Sandy’s Spectacular Surge: Our October Surprise

And we all thought the “surge” was just an American military strategy in Afghanistan!  Or perhaps a covert marketing strategy for globalization of the Western Curriculum.  Boy, were we wrong! Well, what do you know; it seems as though Mother Nature decided to use a trick from our own playbook as an object-lesson to America and the rest of the West about our unrelenting abuse of her bounty, as well as a response to our equally unchecked hubris.

Two different Sandy’s converged on the Big Apple this week; one looking down in critical awe from the window of his hotel room in midtown, caddy corner from the dangling crane; the other bearing down upon an increasingly unnerved populace, as Manhattan and surrounding boroughs quietly received the full measure of a direct hit from Gaia’s feral charm.  But, it was not only New York and the Mid-Atlantic States that were humbled by this flexing of nature’s raw muscularity, it was the Midwest as well, and let us not forget the West Virginia blizzard – affectionately called the backside of Sandy.  And what a backside it was!  So, now it is the entire country that finds itself wanting, wondering, and perhaps ready to ask some more penetrating questions as it searches for answers in vain.

The wide and profound swath of pain, death, and destruction wrought by my namesake is somewhat difficult to fathom, especially from the cozy confines of my unscathed midtown venue. But in the midst of our collective national grief, as we gaze in numb disbelief at the spectacular images replayed in a continuous loop across our HDTV screens, we have – and still do to some extent – unflinchingly refused to acknowledge any complicity in the matter. Even now, rather than accepting the earth’s efforts at reclamation associated with her rightful claim to “eminent domain,” we’ve decided yet again to force her into compliance with our demands for urban recovery. As New York governor Cuomo was quoted: “we have to start to think about how do we redesign the system so this doesn’t happen again.

And wouldn’t you know it, early Tuesday, the heavy equipment was already at work pumping out New York subway tubes and moving newly deposited sand dunes off the streets and byways of coastal Long Island and New Jersey – back to where it “belongs” on those beaches.

In the meantime, that highly choreographed reality show called the American presidential campaign is now itself searching for airtime and for ratings.  As well, regular folk have voluntarily abandoned their homes or been swept away in the “surge” without even a threat of foreclosure. Meanwhile, our public centers for childhood indoctrination (a.k.a. schools) were closed, commercial markets locked down tight, and money lenders/casino capitalists were seen fleeing the soaking wet premises of Wall Street for an easy rest away from the expanding chaos. Food supplies were running short, public transport under water… and yet, America waits to evaluate the cost of an angry mother’s wrath.

There was such an eerie, almost surreal, sense to the entire spectacle as it unfolded here at ground-level in midtown for two days: rows of closed storefronts, flocks of confused and wandering tourists, no taxis, public transportation or escape routes, multitudes of digital cameras flashing, 7th Avenue and Broadway emptied of traffic, emergency vehicles and police lining the streets, one or two open pubs, and a uniquely pedestrian comfort in seeing the mechanisms of State or local bureaucracy snap to attention.   And now that the people are out driving again, we have the longest lines at gas stations throughout the Tri-state area, with tempers flaring; visions of what awaits us as the fuel runs out in the not to distant future.

This hurricane was on course, they said, to meet up with a few other of its natural allies – a winter storm from the north, as well as a cold front and high tides from the full moon.  And so it did!  This may just be a taste of what a future without the benefits of oil, water and food could be like in the face of an increasingly disenchanted Mother Nature and the ongoing depletion of her natural bounty.  But is it not too late that some are just beginning to ask the harder questions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York City would have to rebuild to take into consideration the changing weather patterns, saying that anyone who thinks yesterday’s storm was a fluke isn’t paying attention.

‘There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement. That is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality,’ Cuomo said in a briefing this morning.

Well now, if that isn’t a hint of minty freshness, from a major political figure no less?  I wonder who is writing Cuomo’s copy. When I heard this last night, I understood immediately that the television set was channeling the unspoken disgust of Gaia herself through the governor’s parched lips.  Of course, I don’t think he would dare share this opinion directly with Mr. O-drama.  After all, you cannot speak like that to the president if you have your hands out asking for taxpayer money.

