I consider myself to be an international woman. Even though my history may not be an exotic one (I was born in Canada) I do think that makes me somewhat international. It's been 21 years since I've moved to the U.S. and it was just last year when I took the oath in front of the Star Spangled Banner and proclaimed my citizenship in this grand country.
Some may wonder why I waited so long. I wonder the same thing. But as that old cliché goes, everything in its time. And it was time.
I had been an activist on the issue of HIV, primarily in the African American and Latino communities here in the U.S. for many years. It was horrifying to me how the pandemic was raging right here in this country but no one was talking about it. Denial, fear, and miseducation were running rampant throughout communities and I had to do what I could, to help raise the level of awareness once again, years after I portrayed an HIV+ health care worker on ER.
These same elements -- denial, fear, miseducation -- are the underlying elements of the climate change issue. So, through my work with Waterkeeper Alliance (especially on the issue of mountaintop removal coal mining) and now my participation with the Alliance for Climate Protection, I find myself being an advocate for the necessity and urgency of passing comprehensive climate legislation.
Most recently I helped "book end" the Hip Hop Caucus/Alliance for Climate Protection Clean Energy Now! bus tour. Our mission was to increase the awareness of the climate crisis primarily in communities of color and young people. Not only did we help educate them on the issue, but we also let them know that this crisis is solvable! The first step in this urgent matter is to pass comprehensive climate legislation. We launched the tour in New Orleans at Dillard University, and it completed its six state tour in Washington D.C. It was a very exciting day!
Most recently I participated in the Global Creative Forum, a day of panels, meetings and discussions lead by the Secretary-General that opened up the conversation between the UN and leaders of the entertainment community. The goal was for collaboration between the two worlds -- how the real life drama of UN workers on the ground would offer compelling story lines for TV shows and films. The running theme was empowering women.
During the opening ceremony between Ban Ki-moon and Michael Douglas, the Secretary General was asked what two global issues he would like to see more of in TV and film. His reply was "HIV and climate change."
Perfect fit. During my panel discussion, I linked the storyline of "Jeanie Boulet" with my current activism on HIV. But mostly I talked about how it is the issue of climate change that will have the most impact on everything that was discussed that day, whether it be malaria, poverty, gender inequality, HIV, human trafficking, or the countless other life threatening issues that impact women around the globe. For you see, the ramifications of climate change exacerbate many of these challenges.
For instance, if a woman or her daughter has to walk 4 hours each way to gather clean drinking water, because of drought or flooding then the mother is less apt to get educated and the daughter is more likely to be married off even younger than what may be an expected marrying age in her community.
Or, if a family, village or community must move to a different area because the natural resources can no longer sustain them due to the impacts of climate change, and they have to move to a region or country that is already volatile because of political, ethnic, financial or religious strife, then those women are more susceptible to rape, or contracting HIV, or abduction.
So, it is my belief that climate change is the overlying issue that must be tackled first, if we are to handle the rest of it. There are women all across the globe that are taking this on, full force even amidst intense cultural and political resistance. And there certainly are women right here in America that are fierce in their commitment to break through the political ideologies and make effective change that will be a sign to the world that the United States is not denying the facts. We are not afraid of the truth. We are committed to taking the first step towards slowing down the climate crisis by passing comprehensive climate legislation.
The Alliance for Climate Protection has taken on a vital leadership role in this country, through our Repower America campaign. We are reaching out to all Americans...young, old, black, white, brown, male, female, Christian, Buddhist -- everyone! It's time to get educated about, and to take action for comprehensive climate legislation. All of us.
We are so close.
Often times the last lap is the hardest. You can see the finish line in the distance yet every step can feel like you're in one of those dreams, where the hallway gets longer and longer the faster you run towards the door at the end.
But this is no dream. This is the real world. Comprehensive climate legislation must be passed so that we can ensure a world where this and future generations can experience the bliss of breathing clean crisp air, while fishing in the Adirondacks... and being able to eat the fish afterwards. So that we can witness the awe and majesty of glaciers. So that we can experience the heights of spirituality while cresting a mountain and seeing colors and hearing sounds that man cannot replicate. These are the things that feed our souls and inspire us.
So, as your fellow American, and as an international woman, I ask you to please help me to honor the gifts we have been given. Do all that you can to let your Senators know that you want comprehensive climate legislation passed. And you want it now.
Gloria Reuben is a nationally known environmental activist and a special
advisor to The Alliance for Climate Protection.