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Friday, August 28, 2009

Stepping Into the Water - 4 years after Katrina

Cross posted from by Morgan

As I carried the rooftop down the grassy slope and stepped into the reflecting pool, committing civil disobedience, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. ‘Today, right now, I’m doing everything I can to call for climate solutions.’

The days of planning, the nights of building collapsible roof structures and a giant banner all faded as I floated my roof into place, framing my message below the symbols of America’s greatness. “Help, the water is rising” Lincoln, sitting on your chair looking at the scene, what would you do? The George Washington Memorial, surveying the city looking down at us from above – what do you think of the coming storms?

I remember the turmoil of hurricane Katrina four years ago, watching from afar. I was aware of the size of the storm, but I had no idea how far the destruction would reach because no one expected the levees to break and the entire city to flood. That surprising level of destruction, both of human life and the property of an entire city, is the memory that we now have of Katrina.

I also remember how hurricane Katrina catapulted climate change into the public consciousness. (mandatory footnote: no one weather event can be attributed to climate change, but increased intensity and weaker coastlines are direct climate effects.)

Time is running out. The clock is tck-tck-tcking. There are only 100 days until Copenhagen. That is our chance, as global civic society, to agree on a plan for human safety and security in the face of crisis.

Just as the federal agencies assigned to protect residents of New Orleans failed in the aftermath of Katrina, our government is failing us now in addressing climate change. The bright, critical spotlight of public consciousness was turned on FEMA in the aftermath, pointing out the million areas of incompetence and shortsightedness. But imagine what we will look like, 10 or 20 years into the future. They’re going to call this the age of stupid if we don’t exercise our power as citizens to demand action.

The alarm needs to be raised, the church bells need to ring, the fire whistles need to sound and people like you and me should be taking to the streets. Al Gore calls on young people to engage in civil disobedience to stop coal plants, but won’t put himself on the line. Thomas Friedman accuses youth of sitting on Facebook instead of taking action. Well Mr Friedman, get out from behind your articles and books and take to the streets yourself.

Global warming has been the primary issue for me for four years, since about when Katrina slammed into New Orleans. There’s been a lot of frustration, but I feel that we are close to a big turning point, a point of global consciousness. Our common need for security brings us together in common cause, whether it is our homes at risk of storm, our children’s health in danger of pollution or our national security threatened by turmoil.

I don’t claim to speak for the residents of the Gulf Coast. But I recognize that hurricane Katrina is a point of reference for all Americans, giving us all a taste of the cost of climate inaction.

Today is a day of reflection, both on tragedy, but we must also remember the bravery of the heroes. Countless New Orleans residents made self-less sacrifices for their communities. Barack Obama has made quiet but significant progress on rebuilding New Orleans and restoring the Gulf Coast, although we have a lot of work left to go. I’ve also been thinking about the legacy of Ted Kennedy, who spent 40 years defending the ideals of liberals, defending the poor and the underprivileged.

On this day of reflection, this turning point, what are you doing to turn the tables for climate solutions? How are you pushing the boundaries? I’ll be making sure ALL my friends see this amazing photo and pass it on to their friends because I’m pretty psyched with how it turned out.

1 comment:

thomas jones said...

Katrina has to be one of the largest scale disasters I have seen in my lifetime.