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Lessons From Sandy

As a New York City resident with friends living through New York and New Jersey, the past week has certainly been intense and tragic. The truth is that for my wife and I, Sandy brought days of downtime because we did not lose power or suffer any damage to our apartment or car. We feel incredibly lucky but at the same time so awful for the millions impacted by the storm. During the past week I have seen images on television and heard stories on NPR about so many heartbreaking experiences. But at the same there have been an equal amount of stories about people working together, something I saw firsthand yesterday at a church in Brooklyn where volunteers came together to help those in need and the pure quantity of donations of food and clothes (the temperature dropped dramatically the past few days) was overwhelming, filling the inside of the church. This includes stories of neighbors helping neighbors, strangers reaching out to strangers, volunteers and rescue workers putting their lives in danger to assist folks in trouble, and even politicians working across political lines, despite the election being less than a week away.

Now there has suddenly been a lot discussion in the past week about Sandy’s relationship to climate change. Even as I sit here now listening to Meet the Press, climate change is suddenly back in the headlines. New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg used Sandy as the impetus to make a presidential endorsement based on climate change and after years of a void in news coverage on the issue, it is once again a topic being mentioned daily in newspapers. In my view, it is time to take action, not only on climate change, but on so many other issues, using the lessons we have learned from Sandy, and other national crises in the past. We so quickly forget how we can accomplish difficult tasks when we are able to work together.

Sandy is a tragedy plain and simple, but it is also forces us to confront the new reality in which we live. We must start working together to confront this changing world, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation. I live across the street form a gas station where lines of cars have stretched miles waiting for gas. The entire southern portion of Manhattan that not only is the epicenter of world financial markets, but also home to so many artists and struggling working families was flooded and sent into to darkness for almost a week. Staten Island, the beaches of Brooklyn, and the entire Jersey Coast were completely devastated with families and communities living in a state of emergency as I type this blog post. It is time for us as a nation to realize that we must take action in regards to our energy policy, in terms of updating our infrastructure, and in addressing the manner in which we produce and consume goods.

Whether or not you want to label the increase in extreme weather occurrences throughout the world, including hurricanes, droughts, and floods, as climate changes is not something I will address in this post. The important takeaway is for people to start coming together in order to assure that we are better prepared in the future to deal with this new reality. If we can do it in times of crisis then we should be able to come together when the waters have receded and our communities are in the process of recovering. If we go back to partisan bickering and we act like Sandy was just a freak storm (occurring 14 months after Irene and 12 months after an October blizzard) then I fear we will look back in 50 years on Sandy as a mild beginning to a world where extreme weather becomes the norm.

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