Sandy, or just a thing.
Of all the things I read on the late unlamented hurricane Sandy. The best, the most perfect was this Onion article: Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going To Be A Thing That Happens From Now On | The Onion. And with a resigned shrug of acceptance, we move on to our brilliant future. It's funny 'cause it's true.
Hurricanes have their own special sense of doom within the disaster matrix. Slow and inextricable they literally take days to arrive, leaving you plenty of time to apply what band-aids you can and make what bad decisions can be made to discount it or stay to watch it. A coastal city in the path of an ocean cyclonic storm is in a devastatingly precarious position Disaster Losses and Humanity's Building Boom in Hazard Zones - NYTimes.com. Perched on the edge of the sea the ocean is Immediate and inescapable. Further on the areas of a harborland reclaimed from low lying marshland the ocean never more than five or ten feet away. This is bad because sea level ain't really level. Wind and tides (moon tides) pile it up. It's lumpy in its own fashion. Five or ten feet mean little to the ocean.
Only a moderate sea level rise moves this untempered lumpy mass to the point where hundred year storms become fifty, twenty-five become ten. And a "ten year" storm lands somewhere on our coasts every year.
Human proximity, adjacency, to areas where full force of nature reigns make for a zone of brittle environments. The edge of oceans We're too close to the sea : Washington Post Fr 23Nov12 oped . Grassland and timberland in dry country is the edge of certain fire. Where mountains smoke - volcanism. By rivers in broad watersheds, floods. Where the rains can come - and go, droughts. I bring up this last to point out that the former are all in the category of immediate catastrophes, drought is a special case of a cruel seemingly invisible (moment to moment) damage, that is often more economically costly in the end.
With Ocean storms the critical factor, the sufficient condition is human density in this brittle environment. The more people living per square mile is proportional to the measure of cost after the fact. It is the extremity of potential reach into the economy before the fact. Density magnifies the border region. In an urban environment within a handful of city blocks the ocean disappears as a reality and is forgotten. This only equals 1/2 mile of tidal marsh, and the ocean remembers and flows Rising Seas, Vanishing Coastlines - NYTimes.com.
WFMU, my favorite radio station, forms a case study of sorts on what Sandy and all future Sandy's can do to us. It is a small free-form radio station. Its online Internet presence giving it a national and international presence that belies its actual breadth of operation. Institutionally it is a non-profit corporation. A union of its former dj's who formed and bought the license from its former college when it closed. They moved the operation from Mount Hope to Jersey City. Downtown, Where the lights are bright and the ocean is close. Monday 21 Nov 2012 was WFMU's very bad day. The flood arriving with the storm Flooding and Flood Zones | WNYC turned WFMU (WFMU, Montgomery Street, Jersey City, NJ) into "Island off the coast of New Jersey." These are station Manager Ken Freedman's words When he found not possible to ride a bike to the building.
When the surrounding land again became dry and they could inspect things they found the record library wherein at least two of every kind of musical genre was housed un-deluged. There was plenty of other damage, though. Equipment: Phones both transmitters, some of the Internet streams. More cruelly WFMU's Fall Record Fair, an 125K revenue event, had to be cancelled due to power outages at the venue it was to be held at the following weekend. The record fair is not only WFMU's signature annual event, a major east coast vinyl record trade meet, but is also how WFMU counts on getting out of any late year fiscal hole. All gone. In total a $250,000 set back Jersey City radio station WFMU-FM still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy
I wouldn't go beyond their own talking points, but like thousands of other enterprises in the metropolitan region, making their way day to day, little has to happen for an shoestring budget to become a broken shoestring. WFMU already often has to hold a small and largely silent marathon in the last quarter to ease into the new year. This year they needed that and ran it seamlessly into more urgently vocalized Hurricane Recovery Fundraiser. Such are the new exigencies of weather Major cities will flood, the subways will drown, the internet and electricity will withdraw from us, neighborhoods will be swept into the sea. So it goes. The Rush to Resilience: 'We Don't Have Decades Before the Next Sandy' - Jobs & Economy - The Atlantic Cities:.
Its a greater problem, of course, than mere intemperate weather. Poorly behaved and ill-timed weather. It is a matter of distinguishing weather events from climate change. The issue is not the hot summer heatwave or heavy snowfall, but change in historic weather and precipitation patterns. The change that this bring changes in land use, and in flora, and fauna. That forces change in the world's food production and distribution. Changes that strands and bypasses the infrastructure we have created to provide for our civilization generating surpluses. All which emphases that human expansion into certain environment zone guarantees conflict with nature A Grim Warning from Science by Bill McKibben | NYRblog |.
Concept of concern is that climate not just something we must adjust to. It is a "nature" we cause. Anthropomorphic, the result of mankind's directions on it. There is an irony of sorts in this. As antagonistic as nature is to our manmade environments, we feign our opposition with the nature of things, but do not exist outside these things, separate from them. Our reach becomes nature's reach. Our impact on the planet's systems and cycles is now approaching parity with natural phenomenon, but not through the manner of our consideration but our inconsideration. Warmer still: Extreme climate predictions appear most accurate, study says Washington Post
In the vast collation of environmental renderings, the key one in this discussion is global warming: the effect from green house gases, mainly carbon dioxide. From this, from less water locked up in polar icecaps, sea level rise, a greater energy reservoir in in warmer oceans and resulting climate pattern change. Some of the parameters involved are fairly simple to understand. Co2 levels measured in tons, or parts per million. Air temperature, planetary averaged, measured in degrees Celsius. From this sea level rise measured in meters. Some of it as each effect turns an elliptical gear of another adjacent is not as easy to understand How sensitive is the climate to added CO2? | Ars Technica. The primary adjustment a rational planner would make is to decrease causing it, until it is understood. Not increase causation until it is undeniable and unchangeable In All Probability Climate Change and the Risk of More Storms Like Sandy - Dorian Rolston - The Atlantic.
There is considerable cost and effort to this, so it is also not unreasonable for rigorous questioning. Could man-made green house gas be causing the observed effect? Further is it significant against background of other natural climate phenomenon? I have a metaphor I call the Piccolo Theory, I use to think on this. All sub-systems and cycles forming Earth's biospheric homeostasis (or lack of) is like a full orchestra engaged in a tune. Mankind's contribution to these processes is like a Piccolo among the other instruments (well, really it is like a Sousaphone, but for the sake of a well tempered argument a smaller instrument). It may be hard to pick out, it may be hard to understand its role in the composition. It is part of the arrangement; though, and colors the final sound which would not be the same without it. Our contribution to climate change exists. We own it and are responsible for it.
At the bottom of all these arguments is a lone question. Is all this climate denial and the foot dragging. Of insistence on a clarified mechanism, not merely a statistical model on anthropomorphic grounds alone, never in muddy concert with other process. Is this a principled stand, or is it merely unethical avoidance of responsibility? A blame and cost shifting maneuver? An industrial externality of profound scale? Some people are simply too weak and venal to ever be counted on. In the household of the whole they are a dead loss. The fossil fuel industry will never pay a dime, never cease yoking the world to their own end until all is extracted. Not getting in the way as other forces adjust to events and realignments of the human environment and economy will be the most we hope they contribute. Whatever.
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