Even though most urbanites know that full moons affect tides, hurricane Sandy caught a lot of people off guard. There were numerous other factors that made it a "freak" storm, but all of that, in sum, has served as a wake-up call regarding climate change, global warming, or "climate revolt," as Doug George-Kanentiio, an Akwesasne Mohawk, calls the drastically different weather patterns we started experiencing some years ago.
On the one hand, I feel for those who lost homes, cars, all of their belongings . . . On the other hand, those who live near or directly facing the ocean or the coast were already taking their chances, pushing their scenic luck.
On the one hand, it was an adjustment for this writer to personally go without electricity for 6 days (virtually no computer time researching and writing), though there was hot water, and evening cooking on the gas-stove by match-strike, then candle and flashlight to guide, and good ol' pen and journal. On the other hand, that was nothing compared with friends and fellow citizens who went two weeks without electricity, hot water, stove, heat... those who lost homes, cars, all of their belongings . . . some people lost their lives . . .
On the one hand, many prayers went out for those who are still struggling without power, etc. for two weeks or more. On the other hand, many people in the USE (United States Empire) and worldwide live like that regularly... typically minorities which includes the very poor, which includes many of the Native/Indigenous Peoples.
Thus, while clamoring for their power back on, it would behoove people to connect some dots and realize that the government and energy-corporation corruption mindset that doesn't give a whit (to say it politely, and more on this later) about cutting grid corners so as to boost some paychecks is akin to the mindset of those responsible for ongoing oppression of African Americans (who have survived enforced relocation and slavery), and of the Native Peoples (who have survived genocide). As Russell Means, an Oglala Lakota who recently passed into spirit form, said a few years ago: "Welcome to the reservation."
In the early to mid 1990s I was fortunate to visit Walpi - First Mesa, a Hopi village, where at that time, some, by choice, had no electricity, while others did. It's important to realize that now is not the 19th century and many Natives live on and are used to the grid. While visiting a Shinnecock store a few weeks post-hurricane, a woman living on the reservation told me a similar storyline as other Long Islanders – the challenges of being without power for days.
It's also important to realize that some Native/Indigenous Peoples in North, Central, and South America (look up the Kogi), Buddhist hermit Masters of China's Zhongnan mountains (see the film "Amongst White Clouds"), and rebel American off-the-gridders (to name a few) purposely choose to live off-the-grid, for spiritual and/or financial reasons; some do this to maintain a pure connection with The Real Powers That Be. Since finite resources are, you guessed it, finite, each of us could at least consider how to be off-the-grid, even if only in some small fashion -- lighting a candle instead of burning a bulb.
On the one hand, it is good that more people are starting to listen to and respect the powers of Wind, Water, and Earth. On the other hand, why are Indigenous Peoples not consulted more for how to deal with "climate revolt"? Why are the Indigenous worldwide, who have an innate Earth-wisdom, not being included more in the emerging scientific discussions of how to build levees, storm surge barriers, floating houses?
Shaky but viable foundations
That's right, an idea that has been floated around is, floating homes, also amphibious houses that could serve as wave diffusers in the water near Battery Park, at the base of Manhattan.1 In the 1960s, Bucky Fuller designed a prototype for a floating city called Triton. How many people are familiar with his work? How much has been done to encourage such innovations?2 Other more recent examples: "Rotterdam began to work on its storm barriers after more than 1,800 people died in a 1953 flood. (The system of dikes, dams, and storm surge barriers is now a major tourist attraction.) St. Petersburg, Russia, last year completed a 15-mile sea surge barrier across the Gulf of Finland. Begun in 1978, it is designed to protect the city from tidal surges up to 16 feet. Venice is building its own storm surge barriers, and London has a North Sea storm barrier. Examples of storm surge barriers already exist just north of New York City, where they protect the cities of Providence, R.I.; Stamford, Conn.; and New Bedford, Mass. As Sandy's tidal surge increased, Providence shut the gates on its 3,000-foot long Fox Point Hurricane Barrier. The barrier, said a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman, "performed flawlessly."3 And, Cuba's wind farms made it through the hurricane without "any major damage."4
Not your everyday street vendors
On the one hand, for the most part NYC post-storm relief efforts have been compassionate and noble, "Beginning immediately after Hurricane Sandy, the Mayor's Office and NYC Service coordinated partnerships with non-profit organizations such as the United Way of NYC/Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Harlem Children's Zone, Catholic Charities, NY Cares, and the Human Services Council and deployed an average of 700 daily volunteers to canvas affected areas of the Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. The volunteers reached approximately 24,606 units with food, water and blankets." And, ". in the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy, when the City coordinated a massive relief effort to targeted zones through NYC Service, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and partnerships with nonprofits to distribute more than 2 million meals, more than 660,000 bottles of water, more than 170,000 blankets and 15,000 space heaters. After the initial effort, City medical teams canvassed more than 65,000 high-rise apartment units in the Rockaways, Coney Island and Red Hook, making contact with more than 42,000 people, providing food and/or water to more than 1,700, medical assessments and prescriptions for 335 and evacuating 44 people for medical reasons."5
