Sandy — what an innocuous name. It’s a fitting nomenclature for the lead in the movie Grease — a lily-white, sweet virginal girl. It’s a bubble-gum teenager’s name. I can hear the song in a loop circling around my brain. This line seems to be applicable: “Sandy, my darling, you hurt me real bad; I sit, I wonder why-yi-yi-yi….oh Sandy.”
Years ago we didn’t personify storms, we called them what they were. Names for storms referenced their date, location and intensity — the Great Hurricane of 1722, the Galveston Storm of 1900, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and the Big Blow of 1913. For hundreds of years hurricanes in the Caribbean were named after saints. At least naming a storm after a saint recognizes the mystical other-worldliness of the event, but Sandy?
If we give a human name to a storm, it changes the way we view it. One headline read: “Sandy takes aim at NYC.” Did Sandy take aim, like a gunman let loose in the mall with a specific target in sight? Another headline read: “Sandy beats New Yorkers into submission.” Did Sandy do that on purpose? Is the storm our enemy or a natural occurrence — complicated, awesome and frightening because it’s random.
The language is meant to scare. The non-stop reporting, always fueled by a ratings war, is sensational and incendiary. The phrase “another victim of Sandy” is used, when more accurately the phrase should be “another (person, store, home) was severely affected by Sandy”
Often we are somnambulant, unaware of how the media’s use of language manipulates us. We are a society obsessed with placing blame, smoking out the culprits, and punishing them accordingly.
Most of the discourse about climate change has been about finding blame. Did humans cause this, are we at fault? To this day scientists have not definitively decided. There are many factors that contribute to each severe weather episode. The oceans are warmer, providing more moisture fueling more storms. The Earth’s atmosphere has also become warmer — the air retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms.
What we do know for sure is we have recently endured severe weather episodes in the region. The events were unusual and much more frequent than in previous years. Climate change is a reality that has been folded into our histories, and hopefully will inform scientists and thinkers to create solutions.
By the time this article is published, we will know who the next president is. Sandy, the great storm of 2012, will have passed. But today, Nov, 2, no doubt the discussions behind closed doors are about which candidate will benefit most from the natural disaster.
Governor Chris Christie, a Republican from New Jersey, and President Obama have become linked by a common cause few would have predicted possible, if not for the hurricane. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Obama for re-election Thursday, changing his resolve not to endorse either candidate. “We need leadership from the White House — and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption — including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks,” the mayor stated.
The national polls, before the storm, indicated the race was a tie. The prevailing opinion today is the storm benefitted the Obama campaign. However, by Election Day whatever gains might revert back.
Since the public is scared, the solution is complex and it will take a great deal of time to implement. It is likely that after the election climate change will go back on the back burner where it came from — until the next catastrophe.
Instead of placing blame for climate change, we need to find the causes. It is becoming clear that personal sacrifice will be required to meet the needs of a changing world. In some ways, we are children who want to stay ignorant, expecting our surrogate parents, the politicians in power, to take care of us and have our best interests at heart. A hard look must be taken at our culture, media and the cherished notions we hold about America that keep us frightened into unconsciousness. We need to reclaim our personal authority no matter who is president, make our voices known and our demands heard for the sake of our children and grandchildren.