I am now pretty much back on my old school work schedule, which means I get into the office at 6:30am. On a "normal" December day I would need to wear a scarf, gloves, my Russian hat (thanks Jelani!), and long underwear.
Today? Welcome to the new normal. I wore all of the above (sans long underwear), and am severely overdressed. I feel like I could've legitimately come to the office without a coat. At 6:30 in the morning.
About a month or so ago I spent six hours straight pumping about 180 gallons of water out of my basement, flooded, because of Hurricane Isaac. The day before it hit, I decided to send my family to Detroit, after I found out that the hurricane was half the size of the United States. Thankfully there was no damage.
When I visited New York City last week for the Melissa Harris-Perry show, I saw absolutely no evidence of the devastation Sandy caused. But that was because I was in Midtown. Hospitals are still closed. Sections of New York are still shut down. When all is said and done it'll have caused more damage and devastation than any previous storm not named Katrina. For the first time in New York City's history it had to evacuate neighborhoods because of storms (twice).
This is what climate change looks like at its best. We haven't yet seen the more damaging aspects, but we will. And because of a combination of institutional inaction, and institutional pushback (here I'm talking about the concerted effort of the oil industry to deny global warming's manmade roots) it's coming whether we like it or not. Within around 100 years or so, most of the southern part of the United States will have so many 100degree days that large sections will likely be uninhabitable without significant change. Most of the cities on the coast will be underwater because of the rising seas.
Chris Hayes, a New Yorker, had this to say:
We need a crash program in this country right now to re-engineer the nation’s infrastructure to cope with and prepare for the climate disruptions that we have already ensured with the carbon we’ve already put into the atmosphere, as well as an immediate, aggressive transformation of our energy production, economy and society to reduce the amount of carbon we’ll put into the atmosphere in the future.
This is as fundamental, as elemental as human endeavors get. The story of civilization is the long tale of crusaders for order battling the unceasing reality of chaos. And it is a kind of miracle that we have succeeded as much as we have, that airplanes fly through the air, and roads plunge beneath the water and the entire teeming latticework of human life exists in the manifold improbably places it does. But it is the grand irony that in imposing this improbable order on the world, we've released millions of years of stored up carbon into the atmosphere, which is now altering the climate and threatening the very monuments of civilization that we so cherish.
Hayes ends, correctly I might add, by arguing we all have a stark choice. We can either choose civilization and humanity, or we can choose disorder and chaos caused by storms to come.
We don't see much in black politics about climate change. We have a history of fighting against the environmental injustice, but climate change, not so much. Nothing is more important than this battle right here. In cities like Baltimore, cities that could potentially be underwater unless significant changes occur, this battle is about the future of the city. In cities like Detroit, which look to become the new Miami, given changing weather patterns, the battle is about water politics and about soon-to-be-scarce land. There's a significant opportunity here, but in order to take advantage of it we have to begin to aggressively fight for the future.