Asses 'n Alligators: When Natural Disasters and Man-made Disasters Merge

The recent string of unusually massive hurricanes, floods and earthquakes leaves most people mystified and more than a bit scared. Clearly the hurricanes and resultant flooding have been magnified by warming seas which act like jet fuel for a storm. Those seas are warming as global temperatures inexorably rise due to human actions.

A swarm of recent quakes in Oklahoma has been definitively linked to massive drilling and fracking for oil and gas over decades in that state. Mexico’s quakes are largely “natural” in that they are on the Pacific Rim tectonic plate’s “ring of fire” but they are a continuing phenomenon.

The challenge is how to respond effectively and how much national treasure we will have to tap into to restore lives to what they were just one month ago. The question of just where people can live a safe, sustainable life is now upon us—certainly coastal South Florida without a massive series of sea walls looks like a dubious proposition. Houston, too, will have to be recreated as a habitable city.

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and leaves one wondering how many of its 3.5 million US citizens can restore lives without electric power for several months. Just restoring power and rebuilding habitations for so many people will prove an insurmountable obstacle given Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis and the unwillingness of a Republican-run US government to help beyond short-term emergency aid. The adage that in a month or so the news will have segued to covering a new crisis or a newly scary Trump tweet on another subject may well leave Puerto Ricans adrift.

Given all this, we can still join together and help by supporting groups small and large trying to help in all these crises—Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Florida, Texas, Cuba, the small Caribbean states like Dominica, Barbuda, St Barts and others impacted by these disasters.

I recommend Operation USA (www.opusa.org); the United Nations Agencies (Unicef, etc); strong community foundations in Texas and Florida; food banks in Texas and Floroida; experienced local nonprofits in health, shelter and education; and funds set up by Puerto Rico’s governor, Houston’s Mayor and local civic groups.

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