During Hurricane Sandy, I worked long hours at a hardware store in the DC metro area, selling batteries, flashlights, sandbags, sump pumps and sundry other items as the monster storm swirled along the east coast. Work kept me too busy to be afraid or to watch much TV coverage. Fortunately, the storm only brushed past our section of the Mid-Atlantic before slamming into the most populated area in the United States. I expected wind and flood damage, but not the fires. Late Tuesday evening, when I finally saw footage of the massive destruction the storm wrought in New Jersey and New York, I found it hard to imagine how we will recover and rebuild or if we should rebuild in some areas.
The devastation caused by the wind, floods and fires reminded of the “end of time” Mayan prophecy for 2012 and the computer generated graphics in the recent apocalyptic film, “2012.” Except these shocking images on my TV screen were very real—but shock can help us get through a crisis by shifting our instincts for survival into high alert. To survive, we have to help each other.
I was moved by the countless reports of sacrifice and heroism of our first responders. It was great to see President Obama working so closely with Governor Christie of New Jersey. I was encouraged to hear the governors of New York and Connecticut talking about the long-term response this disaster will require and suggesting that we must rethink how and where we rebuild. Finally! This epic crisis may actually force our legislators to begin to plan and act on the very real predictions of extreme weather events as a result of climate change.
Then I heard the Mayor of Hoboken calling in to a cable news show and begging for the National Guard to help rescue her city’s thousands of stranded residents. Yes, I thought, we’re going to need far more than just our police, fire and medical personnel to respond to this mega climate event. In addition to the National Guard, why don’t we bring our military personnel home? Why aren’t we paying them to rebuild our country instead of paying them to destroy and rebuild other countries?
We need to rally all of our people to help heal and rebuild America with a vision and plan based on sound principles of environmental sustainability. Dare I suggest that we should let the rising ocean have the devastated parts of our shore and rebuild farther inland? Will our government and our people act on this environmental imperative that’s based on scientific data? If profit is a requirement, there must be significant profits to be made in rebuilding America’s infrastructure. We have work to do here that can’t be outsourced. Let’s take this opportunity to change course, work smart and invest in America’s future.
Perhaps this storm will be the turning point that will help us make the transition to a more sustainable life? There are many Americans already working toward this goal. The winds of change are blowing. Ideas and initiatives for building a better future can be found online at Transition United States.
~Nan Logsdon Mandelkorn