11/13/2012 06:36 pm ET Updated Jan 13, 2013

Gearing Up for a Different America

When discussing Storm Sandy with my new friend, I mentioned the words "global warming" and he laughed. This angered me, because I thought he was implying the whole idea of climate change was a hoax. Being a master gardener, I not only understand the science behind global warming, I also see its effects on a regular basis in my edible landscape.

When I pressed my conservative friend about the issue, he agreed that global warming was a reality, but that it was due to natural cycles of evolution. I think he was trying to keep open the possibility that we would have sex some day, so he was soft-pedaling the issue.

I couldn't just leave it alone, though. I had to blow his evolution theory out of the high water.

First and foremost, evolution is a biological construct, not meteorological, geological, or atmospheric. It describes a process that develops over time to change the genetic structure of life forms, and happens within natural, not man-made circumstances. Evolution does not decrease survival; it tends to assure it. What global warming reminds us is that weather has destructive effects. If we want to survive as a species, we will have to combat it any way possible.

I have met people who believe that humans do not affect the planet, though they are far and few between. Most people will concede that smog does look and smell real, that oil spills do wreck havoc on the ocean and its inhabitants, and that the Pacific Gyre contains a significant mass of man-made marine debris.

What some in Congress will not admit is that the work of humans, and especially the fossil fuel industry, has negatively impacted our health and the health of our planet. During this past year, whenever I spoke with members of the Green Party, they estimated that only 20 percent of Americans had a keen interest in the environment. Perhaps the 2014 elections will center around electing people to Congress who not only care about the ecology of our country, but know solutions to its ailments.

Sandy has proven that we are not prepared for the onslaught of severe and turbulent weather. But like any change in circumstances, adaptation becomes necessary and provides a gem of an opportunity. Though the storm's effects have many suffering, Sandy and other harsh weather realities may pave the way for economic recovery, but only if those who "have" will provide for those who are needy. I believe in miracles, as companies, foundations, individuals, and organizations gave $32 million to the Mayor's Fund for New York City. Any chance to release some of those tight purse strings will help stimulate the economy.

If you want to know how you can help, here is an excellent summary of places where you can donate your time, supplies or money to help those in need in the Staten Island area.

When people abandon their homes near the coastlines of rivers and ocean, they will have to move inland. New communities will need to gear up for a different America: one in which the towns are built around sustainable practices. City planning has to feature building materials that withstand gale force winds, water and waste systems that accommodate flooding or drought, and agriculture that supports deep root systems with healthy fungal and bacterial activity. Creative businesses will fill the need for a shift from a centralized power grid to decentralized sources of energy.

With higher temperatures for longer periods and deep rain or snowfall, life is not easy. The costs of weather damage may trump complaints against a sluggish economy in less than two years. The next election will be a very interesting one, in that voters will have different priorities. Prepare for real and lasting change.

When people resist change, sometimes things happen and then change is inevitable. Until an experience like Sandy happens to you or someone close to you, maybe things will stay the same. But don't expect sameness, because you just might get caught with your hat blowing off your head.