Earthquakes, winds and fires…predictions of the future? In this blog, I want to cover several issues around the events of this summer and what I think we can learn from them.
For those who think climate change is a hoax, these recent disasters should give some credence to the idea that global warming is real and it is growing worse. We’ve had the hottest 16 years on record recently. As long as we do nothing, and deny policies like the Paris Climate agreement, we will speed up the potential for more disasters and spend billions of dollars cleaning up and many will die from our lack of action. Unfortunately, these disasters often disproportionately adversely affect the poor; another form of classism. Storms don’t only prey on the United States; Nepal has lost thousands of people in recent floods. Eventually it will impact the economy too as people won’t have jobs, won’t be able to buy goods, and will need more government assistance. In many of these areas, people didn’t even have flood insurance.
Trust me, those of us who believe in global warming do not want it to be so! We don’t want anyone to suffer or lose their property. We would rather see the monies used for rebuilding used for innovative solutions. However, if we continue to put our heads in the sand on this issue, the waters will continue to heat up and the storms will worsen yearly. Places like Miami and beautiful islands that we love to vacation in will be under water. I urge you to watch Inconvenient Truth and the Sequel as well for more information plus dramatic photos of ice caps melting. This is happening now with only one degree of temperature change. Imagine what another degree will bring! We must stop it from worsening. And many areas that have seen more earthquakes must realize that hydraulic fracking for oil is likely the cause and that can be halted.
The next point of discussion is the need for regulations and monitoring systems. We must think of them as safety precautions, not annoying obligations. Not only do we need regulations, we must maintain the budgets for N.O.A.A. and weather monitoring and alert systems which are currently underfunded and undervalued. In areas that are prone to flooding, why not have stricter building standards so that new construction will withstand future storms? We could learn from Cuba in this area as they have learned from past storms and built their buildings to withstand them better. Americans are 15 times more likely to die than Cubans because we refuse to have strong regulations and building codes.
Coincidentally, just weeks before the recent hurricanes Trump reversed regulations that Obama had put in place for Houston building codes. These need to be reinstated immediately! And did you see the factory in Houston that refused to disclose its chemicals and then caught fire. The area had to be evacuated. No one knew what they were breathing or how to deal with the unknown chemicals. All companies should be mandated to disclose the substances they use; this was a wrong decision on the part of Texas and I hope they learn from it.
That leads me to a short conversation about infrastructure. During the New Deal many of our roads, bridges and dams were built. But that was over 50 years ago and many are crumbling and in dire need of repairs or replacement. Congress has failed to act on this topic and it is a necessity. We need a newer deal! Our schools are crumbling, our bridges are failing, and our buildings are deteriorating. During extreme weather, and evacuations, our infrastructure needs to be reliable in order to allow shelters and evacuations to be effective. The time is now and it would boost jobs! This is a time when innovation can grow and help future businesses and families be safer. In areas where tornadoes are prevalent, people have storm shelters. It is common sense. In areas that face flooding, have water-proof shelters and better transportation for those who can’t leave on their own. Perhaps think about whether to rebuild in certain areas at all. There is still a boom in people moving to coastal areas. Sure, it’s nice to have beach front property, but is it worth it to be flooded and risk losing the entire property in times of storms? Didn’t Louisiana learn lessons about dikes and dams after Katrina and make some adjustments in rebuilding?
In addition, did Katrina also each us a lesson how to better shelter people and provide them with needed services there? Many refused to leave their pets behind and now pets are rescued too. I can’t imagine leaving my pets behind and it is another crisis to deal with afterwards in reuniting animals with their owners or finding homes for those who can’t be matched with their owners.
Also, this is a time when we can harness other energy forms that will withstand storms. In Houston, the windmills were up and running in a few days after the storm and flooding. They withstood the fury of the storms, and shortened electrical outages with no harm to the environment. In Miami, the nuclear plant had to be shut down. Solar energy, provided panels are not torn off in the wind, will provide immediate power to homes and businesses that have them in times of storms. These options should be improved and expanded nationwide.
If there is any silver lining in disastrous storms, it is that it brings people together helping each other. No one asks your party affiliation, or for your ID to ride to safety in your boat or to enter a shelter. Oh, I guess one sheriff did and he is thankfully in trouble now for doing so. Telethons and wealthier people act to raise donation funds, and each of us give what we can. We can prosecute people who rob and price gouge during times of need. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the people we see suffering around the world and sometimes we feel powerless to help. One way we can make a difference is to elect people who will work toward better regulations, who will fund infrastructure and agencies like NOAA and FEMA, and who will create innovative solutions to climate change and better energy solutions.
Prevention is another solution. What can we do beforehand to prevent these disasters.? And do each of us have an emergency plan for various crisis times? I urge you to do that, write it down, and practice with your family. Ready.gov will give you tips for emergency planning. Also, we can try to prevent forest fires as much as possible by being responsible citizens. Government officials need to make stronger regulations and building codes and find money to repair our crumbling infrastructure. Those of us who vote can vote in people who will do those things for us. We need to elect caring people who will do those things, and who believe in climate science. Push for each state to follow the Paris agreement if the Federal Government won’t. Use solar and wind power as much as you can and vote for people who support clean energy. Each of us can make a difference.
I am sad to report that more hurricanes/storms are lurking in the ocean as I write this. Be Safe!