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Letter to the editor

Hurricane impact causes deeper look at climate change

September 27, 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

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
subconscious level we know that, the relative stability of our particular
region notwithstanding, our fates really are entangled in this new age of

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, a former UWRF student and poet with seven published books


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