Sandy has done us a great favor by giving us a preview of our new normal — a future in which storms assume the size of continents, “waterfront home” becomes an oxymoron and life — even the lives of the rich and famous — becomes much more tenuous.
Here’s what should happen now. First, there should be a national day of thanks for the climate scientists who braved our scorn and disbelief to insist we look at the reality and realize that superstorms like Sandy were going to be frequent from now on. Sandy has shown us in terms not up for argument, nor adjustable by one belief system or another, that those men and women of science were not Chicken-Little Climate Hawks, they were American Eagles, harbingers of a bitter future we are bringing on ourselves. But wait there’s more.
There should be a separate but equal tribute for the meteorologists who applied science and technology so skillfully that they saw this storm coming — never mind that it was a storm the likes of which does not exist in the meteorological record — while it was just a gleam in the eye of an adolescent thunderstorm in the Caribbean Sea. They predicted it, and tracked it, and understood it so well that everyone in its path knew it was coming, and what it would do, days in advance. Thanks to them only a handful of people died in the worst storm in history. Kudos also to the lamestream media, who, for all the silliness of making reporters stand in rising water and punishing winds while telling people not to do such things, got the job done. Because they told us about the danger, we prepared for it and we survived it.
And that pretty much takes care of the honors awards for the people who, when caught in Sandy’s headlights, distinguished themselves. Now let’s tour the Hall of Shame.
Here’s what else should happen now. If Mitt Romney were (in Tom Wolfe’s phrase) a man in full, he would call a news conference to announce his withdrawal from the presidential race. He would confess that Sandy has forced him to admit that only a climate unbalanced by pollution could have fostered such an ugly, mutant storm (along with the fierce drought and tornado swarms in the heartland, the raging fires in the West and the rising seas all around). He would say that he now knows what everyone else who has given serious thought to the question has known for 20 years: that climate change is real, is manmade, and is an existential threat to our country and our way of life.
Romney should cringe like a man caught philandering, his wife standing grimly at his side, and he would blubber into the microphone about the error of his ways, how he had dismissed and ridiculed the very thing that could destroy his country while seeking to be its president. Then he should go to whichever of his houses survived the storm and disappear from public life.
Here’s what should happen about an hour after Mitt’s resignation. Barack Obama should call a news conference and make an even more heartfelt apology to the country he has misled. We can perhaps forgive Romney to the extent that his genes for greed, venality and stupidity made him do it, but we know Obama knew better. He knew the threat was there and he knew its size, but he also knew that if he was honest about it he would not be given the money he needs to be elected. So he made his deal. And he has governed for four years, and campaigned for president twice, without ever once confronting the threat of climate change and the need to prepare for it. The upside is, he has had plenty of money to spend on campaign ads. The downside: Sandy.
Obama should not resign, however. After an abject apology he should put every fiber of his being into preparing his countrymen for a post-industrial world. Some still say we can mitigate the effects of climate change if we get our act together. Which is exactly the same thing as saying, if we had some eggs we could have hams and eggs, if we had some ham. We have tipped over dominoes that are going to fall for a thousand years.
If Obama savagely bit the hands of his industrial benefactors, got them off the levers of power, and threw the weight of government behind finding ways to live sustainably in a drastically changed land, then more of us would survive what’s coming in the wake of Sandy. That would be a pro-life position.
These things that should happen now that Sandy has opened all our eyes are so obvious, rational and necessary — they are exactly the way America has responded to mortal threats before — that I am going to go turn on CNN and wait for them to happen.