Today Common Dreams published a great column by Molly Ivins where she points out that what is happening in New Orleans because of hurricane Katrina exemplifies how "government policies have real consequences in people's lives." She calls it a column for everyone who has ever said, "'I'm sorry, I'm just not interested in politics' or 'There's nothing I can do about it' or 'Eh, they're all crooks anyway.'" I know I often fit into the last category.
She talks about the disappearance of the wetlands on the Gulf Coast that had been a buffer between the city and the ocean, about Bush's removing the protections on those wetlands, about his allowing developers to drain them and about his 44% cut from the New Orleans corps of engineers' budget this past June that had been earmarked for hurricane and flood protection. She adds that 35% of Louisiana's National Guard is now serving in Iraq and that many of the State's high-water vehicles, Humvees, refuelers and generators have been sent to Iraq as well.
New Orleans puts an impossible to ignore face on the Bush administration's bad decisions and many Americans' laissez faire attitude towards national politics.
The social, economic and environmental problems facing the States today are pretty overwhelming, which is why many Americans often feel, "There is nothing I can do about it." Sometimes it helps to start by focusing on the issues that you are the most passionate about.
Ask yourself what issues are the most important to you:
Children & Youth
Community Building and Renewal
Community Service and Volunteering
Computers and Technology
Crime and Safety
Family & Parenting
Farming & Agriculture
Foundations & Fundraising
Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Trans Issues
Government Oversight and Reform
Housing and Homelessness
Human Rights and Civil Liberties
Peace and Conflict Issues
Poverty and Hunger
Race and Ethnicity
Recovery, Addiction and Abuse
Seniors and Retirement Issues
Spiritual and Metaphysical Issues
Veterans of War
Voting and Democracy
Wildlife and Animal Welfare
Did you pick one or two? If you aren't sure which ones to pick, notice what newspaper and magazine articles you are interested in and what news stories catch your interest the most. OK, now pick 2-3 skills that you have:
Accounting and finance
Activism and organizing
Clerical and data entry
Computing and Internet
Direct social service
Editing and writing
Education & training
Employment and human resources
Fundraising and development
Health and medicine
Maintenance and janitorial
Now brainstorm three ways that you could use your skills to make a difference for an issue that is important to you. Idealist has databases of volunteer opportunities and job opportunities that you can search through (in fact, that is where these categories come from).
In addition to Idealist, if you are interested in volunteer opportunities, there are a number of national volunteer referral Web sites to check out:
Network for Good
And if you want to do work specific to New Orleans and the surrounding areas, Network for Good has a pretty good list up right now.