The Storms: Death and Destruction, Help, Hope and Recovery

While counts of the toll the two storms that hit the northeast in recent weeks continue toward a final tally, people of the area busy themselves donating to others still in need, waiting in gas lines, resuming (or trying) semblances of normal in their work and personal lives, while others wait for electricity and struggle to stay warm. 400,865 homes in the eastern U.S. remain without power as of yesterday.  The least fortunate of us trudge the long uphill road of grieving lost loved ones. For those, the pain will last long past the clean up crews and news media. For those, the recovery never really ends. The death toll of victims in the U.S. has reached 120. At last count, it was close to 70 victims in the Caribbean, hitting Haiti (52 fatalities) the hardest.

Flashes of hope of the basic compassion of humanity are present in the vast relief efforts underway. From local long-standing businesses such as Two Boots Brooklyn, organizing food and clothing drives, to the new and innovative Mealku, making sure those who have lost much are receiving home cooked meals. And of course there are so many others lending a hand and organizing volunteers: Red Cross, NYC Mayors office, New York Cares, Congregation Beth Elohim, Occupy Sandy, the Humane Society (leading pet search and rescue efforts), Staten Island Recovers, and of course The Salvation Army. If you are donating, please remember the victims in Haiti, whose suffering is all that much greater given its extremely impoverished state and particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters and global warming. Please consider contributing to groups such as Direct Relief and International Medical Corps and Americares.

Most everyone I know is in some way in the trenches, whether by helping a family member or hard hit local business (like Rocky Sullivan’s in Red Hook – my friend, part owner, was there with a pump before realizing the task ahead was too great — he was able to keep himself safe but the bar/restaurant itself has suffered serious damage). (Please check out this NYT blog post if your small business was affected by the storm).  Others are rolling up their sleeves and coming from our of state to see what help still needs to be done. At Greenwood Cemetery, they’re busy removing the 150 trees that were destroyed during the storm, and restoring many broken monuments. Donations for that restoration are being accepted online.

Please let us know of other disaster relief efforts you are supporting, what people can do to help, and any useful links you may have. In the wake of so much destruction, the helping hands of others is the real source of recovery.

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Who’s Watching out for the Environment? Not Congress.

Who’s watching out for the environment?  Apparently, not our elected officials.  Courtesy of Environmental Defense Action Fund, last year saw the following assaults on the environment:

The U.S. House of Representatives voted seven times to dismantle the Clean Air Act…

There were 28 votes to weaken the Clean Water Act….

The House voted 191 times on bills or amendments to undermine pour health and environmental standards….

There were 84 votes to block actionstaht prevent pollution, and 114 votes targeting the EPA (the only federal agency that can take action on global warming).

Last year alone, Congress accepted over $40 million from the power industry lobby, and 22% of all votes taken in the House last year were to undermine environmental protections, roll back environmental laws and endanger public healthy.

Guess the lobbyists got their money’s worth.

Guess we have to do more.

Go to the link above.  If you can, make a donation.  If you can’t, or if you do, contact your legislators, and let them know that this year, you’re watching them.

What the Daffodil?

Before I left for work this morning, I turned away when I caught a surprising splash of bright orange-yellow in the corners of my yard. I knew what it meant, but didn’t want to look. Last year, I watched them day after day. I willed them to spread their graceful long stems into arabesque, and don the season’s latest.

It’s been a hellish week, only two days in. The work day was long but not as unbearable as I thought it might be, after staying up way past my bedtime to get all my other work done. I logged about 1.2 hours on my sleep machine. As irony is iron clad, right around quitting time today, I had a fourth or fifth or sixth wind, and kept plugging along. The last colleague on my floor bid me good-night after transforming from stuffy Wall Street attire to a tight white t-shirt and jeans that crinkled in all the right places (“dinner date” was the quick explanation for the superhero-style switch). Seeing as this colleague is not my persuasion, not my partner, and notably older, the admiration was an innocent one … a fleeting thought, really, that I could stand to exercise more than I do, and there’s hope it would pay off. I kept at the grind till my phone rang moments later. It was my coworker, calling to tell me the elevators weren’t working and the ground floor was flooded with firefighters. I’m sure the words weren’t quite that, but that’s what I heard as I grabbed the items off my desk, mentally kicking myself for not wearing sensible (or even all that fashionable) shoes, and saw my rare burst of dedication go up in imagined flames. I got the to ground floor on the one elevator that was working, and there were about two firefighters for every several people. The lobby was mostly empty. Smart people had left to enjoy the rare weather.

