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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/28/12

Sandy a Wake up Call

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*Sandy: A Wake Up Call to the People of the New Jersey/New York City ** Bioregion***

*By Andrew Willner, Sustainability Solutions***

* ***

For decades scientists warned us: climate change was worsening; seas rising; super storms coming. But our leaders Congress, the President, state and local officials dodged the issue. They called for studies; they got reports, all of which didn't repel one inch of Sandy's storm surge.And the corporate media was missing in action.

Meanwhile, politicians and regulators continue making backroom deals with developers, filling in wetlands, allowing condos to be built in floodplains, and high rises to go up right down to the waterline. When Hurricane Irene came last year as a warning shot, nothing got done. It was "Business As Usual": lip service; incompetence?

In the decades wasted, climate change grew teeth: The atmosphere gained water vapor, the Atlantic Ocean rose and got hotter, spawning more powerful storms. The Arctic melted, altered the jet stream, and likely blocked normal weather patterns, causing Sandy to come ashore rather than turning out to sea all part of "The New Normal."

And it will get worse. The next Sandy will be bigger, more deadly. Studies show clearly that the seas off New Jersey and New York continue rising and warming research also ignored by officials and the media.

Estimates say Sandy's costs could top $70 billion. But that's nothing compared to the deaths caused by the storm; the suffering of 8 million without power; tens of thousands left homeless; seniors, the sick and children forced into evacuation centers. Compare that $50 billion price tag now with the more modest $10-15 billion to construct wetlands and oyster reefs, enforce flood hazard building restrictions, plan for a retreat from flood-prone areas, and appropriately place the sea gates needed to protect the region's vulnerable infrastructure. Other metropolitan areas around the world have implemented these protections but not here. But don't expect the Congress to protect us. They are unlikely tot vote for "Big Government"to mitigate climate change, soften our shorelines, or protect our coastal, energy, transportation and communication infrastructure against an unimaginable future we know is coming. So much for "National Security."

In terms of energy and resources, our region is a patient on intravenous life support, linked tenuously to increasingly scarce and costly natural resources by far-flung imperiled lifelines: a failure-prone power grid; an insecure oil supply; an aging water and sewage treatment system; and a storm-vulnerable transportation and communication network. Our metropolis produces little of its own food and little else people need. Ultimately, the trifecta of converging 21st Century climate, economic, and energy crises becomes not a question of *if*, but *when* leaving our region's 15 million inhabitants in a world of hurt.

Our undefended coasts, the economic and environmental wealth of the entire Bioregion is at risk that's a vast area covering parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. But as Sandy showed, we're all in this together. If we are to survive and thrive, we the people must act. We can no longer rely on government especially in Washington to lead.

"Business as usual" will not suffice to rebuild. That way takes us downa road to certain peril, pain and impoverishment. Now the people must lead, traveling down a more visionary path to a *Bright Green Future for the Bioregion*. It will be a challenging path, because it is a road we must build as we walk it.

This new way must abandon shortsighted corporate/government goals of "unlimited growth" and "profit at any cost", supplanting them with resilient economic prosperity, social justice, and human and ecological health. We must exchange a stumbling global economy for a sure-footed local economy and a local food system that will support and feed us through a challenging time of transition. We must live into a new world where we trust not in Congress, banks, or Fortune 500 companies, but in each other.

Engaged and informed citizens need to take charge of rebuilding after Sandy. We must advocate for and insist that developers step back from the rising ocean, that nature (with our help) be allowed to reestablish dunes, oyster reefs, and wetlands, protecting us from storms. And we need to support elected officials who will support these plans.

It is long past time we gather the brightest most committed people from the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut/and Pennsylvania bioregion for a charrette a dialogue and analysis to discuss the most pragmatic routes to the best future for our communities. Together, we can design a practical blueprint, a comprehensive plan *A Bright Green Future for the Bioregion* a vibrant sustainable, slow money, small business, Main Street economy, focused on local energy and local food.

* *

*Our Bright Green Future* will assure self-sufficiency with mutually supportive connections to the surrounding New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut farms, fisheries, communities, and the bounty of preserved wetlands, forests, mountains, bays, and the sea.

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Andrew Willner has been a city planner, furniture designer, sculptor, boat builder, environmentalist, Permaculturist, Transition advocate, story teller, blogger, and photographer. He was Executive Director and Baykeeper at NY/NJ Baykeeper (more...)
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