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30 Oct 13 20:15

In her hit song, "Firework," Katy Perry sings the lyric, "After a hurricane, comes a rainbow." Sorry, Katy, but if there's one thing I've learned in the last year since Hurricane Sandy roared ashore, effectively dismantling my home state, and in particular, my much-beloved Jersey Shore, it's that rainbows, symbols for happiness and serenity, don't follow hurricanes. Instead, it's a roller coaster of emotions that follow, ranging from deep despondence to unending hope and pride. You realize that home is so much more than a building, but rather a community, and it's devastating to see a community so drastically changed. You realize that the worst brings out the best in people, and that kindness and the human spirit run deeper than you can ever imagine.

Even the positive emotions are those we never wish to feel again, because if we do, we know we're on yet another road back. But while it's painful to reflect on these events, we should always hold onto and remember how we felt in the immediate aftermath of and recovery from a natural disaster. We must remember them because it is these emotions that we need to tap into when looking at how to best cope with climate change. We can look at costs, statistics, numbers and probabilities, but those don't tell the whole story. They don't tell you how emotionally draining it is to have only a single photo of your home in the days and weeks after a storm, and have that photo taken by an aircraft from thousands of feet up in the air. They don't tell you how heartbreaking it is to hear from friends that only their foundations, or worse, nothing, remain.

I personally never want to feel the way I did one year ago, and nor would I wish it upon anyone else. This is why we must take steps to prepare for, mitigate and adapt to the potential impacts of climate change. If we don't, we're going to be riding emotional roller coasters, as opposed to boardwalk roller coasters, much more frequently than we should.

Category: Climate/natural disasters: Climate change, Floods/storms, Resilience

Location: Ocean Beach, Lavallette, NJ

1 Comment

Alicia Montoya - 1 Nov 2013, 6:17 a.m.

Thanks for this heartfelt post, Megan. And I think you put your finger right on it: costs, statistics, probabilities don't actually mean anything. They're too abstract, too distant, too... cold. Maybe this is why despite report after report, we continue to ignore measures we should have taken long ago to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

Just watched this TED Talk on the power of homes and communities which reminded me of your post. It explores why the babushkas of Chernobyl refuse to leave their motherland. But what struck me the most? Those grannies are outliving their exiled counterparts. So the talk raises questions about the relative nature of risk, the transformative relation to "home", and the amazing effect personal agency and self-determination can have on health.

We are naturally tough as nails (some prefer to use the word resilient) and will fight long and hard for our communities (as you're doing for your beloved coast, Megan). But we can't wait until a Sandy destroys every community to react. And even when disaster strikes, we tend to forget after a few years, a couple of generations tops for the big catastrophes in life.

So how do we make climate part of the collective psyche? How can we get it into our stubborn heads that this world is our community and we won't get a second try when this one is done? Why are communities so narrowly defined? How do we make "them" "us"?

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