Just as Hurricane Sandy has stripped our vulnerable shores, so has she at last stripped away our illusions that this election is just about our economy or our social issues. This election is about our future and our children's survival in a world wracked by weather disasters that climate scientists warn is the new normal.
Americans are practical people. And our business-sense might lead our politics. When Businessweek runs a cover, "It's Climate Change, Stupid!" you know that global warming is no longer "a liberal plot," as some Republicans have charged. Shrewd and far-sighted insurance companies are now including climate change in their coverage concerns. Insurance Journal ran an article that cites MIT-Princeton research that "100-Year Storms May Happen Every 3 to 20 Years" and their current article asks what politicians dared not -- until Sandy: "Is Global Warming to Blame for Superstorm: Scientists Weigh In."
Insurance Journal quotes independent New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg:
"What is clear is that the storms that we've experienced in the last year or so, around this country and around the world, are much more severe than before," Bloomberg said. "Whether that's global warming or what, I don't know. But we'll have to address those issues."
Yes, we have to finally address the issue of climate change because hurricanes hit red states and blue states alike. Hurricanes, unlike elections, remind us that what divides us is not as great as what unites us against a common crisis: A future of more monster hurricanes like Sandy.
So the question is what president and party will give us the best shelter from the storm?
Americans are survivors and builders, no matter our party affiliation. When faced with a crisis, we make plans. Which leaders will better prepare and plan for a future of climate change? Someone like Romney and other Republicans, who have repeatedly denied, even mocked, the undeniable science of global warming? Or a president who is already preparing for climate change?
A true leader is someone who realistically looks at changes on the ground and helps us adapt to survive. It doesn't matter how much business experience or money Romney has, those skill sets are less useful when what is required is as vital and valuable as this: real science, government emergency support, and yes, community organizing.
The President's response to Hurricane Sandy has been far-sighted, communal and organized. It has also been bipartisan, with Republicans like Chris Christie praising Obama's engaged and robust response. One can't help but compare Bush's inept response to Katrina and Obama's powerful leadership with this hurricane.
One would think that after Katrina, Republicans might have tuned in to climate change, instead of ignoring it. Even at their own Tampa convention, when Hurricane Isaac howled outside, there was not a peep -- or a platform -- about climate change. When the wind is blowing our Big Tent down, we can't just hide inside and pretend it isn't happening.
The Republican lack of leadership, their fervent denial of climate change reminds me of a Steve Martin film, The Man With Two Brains. In it, Martin asks a portrait of his late wife if he should remarry.
"Give me a sign," he beseeches.
Suddenly the floor cracks, the fireplace shudders and the portrait of his late wife spins around crazily.
Martin stares blindly at the destruction and then pleas, "Any sign!"
We've had signs galore of our climate change. Yet many Republicans stare at the destruction and still cluelessly demand, "Any sign!"
Denial is a strange thing about humans. Animals faced with hurricanes, wildfires, droughts or cyclones don't deny what's happening. They run for cover. They adapt. That's called evolution.
Hurricane Sandy has changed us. Awoken us from a long and silly slumber when world-wide scientists have been shouting for us to wake up. When on the Eastern seaboard, our homes are literally underwater, fires destroying whole towns, coastlines drowning, and mountains buried under snow, when drought and wildfires scourge the West -- the appropriate response is to try to understand why and adapt. The sane reaction is to listen to our scientists and make a plan to deal with the weather crisis.
Denial is no longer a strategy for dealing with climate change. Our ideologies or belief systems do not trump nature. It doesn't matter who caused it. It doesn't matter if you believe in climate change or the Rapture or the Book of Mormon. Here's a practical truth based not on books written thousands of years ago, but on the current weather report. Step outside. See the signs as nature speaks in this terrible whirlwind. Choose this president who has seen this wind coming and has a plan. Because here's the truth on the ground: Hurricanes R U.S.
Brenda Peterson is a National Geographic author. Her 17 books include the recent memoir, I Want to Be Left Behind, which was named as a "Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Book" by The Christian Science Monitor. Her new book is The Drowning World. For more: BrendaPetersonBooks.com