I'm a sucker for coincidences. Basically, I don't believe in them. I'm one of those people who likes to see the Big Picture, the Plan with a capital P. You can't tell me that this enormous storm aimed straight at Washington, D.C,, and including those pivotal swing states of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, is not a sign, coming as it is just days before Election Day. As the great P.G. Wodehouse would have phrased it, I am reminded of the following tale:
Pious Joe is stranded in the middle of the ocean in a leaking boat. A passerby throws him an oar to grab onto for safety. Pious Joe says, "No, thank you. I believe in God. I have faith that God will save me. Thank you anyway, but I'll be just fine." The boat continues to lose water. Eventually, a large ship comes nearby and throws Pious Joe a life preserver. But Pious Joe refuses to grab onto it. He shouts: "No need to worry about me, I'll be fine. My God will save me." The boat is now half full with water by the time a helicopter arrives. The copter throws down a tow rope to rescue Pious Joe. For the third time, Pious Joe refuses the help, exclaiming, "Thanks but no thanks. I know I will be fine. God will save me." Eventually, the boat sinks. Pious Joe drowns. When he reaches heaven, Pious Joe says to God ,"God, I believed in you. I put my trust in you. Why didn't you save me?". And God says, "What do you mean, why didn't I save you? I sent you an oar, I sent you a life preserver and I sent you a helicopter rope! What more do you expect me to do?"
Oh Yes, Frankenstorm is most definitely a sign. God or the Universe (take your pick) is trying to tell us something. Hurricane Irene didn't seem to do it. Record droughts in Texas and the Midwest have not grabbed our attention. Heat waves, catastrophic flooding, crop losses, livestock deaths -- the list of environmental disasters to afflict our country this year alone is biblical in scope, reminiscent of the Ten Plagues.
Mitt Romney sent chills up my spine when he joked about oceans rising and offered to give away public lands to oil companies. President Obama and the Democrats have been so cowed by rich Republican intimidators that they have abandoned the fight, joining in a chorus of "Let's Frack" and fighting over who can exploit pristine habitats first.
In just over a week, we will elect the next leader of the free world. Once in four years, millions of people wake up and pay attention. Conventional wisdom, perpetrated by the media ad nauseum, tells us that the only thing we really care about is our pocketbook. Forget the planet, clean air, clean water, rising sea levels, dying crops, migration changes, bee devastation, species extinctions, severe droughts and the increase of freakishly damaging storms. The Republicans have done something really special -- they have relegated the most common value we share -- the health of our planet -- to environmental wacko status. And the Democrats have let them get away with it. Not once did the issue of climate change come up in this year's debates -- not even once! No wonder God is pissed off.
If you were God or Mother Nature, and you were fed up with being ignored, wouldn't you choose this week to remind your people that money isn't everything? If we don't start adapting to Climate Change, which is likely irreversible at this point, all the other platitudes and plans won't mean a thing. Climate Change is the single biggest challenge of our time, calling on our intellectual prowess, scientific knowhow and political will. Yet each candidate has conveniently ignored dealing with it, sidestepping the big picture to focus on energy independence, as if that would actually bring down oil prices. (it wouldn't, at least not by all that much). Twenty years from now, the next generation will be stunned at our negligence, our callous indifference to this most obvious public health crisis. They will look back in anger at our unwillingness to collaborate for the common good, our petty infighting over so many small things while ignoring the obvious big one.
The winds are howling. Outside my 30th story window, I see the lights of New York City, still twinkling as the full force of Frankenstorm has yet to descend. Many of us will be in darkness before this storm ends, disconnected from each other and forced to exist without the convenience of electricity, heat or even working toilets. Pious Joe relied on faith alone to save him, but he drowned anyway. How many more signs do we need before we figure out that we are all in the same lifeboat together, before all of us drown?