May 23, 2022
New Orleans A message has been sent from the universe: climate change is real, and, if you don’t believe us, we’re coming for you.
I’m used to people asking me how it’s possible to live in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast with hurricane season soon and water rising. Sadly, I’m now pretty much asking, “Is it any better where you are?”
Heat waves struck huge parts of the country for record highs recently. Heat records fell in Austin, Texas, which hit 99 degrees at its airport; Vicksburg, Miss., which reached 98 degrees, and I’ll be driving through there tomorrow; and Richmond, Va., where the thermometer climbed to 95. Philadelphia tied its record at 95 degrees, as did Worcester, Mass., where temperatures reached 88. All of this is in May before Memorial Day, which usually marks the beginning of summer.
In New Orleans, we do have air conditioning, attic fans, and housing construction that allows some relief. For years, I lived without anything but a fan, and didn’t feel any worse for the experience. One of the a/c’s in our office is down, but, truth to tell, it’s not terrible actually. We can also get it fixed, which also makes it different than cataclysmic climate catastrophes everywhere we look. Is the rest of the country prepared for a retrofit that doesn’t just reduce the energy bills, but prepares for full-on climate change? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
And, fires! Geez, near where I was in New Mexico hardly a month ago, they are inundated with fires. One of the last conversations I had with someone, she had to get off the phone, because the fires were coming. In California, Arizona, and, yes, Colorado and New Mexico, fires are an issue, but so is water. The levels in the man-made lakes near dams have dropped so much outside of Las Vegas that they are finding bodies that might have been lost to gangland murders years ago. The Colorado river is being restricted. California seems to be holding its breath for fear of both fires and rising tides from the ocean, even as water becomes more and more precious endangering both people and of course agriculture and vineyards. Having family in Kansas, friends in Nebraska, and people with long ties to Oklahoma, don’t talk to be about tornadoes either!
There’s nothing about hurricanes that really recommends them, but thanks to the skill of the weather service, we do know when they are coming. Preparations can be made. Hatches can be battened down. Mi companera is in Baton Rouge with A Community Voice members today lobbying for a resolution in the legislature to prod the state into opening the interstate and other highways to contraflow to make evacuations more efficient and effective. Contraflow means making all lanes flow out of the city towards safety. All of our organizations signed the support statement. No, it won’t prevent hurricanes. That’s not really possible, but we can adapt to nature and protect lives.
Seriously, these are Hobson’s choices and none of them appeal to me or anyone else. It does underline the fact that we can’t just postpone dealing with climate change. It’s coming for all of us.