As I sit in my Delray Beach home as Irma pummels the State of Florida, I am a mixed bag of emotions. I am a super storm Sandy survivor and know first hand that the monster storm is not to be taken for granted. Even though we are fortunate enough to be living in a newly constructed home built to hurricane code and have multiple resources at our fingertips nature’s unpredictable force can knock us to our knees in one fell swoop.
We have been glued to the news channels for days, even before Irma took shape watching in horror as our friends in Texas deal with the aftermath of Harvey. The adjectives the reporters use to describe these back-to-back mammoths: monstrous; record-breaking; Biblical; strongest; historical; catastrophic; devastating; unprecedented – make it sound as if we are experiencing something completely unheard of. But these storms are not freak incidents of nature. We didn’t hit the 100 year storm marker two times in one week by chance.
What we are experiencing are the effects of our terrible habits, we are experiencing climate change, and it is devastating. Hurricanes are standard metrological beasts. Climate change warms the oceans and raises the sea level which is essentially a feast for the hurricane beast. The warmer the ocean the grander the hurricane becomes. We are fueling the fire. We are living a Jurassic Park phenomenon.
Over the last two days 6.5 million Floridians have been ordered to evacuate their homes. Many of my friends packed up their families and pets and piled into the car to drive 20 plus hours at speeds of 20 mph to get to Atlanta, GA. They all thought they’d be safe. (Turns out Irma was heading that way too). Many of my close friends reported back that yesterday was the longest day of their lives and Irma hadn’t even arrived as yet. They will be on the road for another few days and then when Irma finally dissipates they will have to deal with the same traffic jam nightmare on the return. They are spending money on food and hotels and gas; they are missing days of work, sleeping on floors of friend’s homes, and risking their own homes being damaged while away. Simply put, these 6.5 million people are Climate Change refugees.
Those who stayed like myself were climate change victims even before the storm hit. We have raided the supermarkets and hardware stores buying enough water, hurricane supplies and junk food to last us all a year. We have all over spent on non-essentials out of anxiety and in anticipation of the worst. We all feel compelled to do something “above and beyond” to protect our loved ones and our homes.
A monster storm approaches and everyone including our governing officials switch immediately into survival mode. Money is no longer an object. We are willing to subject ourselves to impossible scenarios to ensure our safety. I fully understand government’s need to protect our safety but why do we wait for a crisis to step up to the plate? Why do they take nature seriously only when she is barreling down our door? But on a beautiful sunny day we just take her for granted, drive our SUVs and burn fossil fuel without regard to our heating up our atmosphere, polluting our air and water and feeding these monstrous storms?
Mother Nature is roaring. Many of you out there are hearing her loud and clear. So what will it take to turn us from being a reactive society into a proactive society? How many times do we need to be smacked in the face and brought to our knees by these mega storms? How much money are we going to spend to run away from the problem? Isn’t it time to roll up our sleeves and make smart choices? We have solutions to reverse the downward spiral we are in, solutions that don’t require out of pocket expense or inconvenience.
The journey is painless and the results are positive if we embark on it. Demand that our government believe in climate change: it’s as simple as that. And you yourself start believing in climate change, not just as a concept, but as action. Make an executive decision to do something positive to stop the downward cycle. Go solar, drive an electric vehicle. Protect your family. Tap down nature’s beasts.
Raina Russo is the founder of Women4Solar, LLC