Year 3, Month 11, Day 7: Who Won The War?

The Hartford Courant is one among many outlets seizing upon the hurricane as an opportunity to advocate responsible policies on climate change. Not bad:

Let Hurricane Sandy be our tipping point toward a better America.

First, we’re all in this together. As the wind strengthened and the hurricane neared, the political negativity and hostility waned. There’s nothing like a common adversary to unite us, even a benign atmospheric one. It wasn’t just that Sandy wreaked havoc on campaign plans. It’s that both presidential candidates began to act more like governors than ideological opponents beholden to a spectrum of groups.

Watching them gave me more faith in America’s potential than all the bickering I’ve been forced to hear. Apparently, when push comes to shove, we can work together because we must.

Second, a picture is worth a thousand words. The satellite images showed a white, counterclockwise pinwheel of clouds just like every other hurricane I’ve seen — except for its size. With what the pundits are calling a wingspan a thousand miles across, Sandy was two to three times larger than typical. Keep in mind that one of the most robust predictions of climate change theory is that extreme events will be more powerful, whether this unprecedented storm or last summer’s unprecedented drought.

Let this pinwheel become a pinup to move us toward a saner, safer, smarter future. A cultural shift similar to what I remember happening after earthlings got a chance to see our spherical, cloud-gauzed, green-swathed living planet from space. I refer to the famous “Earthrise” photo taken from the moon during the Apollo 11 landing in July 1969. It helped launch the most potent phase of the American environmental movement, which centered on pollution and wilderness. Let the new pinup energize a third phase already underway, one focused on a sane energy policy and policy adaptations to the good and bad things of climate change.

We can hope. They haven’t taken that away from us, yet. Sent November 1:

Mother Nature has been sending us increasingly urgent messages for quite a few years now, as the burgeoning greenhouse effect has raised atmospheric temperatures steadily and inexorably. Yet climate change has remained on the to-ignore list for almost every single politician in America. This is partially because of the disproportionate influence of fossil fuel money on our political and legislative systems, partially because the subject has been so heavily politicized by (mostly) Republican lawmakers and commentators, and partially because our media is astonishingly incompetent at addressing subjects of any complexity whatsoever. Well, that may have ended a few days ago. In Hurricane Sandy, many Americans got a chance to see the consequences of all those carbon dioxide emissions, up close and personal.

A heart attack can catalyze the transformation of a single lifestyle. Will Sandy’s devastating waves catalyze an analogous change in American society — a step away from feverish consumerism and towards responsible stewardship of our planet? And will our media and politicians heed the call?

In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush told Americans to go shopping. Eleven years later, perhaps we need to hear a different message.

Warren Senders

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