Never mind having your house flooded. Superstorm Sandy has brought on some serious #firstworldproblems for Wall Street traders and CEOs in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. Sure, you may have been huddled around a flashlight or dodging a swollen Gowanus Canal, but imagine if you’d suffered these indignities:
Having to “go to the wine cellar and find a good bottle of wine and drink it before it goes bad."
Walking three miles. (What, NO CAR SERVICE??)
Eating “a lunch of Raisin Bran, coffee and a banana from the 7-Eleven." (What, NO SEAMLESS??)
Baby walrus Mitik has had an eventful life. This summer, he was found orphaned in Alaska. Then, earlier this month, he was moved to New York City -- just in time for a massive storm. And he wasn't just in New York, he was at an aquarium on Coney Island, not exactly the best place to weather the storm. The entire place was underwater! And not in the way aquariums usually are!
On the one hand, walruses are cool with water. On the other hand, nobody is cool with a hurricane. So we're happy to report, via the New York World, that Mitik is safe and sound:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said on Tuesday that federal aid for people impacted by Hurricane Sandy should be approved only with a specific spending plan in place so funds are not used for "Gucci bags and massage parlors," like after Hurricane Katrina.
"I want to get them the resources that are necessary to lift them out of this water and the sand and the ashes and the death that's over there in the East Coast and especially in the Northeast," King said during a Tuesday evening debate in Mason City, Iowa.
"But not one big shot to just open up the checkbook, because they spent it on Gucci bags and massage parlors and everything you can think of in addition to what was necessary," he said later, referring to Hurricane Katrina.
"They spent it." "They." Read into that what you will.
This morning, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers head in to work for the first time since last Friday -- and for the first time many of them are trying to figure out how to get there without the subway. The subways are, in Bill McKibben's eloquent words, "the most crucial element of that magnificent ecosystem," a system unseen but heard and felt like a heartbeat. It's quiet now.
For buildings ancient and modern, devastation arrived in the same breath on Monday night: not in howling winds, but in the murmur of the Hudson River. At Spring Street, the river waters carried over the east bank, moved across West Street, spread past Washington and Greenwich Streets and then most of the way to the street named for the river, Hudson.
That is: the river moved 1,200 feet inland, nearly a quarter-mile.
We have reached the moment of the instructive catastrophe, our vulnerability bared by forces that we can no longer pretend are some civil engineer’s bad dream. In the summer of 1991, I watched a kind of horror movie. Federal emergency planners ran a slide show of pictures of familiar New York sites that had been doctored to show the effects of a Category 4 hurricane on the city. The entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, nine feet underwater. Nathan’s in Coney Island, fully submerged. Diapers floating off the shelves at the Toys “R” Us on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn. Kennedy International Airport, 24 feet underwater. It seemed far-fetched.
On Monday night, more than two decades later, I stood in Hudson River water at Hudson Street, and have the wet sneakers to prove it.
Casualties of Hurricane Sandy included 1 million unfortunate bees at the Brooklyn Grange's Navy Yard urban farming project. Twenty-five hives each containing around 40,000 bees were torn apart Monday night.
Atlantic fishing operations and shipments by air and highway from the East Coast are on hold, battering the supply of popular catches, including lobster, crab, salmon, cod, haddock and Prince Edward Island mussels ... The shortage has left restaurateurs with a choice when it comes to certain seafood -- frozen or nothing ...
Seafood not from the East Coast, such as farm-raised salmon, isn't in short supply.
With 20-plus years in wholesaling, [Frank] Gonzalez has seen his share of storm-inflicted food shortages, but he expects Hurricane Sandy to be among the most damaging to his business.
It's a ritual by now. Every time there's some sort of extreme weather event -- and there are lots these days -- there ensues an argument over whether climate change "caused" it. Our own Susie Cagle has rounded up some good evidence that there's a climate signal amidst the noise of natural variability. Some scientists insist there is no such signal evident.
Instead, I want to ponder a phenomenon that has been bugging me for a while. Thankfully, it now has a name, thanks to an essay from retired climate scientist Thomas Crowley. He sent the essay to Andy Revkin, who posted the whole thing and wrote a thoughtful post about it.
It's called "reverse tribalism." It goes like this: An extreme weather event takes place; climate activists (and the occasional journalist) make a connection to climate change; and then, a pack of climate wonks and journalists descends, scolding activists for exaggerating, going overboard, exceeding the bounds of evidence, and "giving the other side ammunition." (That last bit is crucial. The idea that the scolds are saving the activists from themselves is what gives the scolding a patina of public purpose. Otherwise it's just self-righteous hectoring.)
In 2007, I published a book called Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming. It was inspired by what my family had been through in Hurricane Katrina (I’m from New Orleans), but at the end, I looked forward to what other families and other cities might have to experience -- if we don’t start to think in a much broader way about our society’s stunning vulnerability to hurricane disasters.
As I wrote:
Even as we act immediately to curtail short term vulnerability, every exposed coastal city needs a risk assessment that takes global warming scenarios into account ... Scientists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York have been studying that city’s vulnerability to hurricane impacts in a changing world, and calculated that with 1.5 feet of sea level rise, a worst-case-scenario Category 3 hurricane could submerge “the Rockaways, Coney Island, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, portions of Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, lower Manhattan, and eastern Staten Island from Great Kills Harbor north to the Verrazano Bridge.” (Pause and think about that for a second.)
No need to pause and think any longer -- last night, just over five years later, much of it came to pass. And indeed, climate change, a topic embarrassingly ignored in the three recent presidential debates, made it worse.