By Jill Chapin
November 1, 2012
Mother Nature must have really wanted to get our attention, and She sure did by sending in Her messenger Sandy to give us the lowdown on what to expect with future encounters with Her tempestuous friends.
Tragically, instead of heeding Mother Nature’s warnings, we will likely dismiss them. We will probably continue to indulge our sense of entitlement by building anew on vulnerable beaches as we continue to argue about whether or not this weather is due to global warming. But this debate is moot, because whatever the cause, nature happens.
We can debate the history of weather patterns, analyzing whether they are indeed becoming more forceful and frequent. But no matter on which side of this argument you fall, one thing is indisputable – the history of overbuilding on our shores has increased in recent decades.
So what are we to do now? What people everywhere seem to be saying with confidence is that they will rebuild again. This gritty determination comes from our innate American Can-Do spirit that is truly inspiring, but only if it is leavened with common sense.
Rebuilding is of course the right decision, but what about the bigger issue of – where? When are we going to reach that level of awareness where we finally accept the unpleasant reality that high density rebuilding on some coastlines is a luxury we no longer can afford? When are we going to grow up and realize we can’t have it all? And who will lead this call for coming to grips with a concept that is almost unheard of – self-denial.
We need to let the sea reclaim whatever parts of the coastline it wants, not that we have a say in this. But acquiescing to the inevitable can do a marvelous thing in advancing our maturity level as well as our future safety. It can re-direct our energies to rebuild a bit more inland and let the devastated areas return to the natural habitat that they were before we moved in and set up squatters’ rights on Mother Nature’s delicate and ever-changing land by the sea.
Because if we do rebuild every single structure right where they were last week, it would expose just how callous and cavalier we would be in putting our first responders in harm’s way yet again. And how long will local, state and federal agencies be able to cope with a continuous Groundhogs Day scenario?
An argument against this logic might be one asking if we should then just give up on rebuilding after a tornado as well. The difference is that a tornado is a short-lived random occurrence covering a relatively small area. Compare them to the unfathomable size of this storm that swept over a massive swath of our country, propelling a mind-boggling amount of water gushing forth from the ocean. In just Hoboken, New Jersey alone, they will need to pump half a billion gallons of water out of their city.
I’d like to believe that I’m overreacting. But I’m listening to Mother Nature, and I hear Her screaming at us to get out of Her way before She comes roaring back.
What we do to prepare for the next time disaster comes calling will reveal whether or not we will have attained that level of lunacy whereby we keep on making the same mistake over and over, hoping for a different result.