Anyone who doesn't already have a massive brain-crush on Newark Mayor Cory Booker hasn't been paying attention. He's handsome, he's funny, he saved a lady from a fire -- as I said earlier this year, he's basically the Ryan Gosling of politics. And in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, he's been turning in an Oscar-worthy Best Leading Mayor performance.
Booker's Twitter feed shows him running around the city, checking on constituents and the family members they're worried about, dispensing supplies and supportive words. He manages to encourage patience without denying that people are hurting, and applaud the efforts of repair workers without ignoring the fact that they can't possibly work fast enough to avoid leaving some residents in the cold and dark for an unacceptably long time. He's a Twitter whirlwind of accountability, responsibility, good humor, and putting his money where his mouth is -- he's even letting people crash at his house.
Here's a sampling of Cory "Gosling" Booker's extreme Twitter awesomeness:
Hey girl, I just want to keep you warm:
Where are u? Can I bring blankets, etc? RT @_LovelyEdith: We have had no power since Monday & it's been freezing with no heat! Please help!
I don't fully understand the hipster cachet of food trucks -- is it a sort of faux-rural slumming, where you like to pretend you're eating at a county fair? Is it the fact that some of them sell cupcakes and casual racism, both things of which hipsters are fond? Or does food just taste better when it's lightly seasoned with diesel fumes? In any event, food trucks are popular among young gentrifiers and their dogs. But in the no-power zone below 40th Street in New York, they're no longer just urban ambiance. They're providing people with hot meals, free coffee, and charging stations that they might not be able to find anywhere else.
New York's problems this week were due largely to higher sea levels -- sea levels that are already higher than they once were thanks to climate change, and due to grow higher still. But no one looking at New York Harbor last week was thinking, jeez, that water level seems higher than yesterday. The most insidious thing about climate change may be its incrementalism, that it is a series of tiny, ongoing shifts over time. It's like watching a niece or nephew grow up from afar. If you're with her or him every day, the changes aren't noticeable. Over a longer timespan, the change is stark.
Eventually, it reaches a tipping point, as it has off the coast of Panama. From Reuters:
Every rainy season, the Guna people living on the Panamanian white sand archipelago of San Blas brace themselves for waves gushing into their tiny mud-floor huts.
Rising ocean levels caused by global warming and decades of coral reef destruction have combined with seasonal rains to submerge the Caribbean islands for days on end.
Once rare, flooding is now so menacing that the Guna have agreed to abandon ancestral lands for an area within their semi-autonomous territory on the east coast of the mainland. …
It is the largest of the Guna's 45 inhabited islands, and its planned evacuation is among the first blamed largely on climate change. Scientists say worldwide sea levels have risen about 3 millimeters (0.12 inch) a year since 1993. Recent research suggests they could rise as much as 2 meters (6.5 feet) by 2100.
This sea is the same sea that flows into New York Harbor.
It has long looked like the 2012 election season would go down in history as the Election That Didn't Talk About The Climate. This week, the planet stepped in and said, in no uncertain terms, that attention must be paid. Climate change isn't a graph or a number; it's a storm and a flood. It's not in Greenland or Vanuatu; it's in New York and New Jersey.
Neither candidate has exactly been itching to address this subject. Obama has been mostly climate-mum since 2009. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has walked back from his carbon-cutting Massachusetts policies and embraced the current GOP orthodoxy, which is to mock anyone -- including the president -- who suggests taking the issue of the planet's warming seriously.
Yet here comes Bloomberg -- a former Democrat turned Republican turned independent who many thought might run for president himself on a third-party ticket -- throwing his support behind Obama, citing climate as the proximate reason for his hop off the fence:
Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action. ... One [candidate] sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.
The importance of Bloomberg's move is twofold. First, as the headline on his endorsement reads, the mayor is voting "for a president to lead on climate change." In other words, he's not just saying, "Four more years." He's casting his vote less for the man than for climate-change leadership -- something that Obama, however disappointing he has been to climate-hawk supporters, is more likely to deliver than his opponent.