On the other hand, storm-readiness does not read as generously. In his article "In advance of hurricane Sandy, New York warned on vulnerable infrastructure," Dan Brennan quotes the US Global Change Research Program: "The number of [weather-related electric grid] incidents caused by extreme weather has increased tenfold since 1992," though in his words, "...utilities have cut workforces and under-funded investment..." Brennan notes that, "In 2011 [Columbia University scientist Klaus] Jacob and a team of researchers completed the most comprehensive assessment of climate change vulnerabilities in New York City. ClimAID, as it was known, included a case study that modeled the impacts of a storm surge very similar to Sandy."6
From a November 2011 article,"...the 600-page "ClimAID" report, written by scientists from Cornell University, Columbia University, and the City University of New York, says New Yorkers should begin preparing for hotter summers, snowier winters, severe floods, and a range of other effects on the environment, communities, and human health. The report warns that, under global warming conditions, Irene-like storms of the future could put a third of New York City streets under water and flood many of the tunnels leading into Manhattan in less than an hour."7
And back to the other hand:
"PlaNYC is an effort released by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007...PlaNYC specifically targets ten areas of interest: Housing and Neighborhoods; Parks and Public Spaces; Brownfields; Waterways; Water Supply; Transportation; Energy; Air Quality; Solid Waste; Climate Change... Over 97% of the 127 initiatives in PlaNYC were launched within one-year of its release and almost two-thirds of its 2009 milestones were achieved or mostly achieved. The plan was updated in 2011and has been expanded to 132 initiatives and more than 400 specific milestones for December 31, 2013."8
Can anyone hear the sound of one hand clapping?
No Man's Land
While praising ConEd for "significant progress restoring power to the city. Mayor Bloomberg criticized Long Island Power Authority at a press conference, saying the company had "not acted aggressively enough" in their response to restoring power to the Rockaways."9
LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) handles power for Long Island, and also the Rockaways and Queens, though they are officially NYC territory... though not under Bloomberg's energy jurisdiction. In this area the situation seems as tangled as a bunch of high voltage wires.
From a November 18, 2012 article, "Robert F Kennedy Jr brought supplies and badly-needed attention to a public housing project in the Rockaways, Queens, that still doesn't have power or heat after Hurricane Sandy."10
In his article "Tropical Storm Sandy: Natural or Political Disaster?" James Petras notes: "At least 10 days before the storm hit the Eastern coast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was informed of its trajectory and likely impact. Yet nothing was done to mobilize temporary housing and gasoline reserves.. Yet millions of dollars flow daily to NATO proxies in Libya, Somalia and Syria." Petras also mentions that "The Stock Market was up and running in two days."11
To explore further what NYC and Long Island have been and are doing regarding preparedness for The Real Powers That Be -- Wind, Water, and Earth -- see "New York Panel on Climate Change," "Climate Change Adaptation Task," and "Stony Brook Storm Surge Research Group."12
That people were being assisted post-storm, yet infrastructure innovations languish reminds of the Chinese proverb: "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime."
National Grid "maintains LIPAs transmission and distribution system."13
National Grid is a London-headquartered multinational electricity and gas utility company. In the Northeast they services parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.14
According to Newsday, Long Island's primary local news source: "The Long Island Power Authority's agonizingly slow response to Sandy came after warnings as far back as 2006 that the utility was unprepared to handle a major storm, failed to upgrade antiquated technology, neglected vital maintenance and regularly underbudgeted for storm response."15
From a Newsday editorial: "There was no comprehensive disaster plan in place, one that truly provided for coordination with local governments, to most efficiently use the assistance. ... Wasted money, inefficiency, poor communication, poor planning and problems brought on by politics: That's LIPA in a nutshell."16
Credit must be given though to the LIPA workers who helped with repairs for about 900,000 customers.
One feel-good TV news story told of residents in Long Island's Nassau County being given pet food, for their pets, of course.
On the one hand, "The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city's subway, bus and commuter train services, also received high marks for what was seen as the Herculean feat of emptying flooded tunnels and subway stations and bringing mass transit back on line within a week of the storm."
On the other hand, "People were less impressed by the response by utility companies, which include Con Edison and the Long Island Power Authority. More than half of city voters said the companies, which left millions of residents without power for weeks after the storm, had done a "not so good" or "poor" job.
"New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, got high marks from 85 percent of voters. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, was rated as having done an "excellent" or "good" job by 75 percent of voters."17
Some may have already known, but in the weeks after the storm, myself and others have learned more than ever before how the system works, or doesn't. Seems that weather, Mother Nature, or however you want to call it serves the truth, in that it blew the cover on the weaknesses of the infrastructure system. As the saying and the losses from the storm show, the truth sometimes hurts.
Until other forms of energy and self-sufficiency are more greatly encouraged (e.g. Michael Reynolds and Earthship Biotecture or the documentary "Garbage Warrior"), the energy infrastructure will continue to spin its wheels in the mud.
