You probably don’t want or need to read one more thing about the United States election. You probably just want to cover your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears and hum loudly until November 9. You probably are done with hearing about it, thinking about it, arguing about it.
But even though I know you’ve thought about so many angles, considered so many things as we prepare to elect not only our next president but so many other people to elected office, from mayors to governors, from insurance commissioners to senators, I’m going to guess that you may not have thought about Haiti in the context of this election.
That’s right: Haiti
Until you’ve been to Haiti, as I was in the spring of 2014, it’s hard to really imagine that there could be such privation and misery so close to the United States (Port-au-Prince is only 700 miles from Miami).
Many of the homes are tin shacks that are swept away when it rains hard. Many communities have no indoor plumbing and only precarious access to clean water. Hunger and indolence are everywhere – there are so many adults who simply have nothing to do, no jobs, no way to provide for their families.
And everywhere in Haiti there are children. Carefully dressed children who have neatly styled hair and broad smiles.
Children who dance with joy and abandon.
Children who carry drinking water for their families on their heads.
Children who go to school inside a tent if they are lucky and have a school to attend.
The communities I saw in Haiti were struggling to provide for themselves, to build clean sanitation systems and wells. They engaged in this struggle fiercely despite the fact that the vagaries of weather could easily destroy every effort they made. They wanted all the same things that we do.
So what does Haiti have to do with the U.S. election?
The people I met in Haiti are utterly vulnerable to storms made all the more horrendous by the forces of global warming. Warmer ocean waters mean storms that intensify more quickly and last longer than those we’ve seen in the past. Hurricane Matthew, which hit Haiti on October 4, 2016 is one of those storms.
And so even in the midst of this election season and all its distractions, I can’t stop thinking about those people now, the people who already had so much to overcome.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Hurricane Matthew has affected 2.1 million people in Haiti, over 800,000 of them children (my source is this Situation Report, dated November 2, 2016).
Although there was also an unacceptable cost in lives and property in the United States, it is the people of Haiti who paid disproportionately and who will continue to pay in the future for the consequences of global warming.
There are of course many ways to help in Haiti (for an excellent list of suggestions, please see Cool Mom Picks). But if you are a U.S. citizen there’s one thing you can do that you might not have thought of:
You can vote on November 8.
And more specifically, you can vote for candidates who support clean air, water and earth so that we make an effort to at least slow if not stop the forces that hurt vulnerable people like those in Haiti.
Hillary Clinton recognizes what is at stake. She is a candidate with an environmental plan that I know I can get behind (you can read about it here).
Our actions – and our votes – have consequences that stretch beyond our borders. This election isn’t just about our own towns or states or even just our own country. It’s about what we do to save this fragile planet and make it a safe and healthy place for us all to continue inhabiting.
When I vote on November 8, it won’t just be for me. It won’t just be for my children. It will be for children in Haiti, and in China, India and Bangladesh. For children who are suffering and for those who are not yet born.
I know I’m not alone. I was invited to share my thoughts in this post by Clean Air Moms Action, who are asking all eligible voters to pledge that they will show up at the polls on November 8.
I hope you’ll join me and the other Clean Air Moms like Alicia who know our votes can make a difference not only for ourselves, but for children in the United States and around the globe.
This post was produced with support from Clean Air Moms Action. But it reflects my story, my opinions, and my plan to vote for Hillary Clinton.
You can read in much more detail about my trip to Haiti, starting here.