Second, Bloomberg is one of the last inhabitants of U.S. politics' mythical Land of the Centrists. As such, his insistence on the primacy of climate in picking a candidate carries less partisan spin and is harder for the Beltway punditocracy to discount. Denialists on the right aren't going to be swayed, of course, but they're going to have a much harder time dismissing Bloomberg than, say, Al Gore.
I don't want to overstate the importance of the moment. This endorsement, though unexpected, was consistent with Bloomberg's longstanding positions; he has been putting his voice and his cash into the climate fight for a long time. It doesn't guarantee that Sandy will be remembered as a transformative moment of the public dialogue over climate change akin to, say, Walter Cronkite's criticism of the Vietnam War effort.
But for those of us who've been waiting a long time for someone to shout "fire" in our overcrowded political theater, it's a bracingly notable event. Now the challenge is to keep this conversation rolling.
Consciousness isn't a finite resource, but if people don't act on it, it can and will ebb away. It was only a handful of years ago that An Inconvenient Truth spread its do-something-about-the-climate gospel; that momentum petered out and is a distant memory today.
Sandy hit more of us harder, where we live. Those who experienced it are much more likely to understand that climate change is neither a hoax nor a movie but a fact and a crisis. Bloomberg's endorsement added a line of bright highlighter yellow to this picture. It was politics, sure, but also, in its way, art.
Along the Eastern seaboard, Sandy devastated the rich and poor alike. But they've not been equally equipped to deal with that devastation.
In economically stratified New York City, some had the luxury of making sure their loved ones were comfortable and their homes as protected as possible, while others had to keep on earning a much-needed paycheck despite the rising waters. From David Rohde in The Atlantic:
Divides between the rich and the poor are nothing new in New York, but the storm brought them vividly to the surface. There were residents like me who could invest all of their time and energy into protecting their families. And there were New Yorkers who could not.
Those with a car could flee. Those with wealth could move into a hotel. Those with steady jobs could decline to come into work. But the city's cooks, doormen, maintenance men, taxi drivers and maids left their loved ones at home.
We brought you some photos of cars, buildings, and public transit in New York after Sandy. But for portraits of people, nobody can touch Brandon Stanton, the exceptional photographer behind Grist List fave Humans of New York. Here are some of his best post-Sandy pics. (Click to embiggen.)
Oh dang. Many d(r)owntown New Yorkers may still not have the power to vote Tuesday, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) is flexing his own powers today with a new endorsement of Barack Obama (made, like a boss, via op-ed for his own news organization).
The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast -- in lost lives, lost homes and lost business -- brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief ...
Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week’s devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action. ...
We need leadership from the White House -- and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption ...
I live right near 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, a pretty major road, and ever since yesterday morning, when people started trying to drive into Manhattan, the cars on the road have been honking. Honk. Honk. Hoooooonk. It is starting to get on my nerves, and after a particularly loud, low, and really much too long honk, I complained about it, like you do, on Twitter. And, it turns out, it's not just on my block that drivers are taking out their frustration on their horns:
@slaskow Either we're neighbours or all 4th Ave. drivers are acting as though Sandy happened just to piss them off. #migraine
In New Jersey, three things are in short supply: electricity, gasoline, and patience. Predictions that Sandy would result in increased gasoline supply due to fewer drivers were completely wrong -- primarily because the scale of the storm far exceeded expectations. Cute experiments aside, gasoline has been the go-to method of generating power in blacked-out areas. Add in crippled public transit and that means demand has soared, leading to scenes like the one above.
New York taxi and car service companies started pulling vehicles off the road on Thursday as the fuel crunch deepened, with the vast majority of storm-hit service stations in the greater New York area now out of gasoline or without power.
Power outages and fuel shortages have forced many gasoline stations to shut, and now threaten efforts in New York and New Jersey to get back to business after Hurricane Sandy.
Many homes and businesses that have lost power are also reliant on gasoline and diesel run generators, including many of the Wall Street banks in lower Manhattan. …
"Did you ever think you'd see this again?" one driver was heard saying through his car's open window.