What the American people, and all of those now laboring under the pipe dreams of the Western Curriculum, must begin to grasp is that our lifestyle — one that has been peddled around the world by the marketing team of Madison Avenue and the US Military – that this worldview is flawed and must fundamentally change. Even the Governor of New York State had the presence of mind to acknowledge the obvious, if only by inference. Well, it was Halloween so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt!  In any event, we can count this as our October Surprise!  And whichever candidate can make believe he carries the mantle of climate change, that man may win the election.

But after all the media hype, after the regrets, the losses, the hand-wringing, the gnashing and grinding of teeth, what have we really learned from this event? The one unanswered question is this.  Will they just rebuild things, only stronger and more resiliently than before; or will they rethink the very logic of rebuilding in the wake of nature’s fury and her claims to eminent domain?  There must be a point at which even the good Governor of New York and perhaps more importantly, the Governors of New Jersey and elsewhere, must stop, take a deep breath, ask directly and unapologetically: why are we rebuilding this?  What are we hoping to achieve.  Are climate change and resource depletion really real?  And if so, is rebuilding all of this truly in our (or nature’s) best interests? Someone must step up and say: this is enough madness, we must stop!

32 Responses to Sandy’s Spectacular Surge: Our October Surprise

  1. Dr Ciber says:

    I agree with practically every word you wrote, and you yourself have complied with the assertion in your last sentence. However, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to stop the madness, and even if we were, we’re a good 50 years too late to avert most of the catastrophic effects (at least for the North American lifestyle) of not doing so.

    There are those pushing the 350 ppm greenhouse gas concentration limit as “safe”. We blew through that in 1957-58. They may be right, & I agree with their arguments although I think even lower would be better, but the NASA widget on my laptop that monitors the reported CO2 levels just ticked up to 394 ppm a few days ago, and there is no existing technology for removing the gigatons of these gases from the upper stratosphere where they are such a problem and getting them locked into compounds & safely buried well below the surface where they belong. Add to that the facts that of all the fossil fuels ever burned in the history of the human race, around 50% has been burned since about 1985 (90% or so since I was born in 1950), and the effects of that last 50% have yet to be manifested for the most part due to the several decades delay between emission and effect. It’s as though we have made the Earth’s atmosphere pregnant, and now it’s going into labor. We don’t know how to abort, so -ready or not- it’s going to give birth –to a new world. Whether or not there will be a niche for humans in that world is an open question.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Dr Ciber – you are most likely correct that we are far too late to reverse the trajectory. But, it is never too late to admit our complicity and attempt to develop a personal response.

      • DrCiber says:

        Absolutely! Couldn’t agree more, because the existence of a niche for humans in the future will not be due to dumb luck, the tooth fairy, or divine grace. It will be due to the behavior mod we’ve learned the hard way -keeping our numbers and our appetites in check – combined with a third as yet undiscovered skill for controlling or entirely eliminating forgetfulness. Best wishes. Love yor blog.

  2. bmiller says:

    Eminent Domain: “The power to take property for the public good”, what an appropriate concept for how Mother Nature is reasserting her dominance. Glad you are safe.

  3. Des Carne says:

    Interesting how the media obsession is with how this “superstorm” affected ordinary Americans, but ignored the Cubans and others Caribbean nations who endured it beforehand, and many more beforehand. Is this not yet another example of the West’s narcissistic self-obsession, and the idea that they are the only people really to suffer these monstrous calamities.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Noteworthy, but certainly not surprising, right Des?

    • derekthered says:

      like this
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deforestation_in_Haiti
      talk about some people who maybe need to start digging in. another tragic story, this countries history; at this point the entire needs island intensive permaculture, maybe terraces to stop the runoff. PBS once showed an Italian villa that caught every drop of rainwater, like Maud’Dib and the Fremen.
      who knows? perhaps dear old saint ronnie was right after all, just a couple feet, cut the glare.

      • Ivy Mike says:

        I’ve been on the ground inside that picture of Haiti, Red; it’s an area east of Hinche, called Bois Blanc. Tore the motor right off the engine mounts in a Land Rover, so we just walked.

