If Sandy Is A ‘Frankenstorm,’ We Created Her
As I watched Hurricane Sandy make landfall—the tides rising and spilling into New York City's infrastructure, shutting down the city that prides itself on its insomnia-like tendencies—I couldn't help but notice how the storm was being typecast incorrectly.
The media depicted the storm as resulting, almost entirely, from a random combination of weather conditions like the scenario in Sebastian Junger's book Perfect Storm, which later become a major motion picture. In fact, the mainstream media (in this case, CNN) even called on Junger to weigh in on Hurricane Sandy. All told, Sandy displaced thousands of residents along the East Coast, left millions without power, and submerged many parts of New York City.
Despite this rhetoric, there's nothing random about Sandy.
What's frightening is that, as a nation, we're growing deaf to the realities of climate change. Take this most "superstorm-Frankenstorm," which scientists indicate was a byproduct of long-term climatic events caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
We started the year off with one of the mildest winters on record. Then, this summer, more than half the nation experienced drought conditions, with skyrocketing food prices and shortages following suit. And in September, Arctic ice hit its lowest level on record.
Yet many continue to act like Sandy just came out of the blue.
But young activists have been pushing to break the silence on climate change.
Even before the storm hit the East Cost, it was Millennials (not debate moderators) who pushed for President Obama's recent response to MTV host Sway Calloway's question on the climate.
But simply talking about climate change at this stage isn't enough. Our continuous choice to collectively see storms like Sandy as a freak occurrence instead of part of a larger threat—to which we have contributed thanks to our over-dependence on fossil fuels—puts us at risk.
In Bill McKibben’s Rolling Stone article from earlier this summer, the 350.org founder predicted that we might react this way. And, he wrote, even if we acknowledged the reality of climate change as a prime factor in extreme weather events, we still might not be able to break from the grip of the fossil fuel industry. From his piece:
It's not clear, of course, that the power of the fossil-fuel industry can be broken. The U.K. analysts who wrote the Carbon Tracker report and drew attention to these numbers had a relatively modest goal—they simply wanted to remind investors that climate change poses a very real risk to the stock prices of energy companies. Say something so big finally happens (a giant hurricane swamps Manhattan, a megadrought wipes out Midwest agriculture) that even the political power of the industry is inadequate to restrain legislators, who manage to regulate carbon. Suddenly those Chevron reserves would be a lot less valuable, and the stock would tank.
Many young Americans already know that. That’s why they’re resorting to direct action tactics to slow the affects of the global climate crisis.
An ongoing Tar Sands Blockade action in Winnsboro, Tex., has lasted more than a month since its launch in September, when activists scaled the trees to block construction on the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would carry tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas. Blockaders launched a secondary tree-sit in Sacul, Tex., on Wednesday.
If Sandy shows us anything, it’s that we need to start drawing the line somewhere. Many young people involved in the blockade are saying that line is with tar sands, the dirtiest form of fossil fuel energy.
Millennials are increasingly taking part in the other rising tide—the tide of resistance to the old paradigm. Young Americans have broken the silence on climate just enough that some news-outlets are finally starting to see these catastrophic natural disasters as a result of climate change.
It's not too late to turn Sandy into a teachable moment.
Candice Bernd is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @CandiceBernd.