After work, I went to the wine store to buy a celebratory bottle of something with a touch of fizz to celebrate finishing a brief in what has been a long painful litigation, and to (maybe?) celebrate this uncharacteristically balmy weather. The clerk in my favorite bottle store in Park Slope joked that he has no problem with global warming. “I’m thinking about spraying some aerosol cans in the air,” he said with a cajoled glee. I (road weary and fully obliterated by the abhorent hours I’ve been keeping), chimed in “in honor of the weather.” He corrected me, “to keep it coming.”

“Bring it on, global warming.”

I ha-ha’d, grabbed my bottles (I don’t go often, so I stocked up on two), and left. Walking down the block to my house, I felt like a bit part in the first twenty minutes of a seventies sci-fi made-for-tv movie. I couldn’t help but stare near slack jawed at the flowers in full bloom in the little plots of plants they put in a few years ago in front of the apartment complex at 40. By the time I hit 60, I had to stop and ask the Chinese man who was crouched on his feet and working furiously with his hands what it was he was planting. I’ve been beyond impressed with how various plants pop up in that well (but not fussily) manicured front yard, and are whisked away to some unknown outpost, while a vast variety of new ones quickly replace them throughout the growing season. He didn’t understand my question, or was too busy to engage. He worked with such intention, though I couldn’t determine its method. I wondered if there were some secret he had that I did not know but should want (e.g., get the plants in the ground quickly early in the season, lull and lollygag for warmer weather plantings). He did not pay serious attention to me until I asked him “too cold?,” and pointed to the plants in his hands, wondering whether there’s still the risk of a cold spell wiping them out. He pointed to the plants that were already in the ground, and have been there all year long, just waiting for new neighbors to join them. He pointed to a hosta-like plant with sturdier leaves and said, “No.” “These strong.” “Ooooh, okay,” I said as if I’d just learned something but wondered to myself what all he knew and was not saying. I carried on my breezy but slightly paranoid way.

Around 80, I almost stopped dead in my tracks. The tree that usually does not show its bloom till mid April (at an earliest) had magically transformed in the hours I sat behind my cold and sturdy desk, face to face with the eight hour glow of my screen, from a naked branched lady in a dressing room, to a gently clad bride, waiting for the first dance. So young. These things can destroy them, you know (the whispers of the sturdy old gals down at 60 floated our way).

Then I really caught myself in the midst of this bad movie, shook it off, skipped on down to my own yard, knowing what I had to face. There they were, just as I’d left them this morning, but a touch taller, more definite, more mature, more determined that Mother Nature had their dance card. The little lady daffodils, so eager to make their long awaited entrance, could wait no more.

Kids these days. They don’t know that it pays to be fashionably late.

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Hey Discovery Channel: AIR OUR MELTING PLANET!

Discovery Channel Doesn’t Want to Air Our Melting Planet: Sign the Petition to See the Horror Show

Go to Change.org to sign the petition.
Why This Is Important

The Discovery Channel has chosen not to air the full final episode of the much anticipated Frozen Planet series, written and produced by the same folks that brought us Blue Planet and Planet Earth, two staggeringly beautiful documentary series on the marvel that is our planet. The subject of the final series is global warming and climate change, and reflects on some effects of human impact on the natural world.

