“I send an SOS to the world. I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle…” Sting

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Sting’s exquisite performance of “Message in a Bottle” hit just the right note for the Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together concert this past Friday.

Sandy, which savaged New Jersey, New York City and many points beyond with an estimated $20 billion in property damage from flooding, wind and rain could certainly be seen as an SOS to the world. More pointedly, it’s an urgent telegram to the U.S., where climate action has been hijacked by the world’s biggest hive of climate deniers, who’d like to either ignore climate change or wiggle away by labeling it “natural” and inescapable.

But seeing is believing — and this storm had visuals that a marketing agency can only imagine.  Hundred-year-old trees crashed into living rooms. Water gushed into subway stations. Beach houses rearranged themselves on the sand. Homes surrounded by flood waters burst into flames as if possessed. A crane snapped and teetered far overhead alongside skyscrapers, like a prop in a Godzilla movie. And millions, in darkness. Those of us with power got glimpses on Facebook of affected friends, huddled in their darkened houses, with flashlights, sleeping bags, candles and canned goods.

Even if we only saw it in pictures, this mega-hurricane packed a visceral punch. Now tack on those images of last summer’s crop-curling heatwave and the historic killer drought of the year before in the Southwest. Climate change is puddling at our doorsteps as sure as the glaciers of Glacier National Park as vanishing into the ground.

Could all this, led by Sandy,  lift the veil of obfuscation and reignite climate activism in the U.S.?

New York City, jolted rudely into the realization that Lower Manhattan really is a bulls-eye for climate disaster, just like scads of scientist have been predicting, appears to be on board. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a self-described political independent, jumped in after the storm, endorsing President Obama for a second term because the president supports climate change mitigation. Of course, Bloomberg has already given $50 million to the Sierra Club to fight coal plant pollution, the leading contributor to the carbon dioxide emissions that are causing Earth to warm.

Mainstream media, after snoozing on the topic for the past several years, also seems newly attuned.  Bloomberg Business Week boldly declared in giant type on last week’s cover: It’s Climate Change, Stupid.” (For Milennials  and cave-dwellers not getting that reference, please google “It’s the Economy Stupid!”)

Today, even Forbes weighed in with a contributed piece about how preparing for climate change makes business sense. Ken Silverstein writes:

Any prudent business person must consider “what if” and construct a variety of models. Environmentalists may be criticized for assuming the “worst case” but the fossil fuel sector is at fault for burying its collective heads in the sand: Many jurisdictions hit by natural disaster have wished they had built better levies and had demanded stricter building codes.

Naturally, environmental leaders are taking their cue and offering needed perspective.

Let’s not just panic about climate change because of what happened in New York City, urges Natural Resources Defense Council CEO Frances Beinecke in her blog today. Let’s panic because of what it’s doing everywhere! (Or more accurately, as she reasonably and calmly says, “American must wake up and curb climate change.” She continues:

This isn’t about Democrats, Independents, or Republicans. It’s about all New Yorkers.

Sandy knocks down a tree in Brooklyn.

Expect renewed zeal from climate activists and environmental groups. And forgive them for it.  In 2008 when the financial crisis hit, climate change rocketed from the top of the agenda like a glacier calving into the black ocean. It slipped out of sight as the Great Recession darkened the landscape, an economic thunderhead that zapped 401Ks, jobs and mortgages.

For a while, the fact that our planet is on a trajectory to become inhabitable became a nearly invisible issue….and sometimes even a joke.

Many Americans forgot about long term survival while scrambling to ensure their short term well being.

Now climate change is back, legitimized and audible after Mother Nature slapped the table and hollared to get back in the conversation.

The question is, do we pick up the dialogue? Do we answer this message in a bottle?

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