        My observations:
        • They have cactus growing in what used to be a rainforest.
        • The farmers say rocks push up out of the ground, making the dirt disappear.
        • Lots of voodoo at the crossroads.
        • My name was “Hey Blanc.”

        There’s a little village called Bois de Laurence, north east of Hinche (a few miles north of the picture you referenced.) I slept there several nights, in a mud hut with no electricity, gas, or running water.

        I wonder what Laurence thinks of his “woods” (bois) now. I suppose what any Injun around here would think of subdivisions named after that which they bulldozed, like:

        • Oak Grove Mort-gaged Terraces
        • Pleasant Meadows McMansions
        • Clear Creek Vinyl Boxes

        But what can you expect of a species who has evolved towards immaturity, mature decision making?

  4. derekthered says:

    s’not like we weren’t warned.

  5. derekthered says:

    “Tread the road cross the abyss
    Take a look down at the madness
    On the streets of the city
    Only spectres still have pity
    Patient queues for the gallows
    Sing the praises of the hallowed
    Our machines feed the furnace
    If they take us they will burn us ”

    ELP – Knife Edge

    here on the plains we are one summer storm away from catastrophe. every year, year in, year out, we are not allowed the luxury of feeling ourselves untouchable.
    thing to watch is the arctic methane project, when that stuff starts to turn over it’s katie bar the door. the Japanese are considering harvesting the frozen undersea methane which, of course, when consumed will generate more greenhouse gases, also known as a feedback loop.

    i’m a low tech kind of guy, so of course, my solutions are simple, underground housing, small farmsteads, local self-sufficiency, the sort of situation which does not lend itself to massive capitalist exploitation. gee whiz, wonder why this stuff is not being tried?

    no, we should not “rebuild”, we should relocate. “narcissistic self-obsession, and the idea that they are the only people really” really? really? i resemble that remark!!!!!!!!!
    but enough about me, what about me?

    • Ivy Mike says:

      I love New York City. Right where it is, 100’s of miles away! 😉

      We’re like you Red, and if the ‘lectric goes out here, I’ve got wood heat, cast iron hand pump for water from the well, propane stove, and plenty of kerosene/diesel for some lamps. We could go a month before needing fuel for lighting. If it’s cold enough, we could store what’s in the freezer outside, otherwise, we’d have a beeve that needed canned.

      Worst thing would be internet withdraw. LOL! Well, back to making cheese with my tractor weights cheese press.

      • derekthered says:

        i wish i was like you, i’m a city boy thru and thru. but tell you what, we do need to get our emergency supplies together. the power goes out several times a year, either from lightning, tornadoes, or just plain ice.
        i feel for the people on the coast, i do, we spent a week w/o power a couple years ago, luckily we were in an apartment with a fireplace.
        now, the storms will get worse, although they have been bad in the past.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1821_Norfolk_and_Long_Island_hurricane
        lucy was 6 million years ago, cro-magnons what? 60 thousand? our science is good, but we still don’t know much of what climate was in the past. this is part of our hubris sandy talks about, we take affront when our cocoon is penetrated.

        nope, the worst thing to be talking about is rebuilding these places, it will just happen again. a cost-benefit analysis is in order. building back on the coasts will just put people back in harms way. it’s past time to look at these machines we call buildings, at the whole mega-city situarion, and perhaps say enough is enough.

        • Ivy Mike says:

          Yep, the storms are going to get—correction: have been getting—worse. And the droughts. I tell you what, farmers are real happy to get 60-90 bu./ac. corn, just so they have some money to give’er another try next year. Hay is selling for 3-5x last year’s price. Lots of guys are baling corn stalks to feed cheap; gonna be a lot of unhappily protein-hungry cattle this winter, but the goal is to keep them alive (this winter nobody gives a rip if they gain weight) and inside the fence, in hopes of a better spring.