My friend David Baillie of WildCat Films, who worked as a cameraman on Frozen Planet, told me: “Over a 5 year period, I made 5 trips to Antarctica and one to the Arctic. In every location we saw and filmed clear evidence of retreating glaciers, disappearing permanent ice sheets and atypical weather patterns. We also had the privilege of working alongside scientists who now have years of incontrovertible evidence of a growing and catastrophic warming at both poles. Many of these scientists were funded by the US National Science Foundation so it seems perverse that Discovery is effectively censoring scientific research funded by the U.S. taxpayer.”

Discovery Channel prides itself on revealing the mysteries and unseen worlds of our planet. The Climate Change episode has the potential to move a lot of people, from one of the leading nations in global emissions, towards greater stewardship of this precious earth. This move acts in defiance of Discovery Channel’s original aims, which was to inspire the public about the world around them. The American public has a right to be inspired.

Please air the final episode of the Frozen Planet series.

Why People Are Signing
  • 6 days ago
    2 people like this reason

    You made it, show it. We can take it!

  • about 2 hours ago

    the truth from empirical data regarding climate change should not be censored, rather, highlighted!

  • about 2 hours ago

    We count on Discovery Channel to tell the truth and show the beauty of our wonderful world. People need to know the extent of the troubles we face in order to find solutions. Don’t let your U.S. audience down, please!

  • about 1 hour ago

    Please, let us see ALL the good work that’s been done!

  • about 1 hour ago

    To keep the final episode off the air is wholly dishonest. If you stand by your work you have nothing to fear from critics, and you will advance the debate all around.

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Comments Welcome: First Memory of Global Warming

In response to my last post, I received some wonderful comments about things other people have been observing and hearing about, including the very scary news about the invasion of hairy scary ants, some suggestions about how to become more self-sufficient and a recommendation we incorporate barter back into our economy, and a first-hand account of global warming at work as a friend watching glaciers calve away and a visit to the same spot 21 years later revealed nothing but a big slush puddle.

Susan Reiners, the person providing the eyewitness account of her first realization of the reality of global warming made me ask the same question of myself — when did it become a reality for me?  I went to a community college straight out of high school.  Around 1990, a woman came to speak who was an expert at the time on environmental issues.  She described how, in her own household, she and her family would separate their trash into recyclable lots.  There were other recommendations she had for how to combat the destruction of the environment, including driving less, walking/biking more, etc.  These other notions seemed more reasonable to me.  The thought that, as she suggested, one day everyone in America would be separating their garbage seemed like something out of a sci-fi movie to me.  Although I didn’t think that would happen, I remember her presenting sufficient evidence that the environment was being very seriously harmed.  Although I can’t say it was my first time being aware of the truth about global warming, it was the first time that I got that sinking feeling in my gut that is now so common . . . it’s the one I’ve been feeling more and more when I think about the damage that’s been done and is being done to the earth, and the frightening repercussions.  It’s the one I get when I think about the very real possibility of having to fight to find potable water in my old age.  I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling.

On that feel-good note, just wondering when was the first time you remember being aware of the reality of global warming?  Go ahead … gimme the dirt.

I Got Globally Warmed

And I am not alone.

Victims (not quite casualties but close): hostas and carrots and maybe the cukes too but the latter did produce. They just slowed down during and after the wicked heatwave we had.

So I made it to The Big Easy. But my troubles are not all at an end, my friend. I don’t like what I’m hearing. I met a gardener from Oklahoma who said they’ve been without rain for about two months. Said she went away for two days and came back to find her petunias and other flowers all wilted or dead. Another friend outside Chicago put as her Facebook status that someone had murdered her cilantro (I think that same killer was on the loose in my herb garden). When I was talking to a fellow reveler in Carmel, IN a couple weeks ago, she had to stop mid-sentence because it started to rain, something they hadn’t seen in many weeks (may also have been a couple months). She and her father commented that a lot of people would be stating out their windows at that moment. All other folks, too, across the country have been telling me their global warming woes. Hope about you?

QUESTION: what’s your take on this wacky weather? Are we getting globally warmed? What does your garden have to say about it? Are you changing your approach in response? Will this change what you do next year? How so?

Go ahead … Gimme the dirt!