Tag Archives: Climate Change

Another Katrina Anniversary

Pearl River     In a week when double-barreled hurricanes, Marcos and Laura, threatened the Louisiana coast, the fifteenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and its devastation of New Orleans and parts of the Mississippi Gulf Coast are easy to forget.  Remembrances are small and solemn, as people still crouch down in the pandemic.  Some articles ran on August 29th.  Some comments and sharing showed up on social media.  Some press releases of observance by local politicians made it out the door on a Saturday.  More disturbingly, there were a couple of pieces floating out there that were timed to the anniversary in a sort of “now that I have your attention” kind of way.

One piece on the front page of the Times made it clear that the governmental policy was shifting on allowing homeowners to rebuild their neighborhoods after homes flood.  FEMA is moving towards that policy and allocating money in that direction.  HUD has reserved $16 billion to relocate entire neighborhoods.   The Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of implementing a policy that will deny communities flood protection money and projects unless there is an agreement with local officials that they will move people out of flood areas.  Fifteen years ago, the fight was about whether or not families had the “right to return” to their neighborhoods in New Orleans.  ACORN and others won that fight in the recovery plan.  It wasn’t easy.  These initiatives might make sense in a policy and climate change way, but they run into problems with real people.  Winning might be harder now.

Billions were spent on Katrina recovery, so the question is always, are we safe now?  The answer has always been “maybe,” but no one in this area wants to endure a trial by water.  A researcher from Rice University in Houston wrote an op-ed about near misses in Texas on the recent storms, but his warning fits the Katrina footprint as well.  In his key insight he noted that in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan after the tsunami surge, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission now says that floodwalls need to thirty-feet high in order to prevent surges knocking out energy plants.  The same goes for chemical and petroleum refineries, as we learned in the Harvey fires outside of Houston and now the similar plant fire in Westlake, Louisiana abutting Lake Charles, that bore the brunt of Hurricane Laura.  Frighteningly, the Corps of Engineers is still using the fifteen-foot standard that they adopted after Katrina.  We seem unable to prepare for the next storm, when we are still learning from the last ones.

There was an article in the local paper noting the progress in the New Orleans area since Katrina.  It was a solid piece of reporting, despite as one organizer mentioned to me that it ignored “the race and class war” that has been engaged in full force since the storm.

Climate may be the new fight, but the old ones still linger on in every community no matter what the weather.


This is Bad, but Worse is Coming!

Pearl River     There was a day, long ago, when Betsey Ross sewing the flag was a symbol of America.  Now, if we just knew what Debbie Downer really looked like, she might be the new picture of America.  If you think I’m just talking about the current multi-pronged horrors of the pandemic, the depression, and the White House, you’re only thinking about today.

I’m really talking about the inundation of stories now, that essentially say, “hey, you don’t like the pandemic?  This is nothing.  This is bad, but worse is coming!”  These reports with scientific foundation are looking at temperatures rising, seas swamping us, food shortages, and millions, perhaps billions, of people forced to migrate or die because of these coming horrors.

I read a review by Bill McKibben, the Middlebury professor and longtime climate change Cassandra in the New York Review of Books recently.  He posed the question now as not whether or not we meet the challenge of climate change, but whether we are already almost past the point of no return, and the question really is whether people and civilization as we know it can survive the certainty of climate change.  He notes that scientists, who have been warning all of us of the effects of climate change, as scientists are being conservative, and what we are already finding is worse that what many predicted.  McKibben quotes Mark Lynas from his new book, that…

“If we stay on the current business-as-usual trajectory, we could see two degrees as soon as the early 2030s, three degrees around mid-century, and four degrees by 2075 or so.  If we’re unlucky with positive feedbacks…from thawing permafrost in the Artic or collapsing tropical rainforests, then we could be in for five or six degrees by century’s end.”

Wow!  Think about it.  The 2030s are tomorrow.  Our adult children will be alive, though it seems not well, in 2075.  For those of us lucky enough to have grandchildren, they will be trying to make it somehow in 2100.  Oh, and don’t forget famine comes with all of this as crops fry in the fields.  A New York Times Magazine special report said that for every one degree of temperature rise, one billion people will have to move.  That may not be them, but us!

If the heat doesn’t get you, the other shoe is dropping water up to our knees.  Heads we lose.  Tails we lose.

I could go on, but here’s the point that perplexes me.  Is there any place really safe? Where could anyone run and hide to know that 10, 20, 30 years from now, you and yours could make it?  Once I thought the West, but heat, fires, and no water in many areas could make some of my favorite spots as much “islands in the storm,” as New Orleans where I live.

See what I mean?  Once you start wrapping your mind around all of this, it’s a deep dive into the darkness.  Might be easier if we all forced some real action everywhere to deal with the hella-messes coming quickly around the corner.