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Frankenstorms, Climate Change Denial and the Consequences of Neoliberalism

New York Was Warned

by RITT GOLDSTEIN

“Oh Great Lord of the Almighty Dollar”, the panicked voice cried out, its Wall Street owner realizing he was indeed in truly deep-water, “how could you have forsaken your devoted and faithful?” But though this poor soul lifted entreaty after entreaty to what had become his sacred deities — those of Narcissism, Hubris and Greed — reality swept in like the hurricane it was, flooding Wall Street and much around it.

The Ancients knew what happens when one worships false gods, and today many are hopefully learning a lesson long forgotten, forgotten even though the biblical proportions of Sandy’s flooding were predicted a year earlier.

In 2011, a report by New York State upon the impact of climate change had described the potential for the flooding news media have now allowed the world to witness. New York was warned, and even warned again just this September.

In September, an article in The New York Times — ‘New York Is Lagging as Seas and Risks Rise, Critics Warn’ – contained comments by Prof. Klaus Jacob, lead author of the transportation section of the state study, Jacob quoted as observing that if the storm surge from Hurricane Irene had been about a foot higher, “subway tunnels would have flooded, segments of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive and roads along the Hudson River would have turned into rivers, and sections of the commuter rail system would have been impassable or bereft of power”.

Hmmm, it seems Prof. Jacob had the right idea, especially as he went on to note that some of New York City’s (NYC) under-river subway tunnels “would have been unusable for nearly a month, or longer, at an economic loss of about $55 billion”. The study outlined NYC needed to invest between ten and twenty billion to avoid such calamities; though, it didn’t. Not a good decision.

I’ll add that The Times pointedly quoted Jacob as observing he was “disappointed that the political process hasn’t recognized that we’re playing Russian roulette.”

Last year, the activists of Occupy Wall Street filled New York’s financial centre; this year, Mother Nature decided to personally protest. Russian roulette is a dangerous game.
Bloomberg News has reported New York’s subways may indeed “take weeks of work and tens of billions of dollars” to return to full service, and while “limited” subway service has resumed, there’s no date for reopening service using the cross-river tunnels. Then, there’s electric power, not to mention that Manhattan’s electricity is distributed underground, an underground that’s speculated to need days to dry.

I won’t add anything regarding the corrosive effects which the seawater flooding New York will have on electrical equipment. And I certainly won’t dwell upon the ‘human costs’.

Neoliberalism, its Church of the Almighty Dollar, didn’t care about Global Warming – it’s money and business that are important! And so, there’s perhaps a ‘silver lining’ to the money and business ‘Frankenstorm’ so nastily stole, but only if this latest wake-up call isn’t denied, the capacity for denial seeming to be the favorite renewable resource of far too many.

I was born and raised in New York City, and there are times I indeed miss it. I used to fish in Breezy Point, the area where over a hundred homes burnt, and once — as a young man — even worked on Wall Street. Those places people are reading about – they used to be my home. But perhaps more than climate changes, perhaps people change too, and perhaps sometimes in a way that’s as destructive as Sandy has proven.

The uncaring and insatiable greed of some, the wanton destruction across so many levels of society that it’s caused – so much of what was best has been taken from us. Those who cynically (and often selfishly) have dismissed the effects of Global Warming, may well yet succeed in destroying what’s left, the fact that neither Obama nor Romney addressed the issue in debate speaking volumes.

According to an October poll by Pew Research, 85% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans believe in Global Warming. As for the rest, the capacity for denial appears indeed a favorite renewable resource, but, an increasingly and dearly expensive one.

As the very values that defined America changed, as Neoliberalism flourished, many of us have argued the effects of this are as devastating as Sandy’s — though clearly not as easily seen — but what should be evident is what can happen if one is worshiping the wrong things, New York’s devastation well highlighting what comes of it.

Ritt Goldstein is an American investigative political journalist living in Sweden. His work has appeared fairly widely, including in America’s Christian Science Monitor, Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, Spain’s El Mundo, Austria’s Wiener Zeitung, Hong Kong’s Asia Times, and a number of other global media outlets.