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Letter to the editor

Hurricane impact causes deeper look at climate change

September 29, 2017

Dear Editor,

With deadly hurricanes slamming Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, tragic earthquakes in Mexico and hundreds of western wildfires now lowering air quality in our own region, it’s hard to know what more can be said to convince skeptics that the earth really is in violent revolt against human abuse of the environment.

Hurricane Maria has already left Puerto Rico without electricity, maybe for months. Meanwhile, a failing dam threatens to compound the disaster for tens of thousand downstream. How much damage can a society absorb or afford?

It may seem as though we in the heartland occupy a sweet spot away from the multiplying natural disasters surrounding us. Of course one “once-in-a-thousand-years” storm, becoming more and more frequent these days, could change that fast. And it may not be long before we, with our Midwestern love of uncrowdedness and relative weather safety, become host to thousands of climate refugees from the southern and coastal states.

Psychologists have noticed that deep anxieties are seeping into those of us safely inland who have been viewing the continual media coverage of these catastrophic events. Even far-removed onlookers can experience a kind of PTSD as if they themselves were victims of the destruction. On a sub-conscious level we know that, the relative stability of our particular region notwithstanding, our fates really are entangled in this new age of disaster.

There’s no exact cause-and-effect relationship between the new hurricanes and climate change, but it’s an established fact that warmer ocean temperatures contribute to the formation of these monster storms. How many lives lost and homes and neighborhoods destroyed will it take for us to connect the dots? And aren’t those in power who willfully and irresponsibly ignore the increasing climate chaos guilty of criminal negligence, or worse?

Thomas R. Smith
River Falls