- The Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: A Long Term View by Herb Oringel, Chair NWEAC and John Bell, Transition Westchester in the hope that the two perspectives of Transition and Sustainability will become more synergistic.
Now with the Thanksgiving dinners behind us, the cleanup from Sandy continuing apace, the recent progressives’ gains in the election of 2012, it is fair and important to take stock of where we are. Years from now my granddaughters and their teachers are likely to look back on the fall of 2012 as a “tipping point” in many ways. One would hope that more credit and attention will be given to the scientific dynamics of climate change,citizens’ personal responsibility, and communities and governments actions to deepen community interaction and increased resilience.
Recently we have been seeing something we haven't seen for thirty years, other than on a television - gas lines. With electricity out in many areas, the transportation infrastructure damaged and two refineries shut down, this should not be a surprise. And just as expected, electrical power is being brought back to darkened areas, repairs are being made where needed to bring back our transportation network and the shuttered refineries are likely to be running again soon. And many people are going to have a very difficult time before they can return to their homes, if ever.
There isn’t room here to discuss in detail the cause of climate change and it is not productive in any event. Whatever your beliefs about the role of fossil fuels and the concomitant global warming, the valued discussion should revolve around what we should do about it….as citizens and as organized groups. Individuals should take personal responsibility and become more educated about the situation that confronts us. As a result of being more aware, we should make every effort to be more self-reliant. Communities, whether in organized political or religious entities, need to develop outreach and caring programs that bring people together akin to the pioneer days at the start of this great country.
Some argue that technology and scientific advances will mitigate the problems. Will renewable energy fill the increasing gap caused by the decline of cheap fossil fuels? I will simply say that using renewable energy is what our future will be going forward, but we are going to be extremely disappointed in what it can do for us, especially as industrial renewable energy (giant wind and solar arrays) loses the energy subsidy they receive from the remaining cheap fossil fuels - and yes they are getting a major energy subsidy in their construction and maintenance. And this is true even though building these installations might be one of the smartest things we could be doing right now, besides rebuilding our railroads and barge canals. But once we get over our disappointment, renewable energy will be what it always have been - the energy source we live on, instead of the fossil fuel windfall we squandered.
It is important to focus on - building or regaining a community for yourself. Much ink has been spilled on this - how we in country have largely lost the community ties that we had as a society, even though it provided huge benefits to people. Many imply that these community ties were taken away from us. This is potentially a result of policies and practices that have decimated the “middle class”
And despite the actual prevailing ethos of times, one major benefit in developing community is the pleasure of helping others, the feeling of satisfaction in accomplishing something for its own sake, and possibly having a feeling of hope, hope in terms of a very old definition of that emotion - knowing that you are doing something that may bring good to the world. I think the Lions, the Masons, the Granges, the churches and many other organizations need to be revived, despite being seemingly dowdy and out of date, for this is what it will take to rebuild civil society and mutual aid in our culture. In a less affluent future we will need these things very badly. The only way for this to happen is for you to do something about it by becoming a part of something.
I hope that you get the impression that difficult times are coming and will be with us for a very long time. For more and more people difficult times are here now. Many people in such situations pin their hopes on having a brighter future. Instead, it is more important to work on building a better now. And you have to do, not your local officials, federal government, or anyone else. There are enabling devices to help in this regard like the Transition Movement and the Sustainability Movement. These bottoms up efforts and others tend to drive like minded activists together for the benefit of all.
In the end, the most critical thing is for you take part in facing these challenges and, yes, start building a better now for yourself.
“If we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth, and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that’s something that the American people would support.” – President Obama
Herb Oringel, Chair NWEAC (914-277-5370)