I couldn’t tear myself away from the images coming in out of New York and New Jersey today. I wasn’t shocked; in fact, I’ve been expecting to see New York under water. What I saw today are not pictures from a “once-in-a-generation” storm, as I saw it described today. In fact, they hearken eerily back to 2005, when we all watched in horror as the Katrina images began to roll in.
Hurricane Katrina was a turning point for me. At that moment, I saw incredibly clearly that we are raising sea levels and changing our global climate in a way that any outside observer would probably imagine was an attempt to eradicate our own species, along with a few others. I understood this at a base level, trusting in the scientists who were able to explain it to me in layman’s terms. I couldn’t imagine that everyone else wasn’t seeing this same doom that I was.
Yet, here we are, seven years after Katrina, and we’ve done nothing to change our ways. We let our politicians blather on about abortion and the economy and health care as if any of those things matter when we’re all going to be homeless very soon. There have been some fundamental shifts in our culture in those years, and many people are certainly more aware of their footprints, but on the whole, people seem happy to blissfully sit back and wreck havoc.
When a hurricane like Sandy sweeps in, we should see the water in the streets of Manhattan as a harbinger of things to come as we keep raising sea levels. Instead, we hear how this storm is an anomaly, as if last October 29, we weren’t having exactly this same conversation in exactly the same location about yet another extreme weather event. When all of New Jersey has to rearrange Halloween two years running because of giant storms at the wrong time of year, doesn’t that make it no longer the storm of a generation and just the way things are going to be now?
We can still do something to make what’s coming less catastrophic. We can do things on a personal level. Like, um, maybe not idling our cars, people. I mean, who still does that?
We can also do things on a national level. We’re coming up into an election, and all I hear the politicians talking about is money. These schmucks are supposed to be there to pass useful legislation, and there is no reason our national leaders can’t come up with a few laws on ways we can treat our planet as a non-disposable resource.
Lastly, we can do things on an international level. We need to get into a room and get it done, rather than squabbling for two weeks in Bonn and then heading home.
We also should consider building a fleet of gondolas for Manhattan.