The Sound of Silence - In the Wake of Another Extreme Weather Event by Gia Machlin, October 31 2012, 1 Comment

It's amazing how the absence of something can have such a profound impact. The absence of noise. Not ALL noise is gone (this IS New York City after all), but one particular type of noise is missing. That earth rattling, ground shaking, sky filling, all encompassing sound of jet engines accelerating during take-off. With three major airports in our area, it is a sound that greets New Yorkers every morning and late into the evening hours (that 10:00 pm red-eye to Europe is often delayed). But for only the second time that I can remember in the 30 years I have lived in Manhattan, that sound has been absent for days. There are no flights leaving (or arriving into) the New York metropolitan area. The first time this occurred was in the days following 9/11. And now here we are again. This time the silence is due to Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately my husband is away on business in Florida so every day that the airports stay shut is another day we are apart. As nice as it is to not be awaken by that awful noise, I really am bumming here and I would love to find someone to blame other than Mother Nature. But how can I?

Well, maybe I can! Was Sandy purely an unavoidable act of nature? Is there any connection to to climate change? No doubt hurricanes have been around for a very long time, and this is certainly not the first time that several weather factors have come together to create "the perfect storm."  But was the damage from this storm worse than it would have been if sea levels had not been rising due to melting arctic sea ice, and if sea surface temperatures were not at a record breaking high? Absolutely!  I'm no climate scientist, but the folks at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are, and here's what they had to say in a 2011 climate science report:

New York City is America's largest coastal community at risk from the effects of a changing climate. Temperature increases and sea level rise are already occurring and, along with other climate changes, are likely to accelerate. As a city of more than 8 million people situated along 520 miles of coastline, with an extensive underground infrastructure prone to flooding, and lack of easy evacuation routes, it is particularly vulnerable to coastal storms and sea level rise. Recognizing the seriousness of climate change, city planners and decision-makers have started to take action.

Even the mayor and the governor mentioned climate change in their storm related press conferences. "There has been a series of extreme weather incidents," Cuomo said on Tuesday. "That is not a political statement, that is a factual statement ... Anyone who says there's not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality."

So when my son says he is so saddened by the devastation in Staten Island and around our area, and when my daughter is missing her daddy so much she can't sleep, I can't help but direct my anger at the greedy, despicable, myopic, narcissistic Big Oil a-holes who hold so much power - including the power to mess with Mother Nature. If we all want to take back some sense of control in our future, the most important thing we can do in the next week is get out there and vote in the presidential election on Tuesday. Not that our current president's environmental record is so stellar, but he is certainly the better choice when it comes to not getting deeper into bed with the fossil fuel industry.

My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy, as well as all those who lost their homes, belongings, cars, and jobs. I thank each and every one of the heroic first responders who put their lives at risk to save others as well as the staff and volunteers who evacuated NYU hospital without loss of life (and even brought some patients to the nursing home where my mother is recovering from her hospitalization just last week). I hope for a speedy return of the subway system, the life blood of our city. I hope the millions of people without power can get back to their lives soon, and of course I look forward to my kids going back to school next week. But most of all, I can't wait until the silence in the skies is broken, and those planes start taking off, and landing, again.

Here are some photos of storm related damage in my neighborhood, which was luckily spared from the real devastation we have seen in other parts on the city. Please send us your photos at SandyStorm@ecoplum.com.