Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After the Storm

Along the East River at  78 Street last night, at abut 8:30 pm, water had crested over the riverside walkways.

 I returned about noon  today to find a much quieter scene. 

On the upper east  and west sides of Manhattan today, there was the amiable, outgoing atmosphere that I associate with a day after a snowstorm in New York City. People step out of their apartments, put on their friendliest faces, and enthusiastically become part of a scene that is much larger then themselves. Downtown and in New Jersey, things are much worse.

Fifty blocks south of me, my friend has no power. Classes at Rutgers-Newark, where I teach, have been cancelled through Friday. Power is out in Newark; one of my students there cut short an e-mail because she wanted to preserve the juice that remained on her computer.

It will be days sorting out this disaster and much longer learning its lessons. But here are two of then.

One, government makes a difference. Comparisons between hurricanes Sandy and Katrina are bound to be inexact, but here in New York we were blessed with effective municipal and state government and a more than competent president. The same cannot be said for the poor people of New Orleans. This is one more proof,  if any was needed, that we cannot leave health, safety and our collective welfare to the free market. Just and effective government is a necessity.

Two, we are in an era when global warming causes violent weather patterns that put us all at risk. In the recent past, natural disasters, activism and independent journalism pushed this issue to the top of the political agenda. Since then, it has all but vanished. Neither the Obama nor the Romney campaigns has had much to say about it. We need to get back to it.

Global warming is not something to be ignored because it is politically inconvenient. Look no further than downtown Manhattan if you want to see its consequences.


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