Tommy & Lindsay, moved here from Southern California and, at the first thunderstorm, they said “this is more rain than we’ve seen in four years.”

Sitting with a group of environmental justice warrior writers reflecting on how we were doing, one friend said the flood was hanging heavy in her heart. She had been giving a tour of the environmental racism in the Delray neighborhood when the freeways started to fill. She watched a barefoot woman trying to push a car up an exit ramp with a child inside. She sat there stunned, fearing for her neighbors, thinking “This is it. This is what climate change is going to look like in our corner of the world.”

Climate change on top of the corporate and political burdens laid on this city are almost too much to bear. As Tommy wrote yesterday, while we sit with no electricity, thousands are also without water. And many of them are still struggling to wash out mold and sewage from their basements…with no water to wash the floors or their bodies after the hard work.

We stand with the Israelites in the wilderness wishing we could go back to the old broken way for it must have been better than this. How can it be that here in Detroit that we are both drowning and dying of thirst?

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