Black Louisiana climate activist Jerome Ringo won’t back down

Black Louisiana climate activist Jerome Ringo won't back down

Climate activist Jerome Ringo protests ahead of Earth Day in front of the climate clock amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on April 19, 2021 in the Manhattan neighborhood of New York, New York.

Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Jerome Ringo is 66 years old and has lived his entire life in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He saw many storms coming.

“We evacuated for Hurricane Katrina, Rita, Gustaf, Ike, Laura, Beta,” Ringo told CNBC in a telephone conversation Tuesday. “So since 2005, honestly, I would say about it eight to 10 times. “

Surviving storms has been a part of Ringo’s entire life. “It goes back to when we were kids in 1957 for Hurricane Audrey,” he told CNBC.

But orders to leave have become more frequent.

“Normally you evacuate once a year. Now we take a look at where you evacuate several times a year, as the frequency of hurricanes has increased as the intensity of hurricanes has increased as the influence of climate has increased. “

Ringo has always returned to Lake Charles, but he knows many people who have left and “have vowed never to come back,” he said.

“I was asked, ‘Why don’t you move? Why don’t you move? ‘ Said Ringo.

There is no more room to run. The United States is becoming zero point for climate change.

Jerome Ringo

climate activist, business owner

“Well, where to move? If I go to the west coast, I have to face the fire. If I go to Central America, I have to deal with tornadoes. If I go to the Tennessee Valley area then I have to deal with the flooding. If I go to the east coast, the east coast is now going to be hit by a hurricane like the gulf because the water temperature on the east coast is as high as that of the Gulf of Mexico, which is a strong magnet. for hurricanes. So there is no more room to run. The United States is becoming zero point for climate change. “

Why he won’t stop: “I’m a frontline warrior”

As Hurricane Ida approached the Gulf of Mexico, Ringo prepared to evacuate by heading for his home, which had been devastated by Hurricane Laura a year earlier. It was only after a long rebuilding effort about two weeks ago that he returned home.

“The problem on the Gulf Coast is that every time a storm hits, it takes forever to fix your house,” Ringo said. Between hurricane damage on the Gulf Coast, wildfires in California, flooding in the central and valley areas of Tennessee, insurance companies are “now paying premiums like crazy.” And thus have your property repaired. The process is really difficult, ”he said. .

Jérôme Ringo’s house after Hurricane Laura in 2020.

photo courtesy of Jérôme Ringo

“There are still blue threads on the roofs of houses all over town from Hurricane Laura.”

Ringo and his family left Lake Charles on Friday, two days before the storm hit Sunday.

“The traffic was bumper to bumper,” Ringo said. “You talk to millions of people. Miles of back-to-back traffic.

He went to Houston to stay in a hotel, which would be covered by insurance. He’s lucky to have insurance, she said. Many cannot afford it.

Ringo said big storms leave a “domino effect” of poor conditions for vulnerable people.

“Because they don’t have any money. They don’t have jobs because businesses have been destroyed. That’s why you can’t work. There is not any work. Restaurants are destroyed. So you can’t go out looking for food… that’s it. It is not uncommon for people to still receive free food from churches, the Red Cross and whatever is available to feed their families.

“I can’t leave these people,” Ringo said. “Oh my god, I have become poor.”

Ringo’s grandfather and parents hunted rabbits and fish. “We were living on the ground,” he said. “If you didn’t have a hunter in your family, you probably haven’t eaten more than once.

Ringo is one of six brothers and his father left in eighth grade. “My mom raised us a lot on her own,” Ringo said.

Today, Ringo is co-founder and president of Zoetic Global, where he works to commercialize energy efficient technologies in the United States and internationally, particularly in Africa. He started his career on the opposite side of the spectrum, working in the petrochemical industry.

But he eventually left and became an environmental and sustainability leader, where he led organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation and the Apollo Alliance Project, wrote books, and testified before Congress “about 40. times”. He is also an ordained minister and sometimes preaches in the non-denominational church headed by his wife and which is its main preacher.

Bard Holdings Inc. Managing Director Jerome Ringo (left) and Bold Nebraska Executive Director Jane Kleb (right) testify at a hearing before the Energy and Electricity Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on December 2, 2011 in Capitol Hill. Eh. in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong | Getty Images News | Getty Images

As such, Ringo has a platform that he knows many in his local community don’t.

Ringo said, “Someone will be on the front line and fight the war or you won’t win the war. And so I’m one of those front-line people.

He lived in Washington DC for 11 years. He knows he can leave Louisiana.

“I am a frontline warrior. So the front line is not DC. The front line is off Louisiana, where storms come, where people are evacuated, where homes are destroyed. This is the front line, ”he said.

where does ringo’s hope come from

Ringo, in his 60s, is well aware that climate change is unlikely to be resolved in his lifetime. But he rests and regains courage by becoming the link in the chain.

“If I think we had no hope of dealing with it, I think when you throw your gun and surrender.” I believe we can solve this problem. Are – can we fix it in our lifetime, maybe not, ”Ringo said. . “But my generation can be the catalyst for a solution that is a generational solution.”

He believes that when people are educated about climate change and its cause, they will change.

Part of his belief in change comes from another social justice movement he has also witnessed: racism.

He remembers the Ku Klux Klansmen lighting a 13-foot cross in the front yard of his family’s home. They were trying to scare Ringo’s family from going to predominantly white schools, “but we left anyway,” Ringo said.

“When you get wins, it makes you feel like you are taking action,” Ringo said. “Despite the challenges, despite the adversity, if you keep fighting, you can win. You know, I never thought that when I was in eighth grade, crosses were lit in our yard, 1960 In the early 1990s and mid-1960s, I never knew that … the movement of civil rights would be signed and adopted… it would equal women’s rights, equal rights for the gay community and LGBTQ communities. will have the right.

“You never thought that there could be a victory in these areas. But because people kept fighting, they kept on marching, they kept on pleading, and then they came later,” He said, “The climate movement is no different. We can win it. The only thing guaranteed to make us lose it is to leave it.”

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