The biggest infrastructure and system issues are: sustainable energy sources; better mass transit (especially on Long Island), the inhumane expenditures of military, bailouts, and national security state surveillance gadgets. Meanwhile tons of sunlight reaches houses and wind blows freely, but as far as this citizen knows, rebates for going solar still do not make it affordable to the masses and wind turbines do not go over well with local permits. Another form of grid-lock!
In his wonderful book No Word for Time: The Way of the Algonquin People, Evan T. Pritchard writes: "Even among hikers and climbers from big cities, you sense a change in consciousness; once they get out on the slopes, they start taking each other seriously. Sincerity becomes sacred again. Put them in a storm together and they become regular Algonquins, using speech to strengthen one another's spirit, praying in humility to the forces of nature, thinking with care about their actions and each other, and walking with purpose."
This rang true as, in this writer's neighborhood in the weeks after the storm hit, neighbors introduced themselves to neighbors on the streets, and, while shopping at local stores the popular mantras were, "Got power?" Then later, "Did you get through the storm OK?
What's interesting about "infrastructure," one of the most popular words post hurricane full moon Sandy, is that its original usage, according to the dictionary, had to do with the "military installations of a country." And THAT gets to the gist of the conflict: the USE, with its 700 to 1000-plus global military bases continues to lavishly spend money abroad, while the Homeland (as they like to call it) continues to struggle with its aging infrastructure. To paraphrase Russell Means, welcome to the infrastructure, welcome to the military installations that run side-by-side with fast-food, big-box, strip-malls (that sell lots of clothes), and welcome to anyone out there working to pay the . . . utility bills!! A Newsday article mentioned LIPA stating that, to be truly hurricane-storm ready would mean customer's bills going up 60-70%; generator sales must be booming.
Long Island energy grid issues are similar to those in an area northeast of Boston, according to a friend of mine, which seems to indicate that the infrastructure structure is not problematic by locale, rather by management, or lack thereof. Many have noted that revamping energy/utilities would both put people to work AND help solve the crises and protect Mother Earth and the her environs. This is the proverbial
feeding two birds with one seed. Van Jones explains how simple this could be in his book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.
Prophecy and Prayer
What came to my mind during post-storm candle-lit evenings is the prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor which, in simplistic terms, is about the blending of heart and Indigenous wisdoms & head and technological know-how or science. John Perkins explains, in his book Confessions of an Economic Hitman:
"It states that back in the mists of history, human societies divided and took different paths: that of the condor (representing the heart, intuitive and mystical) and that of the eagle (representing the brain, rational and material). In the 1490's, the prophecy said, the two paths would converge and the eagle would drive the condor to the verge of extinction. Then, five hundred years later, in the 1990's a new epoch would begin, one in which the condor and the eagle will have the opportunity to reunite and fly
together in the same sky, along the same path. If the condor and eagle accept this opportunity, they will create a most remarkable offspring, unlike any seen before."18
Some of my prayers are for more people from various backgrounds working together; that Nature have as much of a voice as government agencies and utilities companies (see: "Bolivia enacts Law of Mother Earth and GMO ban" ); - that people can do whatever they like to make their lives more self-sufficient, instead of having to jump through bureaucratic regulation hoops that have restricted people to being stuck on the monopolistic utility grid; and that governments/utilities-corporations specifically work to serve the People, or at least the customer.
When each hand knows what the other is doing -- whether by flickering candlelight, quivering electric bulb, whirring wind turbines, or noiseless energy-saver -- only then will we hear the sound of one-hand clapping to the sight of two birds flying as one.
- "How Dutch innovations could prevent Sandy-type floods in New York" and - Dutchi
- Triton - Floating Communities - "Dutch build floating homes in Amsterdam"
- What New York Can Do to Protect Itself From Future Storms"
- "Cuban wind farms survive Hurricane Sandy"
- Government of New York
- "In advance of hurricane Sandy, New York warned on vulnerable
- "ClimAID science report: New York state must prepare for climate change
- PlaNYC and another - PlaNYC
- "Bloomberg Criticizes LIPA for Response in Rockaway"
- "Biden comforts residents of destroyed New Jersey shore"
- ""Tropical Storm Sandy: Natural or Political Disaster?"
- "New York Panel on Climate Change"
"Climate Change Adaptation Task."
"Stony Brook Storm Surge Research Group"
- National Grid
- "Why LIPA Failed
- "Editorial: Pull the plug on LIPA"
- "New Yorkers give NJ's Christie highest marks for storm response"
- The Prohecy of the Condor and the Eagle"
READ MORE OF MANKH'S POEMS AND ESSAYS ON AXIS OF LOGIC
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. He edited and published the book, The (Un)Occupy Movement: Autonomy of Consciousness, Practical Solutions, Human Equality, and hosts an audio show "Between the Lines: listening to literature online."
You can contact him via his literary website.