When it comes to solving problems, elected officials are inclined to support solutions that allow people to keep behaving as they always have, but with less damage. That's how it has been with America's response to weather-related disasters. It's a response that won't work anymore.
While delegates struggle to craft consensus on how to achieve the Copenhagen COP15 target of stabilizing global emissions increases at 2 degrees Celsius, the zeitgeist seems to have already shifted to an acceptance that we will be living in a warmer world, full of unknown and potentially huge economic impacts.
Climate change is already here. We are seeing more extreme weather events. And the economic costs of extreme weather events are rising steeply. With political leadership lagging, it's time to re-engage in a serious global dialogue around these issues.
In the late 1970s, a small community in Wisconsin made a big decision. The Village of Soldiers Grove decided that when people and nature come into conflict, it's sometimes better for people to get out of the way.
Can we improve our reuse of water? Can we enhance our wastewater treatment to produce water fit for beneficial purposes? More water quality testing, better wastewater treatment and acknowledgement of this recycling is needed.
There is no question that sustainable recovery from disasters -- particularly moving out of harm's way -- can be a slow, frustrating, arduous process. More enlightened federal funding policies and programs would make it easier and more common.
For most of us, a Thanksgiving feast with friends and family is the order of the day. However, many of our fellow New Yorkers don't know where their next meal -- let alone their Thanksgiving turkey -- is coming from.
Sandy is only the latest extreme weather event that severely afflicted Americans over the past two years. The Center for American Progress report "Heavy Weather: How Climate Destruction Harms Middle and Lower Income Americans" analyzes the impact of the 21 most destructive extreme weather events in 2011 and 2012.
It will take many years and billions of dollars to fully recover and rebuild. But if any good can be said to have come from Sandy's passing, it is that the storm has re-invigorated the national discourse about climate change, hazard planning, and disaster response.
We were Staten Islanders, different from the rest of New York City. We were a city unto ourselves. And then Sandy came along, wailing its winds and tides, and roiling over the beaches.
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Now that we have gotten past the election, perhaps New Yorkers and the rest of the country are ready to talk honestly and admit that sandbags in urban flood-zones are just not good enough.
Should those affected rebuild with help from the federal government? Or should this storm be the game-changer?
Over the next two hours, watching from the safety of our fifth-floor apartment, we saw the water level around the entire block rise from about six inches to close to four feet.
Before the flood, I would have told my child that place doesn't matter. That you are you and the place you stand is just a changing backdrop, irrelevant to what you become. But now, I know that is not true.