10/31/2012 11:33 am ET Updated Dec 31, 2012

Acts of God, Deeds of Men

Still don't believe all that climate change stuff? Have I got a "Frankenstorm" for you!

Well, OK, so maybe Hurricane Sandy is just a random Act of God. Indeed, maybe it's true that God really intended the entire east coast to shut down for a few days to escape the rising frenzy of early voting spawned by citizens who are just plain over the presidential campaign. Maybe only divinely ordered power outages could stop the barrage of campaign ads. Maybe the Almighty really does side with those who see only blessings in shutting down the Federal Government.

But it's also quite possible that we brought this on ourselves. I don't think it takes an Al Gore groupie to notice that the weather has been increasingly wild, dangerous and destructive. Is that a result of human behavior?

Basic science tells us that the very things that make modern civilization so comfortable -- automobiles, electrical grids powered with coal or nuclear energy, homes warmed by oil or natural gas, air conditioners, flush toilets, refrigerators, the pervasive availability of synthetic goods all wrapped in excessive plastic packaging -- all of this places increasing stress on the environment. No wonder that Mother Nature pushes back hard, shutting down our power and making it impossible to drive. These major storms return human life to its most primitive state, forced to eat Pop Tarts untoasted.

Regardless of its ability to prove or disprove theories of global warming, each increasingly wicked storm illuminates the intense struggle between human inventions and nature's interventions. Reporters stand atop seawalls, fearsome oceans at their backs, breathlessly repeating the wave-by-wave story of beachfront homes and businesses smashed to splinters by the untamed power of wind and water. Shop owners in riverfront towns like Alexandria and Annapolis pile up sandbags against the floods that come again and again -- a test of wills between river and man made walls that the river will eventually win.

Levees fail, dunes are breached, roofs sail aloft on big gusts of wind. A tree on a power line is the ultimate symbol of the battle, Man v. Nature, what we have harnessed versus what we cannot control.

When the waters subside and the lights come back on, we'll tally our losses and make claims on our insurance. And in the kind of act of defiance that proves the resilience of the human spirit, we'll rebuild the homes and roads and stores in exactly the same places where the water claimed them before. We'll keep driving fossil-fueled cars and enjoying the luxuries that the deeds of men make possible. We'll use up the leftover supplies of toilet paper and batteries, lulling ourselves into a belief that the storm was a freak, it won't happen again, we're not really responsible.

It was simply an Act of God.