Natural Disasters and the Common Cause

We have suffered brutal direct hits. Over half of the state of Florida is without power, in the dark. It is too soon to know what the losses are. Houston, America’s fourth largest city, suffered the most extreme rain event in U.S. history. Casualties are mounting; damages are estimated at a staggering $125 billion.

Ash from wildfires in the West is blanketing Seattle; every county in Washington is under state of an emergency. The smoke is felt in the air all the way to the East Coast. Last year was the hottest on record, exceeding the record set the year before that which exceeded the record set the year before that.

Extreme weather is becoming more frequent and more extreme. For climate scientists, this is predictable and predicted. As the Earth warms, the ice caps melt, the oceans grow warmer; more moisture is absorbed in the clouds, the rains become worse and the severe storms more severe.

The Trump administration denies climate science, even seeks to suppress it. Trump’s political appointees are doing their best to ban the very term “climate change” from government reports. They are dismantling agencies that study and report on the changing climate. Ironically, among their biggest allies were Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who banned the phrase “climate change” from state reports, and the Texas Republican Party devoted to pumping every drop of oil that can be found.

Bad storms, record heat and record wildfires won’t alter their denials. But the catastrophes are real. When they occur, even rock-headed reactionaries turn to government for help. The same Texan legislators who voted against aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Mid-Atlantic coast in 2012, lined up to demand aid for their constituents after Harvey. Those who say the government is broke appropriate billions. They look for government to organize the evacuations and warnings, to shelter the vulnerable, to mobilize the cleanup, to invest in the reconstruction.

Whether we agree that humans are a prime cause of climate change or not, surely we can agree to take the actions needed to protect ourselves as much as possible from the coming disasters and to ensure that we are prepared to react to them. We don’t have to agree about the cause of this new extreme weather. We simply have to agree to prepare for it and respond to it.

This isn’t rocket science. We need preventive action to gird against the destructive forces. On our coasts, buildings and infrastructure have to be constructed to be able to withstand extreme storms. In areas that are the most vulnerable and that have suffered repeated calamities, homes and factories should not be rebuilt. We need to strengthen dams and levees, and to protect wetlands that can help diffuse the power of storms. Chemical and nuclear power plants should be built to protect against the risks of natural disasters. The poorest and most vulnerable should not be shunted off to the lowlands most vulnerable to destruction. Response plans at the local, state and national level should be comprehensive and practiced.

Here’s the rub. That can only happen if we empower public officials to take responsible action. It requires good government and adequate resources. The conservative drive to discredit government, to starve it of funds and to dismantle its functions has to make way for a real investment in vital, necessary public action.

This shouldn’t be an afterthought; it should be a priority. Harvey and Irma have demonstrated what the Pentagon already has concluded: Extreme and catastrophic climate events are right now a clear and present danger to our nation’s security. Parts of Florida look like they were carpet-bombed. Surely, we should devote more attention to defending our own shores than we do to policing the world.

Prevention, mitigation, a stronger infrastructure and more sensible zoning are first steps. Eventually — and clearly the time is growing short — we will need a true mobilization on the scale of the effort at the beginning of World War II to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and to stop global warming. Oil company executives warn that this will cripple our economy. In fact, a real green mobilization will, like World War II, create jobs, innovation and new markets. It will revitalize our economy. And if it is done well, it can help rebuild a broad and vibrant middle class.

To get there will take a profound political movement and a sea change in our politics. Yet even as we build for that, surely we can agree to take the steps needed to provide greater protection to our people. That should not be a partisan or an ideological issue. It should be a common cause.

More articles by:

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South