The Wake-Up Call

For many on the East Coast, Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call, on several levels.

For one thing, it made it very clear just where we are most vulnerable: along the coasts, particularly, but also far inland in our electrical grid and in our distribution of food and fuel and the other necessities of life, such as hot water.

It also served to re-open, in the waning days of the Presidential campaign, the much-avoided discussion of climate change. Though there was some scientific debate as to whether the severity, or the unusual path, of the storm was attributable in any way to global warming, there was no doubt that the sea-level rise of about a foot in the last century was an exacerbating factor, especially in the flooding of New York’s subways and tunnels.

One astute observer likened it to raising the floor of the basketball court, without changing the height of the hoops: it just makes it that much more likely that there will be a lot more slam-dunks.

And most scientists agree that we’re already on course to raise it further, by two to six feet or more, depending on the extent to which we continue along our present trajectory, or change course and find a way to begin lowering our greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, it should not be necessary to debate whether these emissions are “causing” climate change, but it’s just one of the political realities of our time that it is, and that many Americans have been lulled to sleep by a well-funded disinformation campaign. Perhaps we need Congressional hearings into the doubts and falsehoods being promoted by organizations like the Heartland Institute, just as these were necessary to expose the lies of the tobacco industry in an earlier era. But it took millions of lung-cancer deaths to launch a major campaign to reduce smoking, and it will likely take a few more hurricanes such as Irene and Sandy to set us on a course to rectify global warming.

In the meantime, part of what we must do is to adapt to the new realities and strengthen our defenses against such disasters — “hardening the infrastructure,” changing our behavior patterns, and being more prepared to cope with catastrophes on a very large scale. These actions can be seen as matter of resiliency, an aspect of sustainability that until now has attracted little attention except from the disaster specialists.

Consequently we’re including sections on several aspects of resilience, and inviting participation from relevant agencies and enterprises to our compendium of relevant and timely information for businesses, communities, and residents in New Jersey.

As with the rest of the site, these pages are intended as a gateway to the services and resources available today, and a discussion of those we will need in the near future. The idea is to make it easier to find out what’s already available, to navigate choices and set priorities, and identify challenges and solutions that are practical and profitable.

If you have some of these solutions and want them listed here, use our contact form or leave us a comment below.

We reserve the right to edit or reject comments that are misleading, irrelevant, or inappropriate, but we welcome participation from all sectors — government, business, and nonprofits — providing resources and solutions to local residents and communities.

What you’ll find here, as we note elsewhere, is a comprehensive approach to real-world problems and not just an archive of abstract policy discussions.

  • If you want answers from public officials to specific questions, we offer our “online 311” service; we can’t guarantee that you’ll get answers, but we’ll try to direct your queries to those who should be responding to them.

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