Irene, and other extremes

As New Yorkers return to business as usual, largely spared from the severe impacts of Irene that surrounding suburbs and neighboring states experienced, there is of course the quiet chatter of people who felt duped. That the city over-did it on the evacuations, that all the buying of water and batteries was the result of too much hype, that we could have just done nothing. But the large majority of people seem to accept that the city did what it needed to do in preparation for something that could have been far worse locally and that is still causing devastation in places that we are DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO, like the counties that are home to New York City’s watershed, for example.  The Catskills and the Mid-Hudson did not fare as well as we did here and are actually in extremely rough shape. Houses, cars, and crops are submerged in the Catskills and the Mid-Hudson Valley. And of course various communities in Vermont are entirely cut off from electricity, provisions, or access to roads as steep topography induced flash-floods wreak havoc.

Simultaneous to the relative sparing of our densely populated coastal city (this time) and the survey of wreckage and emergency situations in other parts of the North East, there are two troubling and connected conversations going on in Washington. One–the debate on how necessary federal emergency assistance is and how we will pay for it in a time of tight budgets. And two–more disturbingly, the climate-science-denying agendas of front running Republican contenders for the White House. Jon Huntsman, who is not a front-runner, has gone so far to start calling his own party the, “anti-science party.” This is partially in response to Texas Governor Rick Perry falsely reminding people that climate scientists are coming out on a weekly–no, on a DAILY basis–to decry the fundamental concept that the earth is warming and that humans likely have something to do with this.  Meanwhile, in the world of truth, 97-98% of climate scientists believe in anthropogenic climate change.

Most people have by now noticed that weather events have been, well, sort of insane this summer. On the American front, deadly tornadoes and hurricanes are not new. But deadly tornadoes and hurricanes, mixed with wild fires, ravaging drought and violent floods should probably alarm people that extreme weather is the new black. These impacts that we feel here in the U.S. are of course being experienced globally, with the highest vulnerability in the developing world. I was feeling very privileged to have the opportunity to over-do my preparations for Irene. Those exercises in preparation are going to get more frequent, not less. So, now would be a good time to bring climate science into the conversation about defending and protecting citizens. The Department of Defense is on board and takes into account the realities of climate science when they look at national security interests.  Let the irony not be lost then, that all this anti-science rhetoric and the void of climate change mitigation it has fostered, can metaphorically be likened to a homegrown enemy. Except in this case, we aren’t quite sure there is a budget to help people recover in the wake of its destruction…



Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply