Does your love keep you warm at night?

True love is built upon a steady foundation requiring self-love for bearings and a commitment to maintenance. Knowing that your love is here to stay provides a sense of security, stability. With this you can reach new higher levels of development, expanding and thriving.

Truthfully, without love we cannot survive. It’s a basic necessity.

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My love is a metaphor for physical shelter–-the basic necessity that is housing—-and the heart-wrenching reality of being unhoused. 

We fight for what we love, so environmental advocates are fighting to live in safe, clean and green towns and cities. Housing is a critical component of our climate justice framework. Leaving it out means an incomplete approach to facing the climate crisis. This effort goes hand in hand with the fight to make housing a human right.

We know that we need mass mobilization to build the people power needed to stop and reverse climate change. When many of our community members and neighbors do not have access to housing or other basic needs, they cannot be expected to mobilize and organize for environmental justice. 

In Building a Community of Love, her conversation with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, author and activist bell hooks tells us, “we best realize love in community… So I have had to practice being willing to leave the space of my study to be in community, to work in community, and to be changed by community….I think this is the love that we seek in the new millennium, which is the love experienced in community, beyond self.”

The connection between the climate and housing crises is obvious, and policy solutions are clear. Some just require reinstituting past practices like rent control, now called rent stabilization. The concept that families without the ability to pay ever-rising and now skyrocketing rents have the right to a stable home is a practical and compassionate one for protecting community members so they can participate fully in their neighborhoods and schools.

As a step toward that goal, Sen. Gary Winfield has proposed SB 138, which would cap rent increases at no more than 2.5% annually and prohibit most no-cause evictions. His bill responds to the statewide Cap the Rent campaign initiated by the CT chapter of DSA, Democratic Socialists of America.

There’s also the question of increased natural disasters as a result of climate change. As of 2020, there has been a fivefold increase in climate disasters since 1970. We’ve seen the effects of this first hand. In Connecticut we felt the effects of the climate refugee crisis when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. The storm caused 130,000 Puerto Ricans to become climate refugees. Connecticut became the home to thousands of these climate refugees, and while many had family or friends here that were able to support them, in many cases that wasn’t enough. The services and housing available were not enough for the influx of refugees that we received.

Due to our geographical location, New England can expect to continue to receive climate refugees. When they arrive under such devastating circumstances, we should welcome them with open arms. Sadly, we can’t even house the people who currently live in Connecticut; something seriously has to change for us to be able to handle the increase in population. This means building more housing, but also making sure the housing that already exists is suitable, accessible and affordable. 

Another cause of homelessness is out-of-control utility rates, an energy burden that affects Black and brown families disproportionately. Energy efficiency measures cut down utility bills and clean up indoor air when pollutants like asbestos and lead are remediated, making homes healthier and more affordable. Through racist red-lining, families of color, especially Black families, were confined to some of our cities’ most polluted neighborhoods, and they are also often most at risk from flooding and other impacts of the climate crisis like the heat island effect from a lack of tree canopy.

CT RENEWS, a statewide coalition that’s part of a New England-wide movement, has also put forward four proposals to improve housing justice and accessibility to affordable housing. They have also put forward a proposal to “Improve the comfort and living conditions of our residents with comprehensive energy efficiency and renewable retrofits beginning with public housing and affordable housing.”

There are plenty of things we can do to mitigate poor housing and poor environments. We just need the people-power to convince our elected officials to do them. Now is the time, when Connecticut is awash in Rainy Day funds and federal investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act and the new $18 million grant from HUD. It would be heartless to allow these conditions to persist when we have the resources to improve them. 

We have the opportunity for Connecticut to be a leader in housing justice, and as the climate crisis worsens we have to rise to the challenge of housing more climate refugees, whether they be from within Connecticut from other parts of the country, or from other countries. 

Love is an action. It is all-embracing and unbiased, entailing responsibility as much as it does compassion. How much we care is reflected in how much we do. As we move forward in these unsettling times, it is imperative that love be our guiding principle. We must act on behalf of community wellbeing by ensuring that everyone has a healthy home to keep them warm at night.  

Happy Valentines Day <3

Katharine Morris is a member of the CT Mirror’s Community Editorial Board. Mariana Pelaez is an Organizing Director of Renew New England and Melinda Tuhus is a member of Connecticut Climate Crisis Mobilization.