Climatic events like Harvey highlight the thin line between first and third world realities. The very fabric of the state is largely dependent on the maintenance of systems of food, water, shelter, and safety distribution.
I had the privilege of assisting the Hurricane Katrina relief effort for a very brief time in 2005, just after the storm.
I saw a dystopian future, unfolding. A world of mega-storms, toxic waste sites, and destruction. A people existing within the former spaces of America, but become Africans, tribes-persons on the run from starvation.
Many were shot down in the streets, killed by police, or by vendettas. It was a haunting time. A time of quiet and darkness in the night, punctuated by gunshots. The air, thick with pesticides dropped from military airplanes, not yards above the homes of former Black Panthers, now organizing the relief effort.
12 years later, Harvey blasts through, affecting an area larger than that affected by Katrina. From a public health perspective, the operative danger is from the damage to waste water treatment plants.
We have a huge number of human beings on the planet. They are largely concentrated in dense cities and towns. The human waste produced by these communities is, especially en masse, highly toxic to many creatures, including and especially the humans themselves.
Fecaform pathogens are possibly the most serious public health risk on the planet. Indeed, more deaths accrue, worldwide, from dehydration due to dysenteric and other bowel pathogens than any other cause of death.
When the first world turns into the third world, it gets third world problems. It also reaps the harvest of local environmental destruction. Texas and the Gulf will suffer grievously from the flooding and damage to 13 superfund sites. These mega-toxins will in all likelihood spike cancer and other causes of death in the local people, and severely harm all local life.
The tragedy of the Gulf is that as the ocean rises, it washes the oil ashore. When the ocean recedes it leaves the oil, the heavy metals, the poisons. All to support the profit of a few rich oil companies.
We must respond to public emergencies with focus, drive, and compassion. Harvey, Sandy, Colorado, even Katrina all highlight the speedy and selfless response to crises that Americans marshal in the time of need.
But what of the long term destruction? What of the chemicals, the oil spilled? What of the streams destroyed, the species lost? What of the people, suffering early death and painful disease?
To examine solutions to these long term issues is necessary. To enact them with the full will of the public is essential.
Yet even as we examine the implications of long term damage, we must also look at the greater destruction, woven into our cultural narrative. Why do toxic waste sites exist in the first place? Can’t we live in a world free of such poisons?
Our future will INEVITABLY contain mounting environmental and climatic events. The oceans are rising. With 7.5 Billion people on the planet and rising fast, we may witness upwards of 3Billion refugees and displaced persons at any one time.
We need to cheaply, abundantly, sustainably, and quickly provide the means of supporting life to these people in need. This will take a re-invigoration of our knowledge and planning, a mass of dedicated aid workers, and a vast amount of money and resources.
For just as in the paradigm of healing the individual, either we invest, or we face deaths.
Human beings have a biological imperative to survive. With limited resources, they will band together, and do whatever they have to do.
Herein we witness the historic trend of singular types of destabilization, such as climate change, plague, war, and the breakdown of the state, to begin a downward spiral of global destabilization.
We must unite in decency, for human justice, and the benefit of all species! We must take the initiative in supporting communities’ survival and stabilizing into safety.
May all beings be safe, free from suffering, and attain enlightenment.