Stop Talking About Climate Change!

Why we don't write about Climate Change

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How Cities Are Preparing For Future

As TGEink, the Magazine of the Green Economy, one would think we would be climate change evangelists, but we aren't. Living with nature is not a new problem. Our earth and humankind has been facing an often uneasy alliance forever: Noah built a boat. Today, it just doesn't matter why Harvey and Irma happened, what matters is what we're going to do about it. Even if 2017 were to see the last storms of this century, recovering smart is a better alternative than replacing.

Our World Has Changed

Electricity, a glint in Edison's eye in the mid 19th century, is now woven into every aspect of our lives. The massive growth of our cities has many of us commuting for hours or traveling in inadequate pubic transportation. In the US alone, the water infrastructure leaks 64.3 billion gallons of potable water every day. These are challenges we are facing throughout our country.

To rebuild a city to the specifications of the 19th century is simply not sustainable.

The folly of rebuilding, in the hope that Harvey is a 21st century one-off, is a bet that recent history has shown has poor odds. 

In 1969 -- well before anyone heard of Climate Change -- Ian McHarg, in his book Design with Nature, stressed the importance of our sandy barrier islands (in Florida known as the Florida Keys) in protecting shorelines. He urged a restraint in construction on vulnerable wetlands as a way to protect our futures. Today, homeowners who have been flooded for three years in a row talk about rebuilding, some hope with Federal or State help. This is what Mr. McHarg argued against.

Yet today there is so much human suffering along our southern coasts that the thought of thinking before action seems inhumane at best. Now what is needed is help. But what is also needed is vision.

Within the billions that will spent around Houston, there is a need to start envisioning what we WOULD do, if we knew that another hurricane like Harvey or Katrina were to happen to New York or Philadelphia -- or Miami, Houston or New Orleans. We need to begin to think of the opportunity that billions of dollars could have in designing a future for the next millennia.  Imagine if a new Houston, more resilient, better able to serve it's populous, was to arise from the terrible tragedy of the past few weeks.

Katrina Expenditures
Insurance companies $41.1 billion on 1.7 million individual claims
National Flood Insurance $16.3 billion
FEMA $15 billion public works
FEMA $6.7 billion to people and households
Federal Aid $75 billion emergency relief
Federal Aid $45.5 billion other
Total: $199.6 billion

That is why we don’t talk about climate change. The term ‘climate change’ is distracting. What we need is to talk about is our future, and we all need to work together to get there. We need:

  • Smarter, more efficient energy infrastructure
  • Permeable surfaces that absorb rain
  • Transportation that efficiently moves people out of danger — or to work, school or home
  • Data that finds leaks and technologies that fix them
  • Financing that encourages businesses, investors and Wall Street to invest in clean and efficient water, energy and transportation
  • Public policies that support energy efficiencies
  • Cities along the shore that mandate safe building and land use
  • And so forth and so on. 

What we need is to talk about is our future, and we all need to work together to get there. We need a future where disasters are met with change, not with old answers to new problems.