          I’ll be praying to the Ēostre goddess and Jesus H. Christ himself as he rises again and the light overcomes the darkness at the vernal equinox. We’re in for the same hell the Levant went through, watching a land of milk and honey transform into a desert. Hopefully we don’t go back to their bloody/blessed rituals to appease the rain gods:

          Chapter 12: Honey, I Burnt the Kids
          SEX RITES: The Origins of Christianity (The Ritual Use of Sex, Drugs, and Human Sacrifice)
          by Diana Agorio (posted Sept. 10, 2012)
          http://ancientmeme.blogspot.com/

          • Brutus says:

            Ivy Mike sez: “We’re in for the same hell the Levant went through, watching a land of milk and honey transform into a desert.” I’ve wondered about this, too. Although the phrase sands of time refers clearly enough to the sand inside an hourglass, might it also refer metaphorically to desert reclaiming the landscape? The ancient world witnessed this happening in numerous locations, often the result of deforestation, and recorded the events in stories that now read to us like myths and extended metaphors. Similarly, the Dustbowl Years of the American Midwest were the result of a combination causes, which included the early phases of mechanized farming that led to loss of topsoil retention. Some of it is beyond our control, other parts are more direct results of our interventions. But we never stop tinkering or contributing. Some lessons we simply refuse to learn.

            • Ivy Mike says:

              “This is the history of civilization from China, to India, to the Caucuses of Central Asia, to Europe and now to the whole world: Civilization equals aridity.”

              ~William H. Kötke
              The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future

              • derekthered says:

                my father (the bastard) went from hitching the mule to the plow to seeing men walk on the moon, so although i have lived all my life in the city, i’m not even a generation from the farm. when we boys turned 12 we went to get our boots, we called them “clod-hoppers”.

                i have started to read your link, i may just buy the book (if it’s available), as i like the simple style which it is written in. i like easy reads. anyhow, it’s refreshing to see someone on the web bringing up subjects such as soil depletion, which i have brought up on other forums, and gotten a great big blank from other posters.

                trust me, i am hardly some sort of eco-freak, just someone who’s not comatose.
                subjects such as the protein content of grains, soil erosion, anaerobic bacteria, these need to be fodder for everyday discussion, unfortunately most people just look to the vaguely defined “system” for their security, hence we have so many doing the dance of death, and tomorrows the big party!

              • javacat says:

                Any background or bio on Kotke? I’m having trouble finding anything. Thanks.

                • Ivy Mike says:

                  Yes, there are some copies on Amazon (I have one myself,) but you can also download the book in two .doc’s, making it easier to read.

                  And no, I don’t know anything about Kotke’s bio, except he’s an exceptionally clear writer.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Hear! Hear! and always listen to ELP!!

  6. javacat says:

    Here’s a first: Bloomberg Businessweek’s upcoming cover: http://tinyurl.com/Climate-Stupid Too little, too late for major change. but at least, at last, some owning the reality. But then again, Alan Watts says that it’s our ability to forget that allows us to see things fresh.

  7. Ivy Mike says:

    Observation: hardly any election signs around these parts. I’d guess half the number of previous years. Cynicism spreads.

    And I did go and vote the hell out of my ballot. No line, walked right up, handed over my driver’s license. Chatted with my rural neighbors, and the poll volunteers had something cooking in the back room that smelled great. I took my kids along, and one asked what smelled so good.

    One of the poll volunteers said the smell was his feet, because he was wearing flavored socks. Ha!

    • Disaffected says:

      Likewise, it was surprisingly sedate in these parts this year as well. No undue hysteria either national, state, or local one way or another. At work, nary a peep from anyone before or after, and not a single warning from management about refraining from undue political expression. Almost a non-event altogether, and accordingly, I didn’t even bother to vote. Not as an active expression of anything, but only as an expression of I simply don’t give a fuck about “the process” anymore. Will that change when my “interests” are inevitably threatened? Never say never, but I seriously doubt it. At some point in our lives, I think ALL we Americans will have to finally admit that “the system” no longer serves our needs and make other arrangements, and I think that for many like me, that time is probably now. Some of us are going to come out of that decision doing better, some of us decidedly worse – at least in the short term. But in the long run, we’ll all be better off for having come out on the other end of whatever temporary shit storm that decision might entail. Cheers!

  8. I was sent Romney’s concession song. I suspect this video’s concept is truer than its talented creators may think.

  9. golf Balls says:

    Thanjs very nice blog!

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