The Reason We Need To Talk About It

National Guardsman rescues a woman in Houston, TX during Hurricane Harvey (image via National Guard/Creative Commons).

The rain poured from the dark sky and the heavens dropped an h-bomb onto my farm which was situated on a long embankment that plunged down at a 45 degree angle into the roiling river. As I watched in horror, a wave as big as a humpback whale erupted from the depths of the water and swept over my farm, claiming hundreds of my cows as its own, dragging them down to the cold depths of the river bottom to be ground to fine bone and bloody meal.

“No!” I screamed and made as if to run toward them as if I could do anything to change what just happened, hesitating, knowing that to do so would plunge me into the chaos of the storm and lead to my certain death.

I turned and dropped to crouch on my porch and shivered in despair, trying not imagine the grisly ends of my livestock’s lives.

A friend walked up my porch steps and handed me my mail. I tore open an envelope. It was a bill for $50,000. My supplier had jacked up his prices in the wake of this epic storm, and had added late fees and extra charges that boosted my expenses by 400%. This would bankrupt my business, I knew, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

My friend patted me on the back.

“Now, now, it’s not so bad, we’ll get through it? Don’t we always?”

She didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, I thought. The farm was on thin ice as it was. This bill kicked me in the gut and drove all the air from my lungs. I heard a cracking in my head as the ice broke apart underneath my feet.

A sob rose in my throat as I contemplated the storm that swirled around me and the end of all that I knew. Lightning hit a tree close to my house with an incredibly loud crack and I rushed out into the street.

“Fuck you storm!” I cried out into the maelstrom.

Tears ran down my eyes as I contemplated losing everything that I held dear.

In that moment, I remembered my dog. Where was she?

I turned and saw her running down the road away from me, sloshing through inches of flowing water that covered the blacktop like a living blanket.

“Bell!” I yelled into the howling wind.

That’s when I saw the massive hull of the boat towering over us all, blown through the air by tornado force winds, bearing down on us as if it was an angry god.

“No!” I screamed and rain toward Bell, just in time to scoop her up and turn my eyes to the heavens as the boat came smashing down upon us and blackness washed over me.

My heart was racing when I woke up.

I wasn’t aware that I had been contemplating Hurricane Harvey and the Houston Flooding, but my unconscious had been mulling over what was happening for days. In my imagination, my own fears mixed with the reality of the hurricane, and as I fell into REM sleep early in the morning my dream took over my mind until I woke up in a panic.

No, I didn’t really get that $50,000 bill, I thought thankfully.

I went downstairs to the kitchen to heat water for my morning coffee and saw my pup Bell curled up on her wicker papasan chair, as usual.

No, she wasn’t crushed by a giant cargo ship, nor was I. For that I was extremely thankful. Thankful to have all my limbs intact, and to be conscious and alive.

The aroma of the French press coffee wafted through my kitchen as I warmed up some milk in the microwave. Retreating to my office, I recalled my dream with a sense of dread.

Losing everything you have is no laughing matter. It is no “concept” that we can bandy about, looking for pros and cons. It is what it is, and in that moment of loss we need to accept the emotional part of the equation.

A day or so ago I read this piece about Hurricane Harvey and Climate Change. I had been seeing a few Facebook posts criticizing the President for using this natural disaster to further his political agenda, as well as a few Lefty friends poking fun at Rightwing disdain toward the idea of socialism until events like this hit us and we all want and need a handout. I was wondering to myself if all this political talk was really appropriate in the face of natural disaster.

Tragedy brings us together, of this there is no doubt.

It brings out the best and the worst in people, but overall it propels us into the reality of the narrative that we are all in this together. When disaster strikes, we realize we can’t make it without the help of each other. Within the tight circle of our friends and family we already know this, but tragedy breaks apart the illusionary boundaries that keep strangers separated in their own bubbles and cliques.

As a landscape designer and farmer, over the past decade I’ve researched climate change in order to understand what the future of our planet looks like and how it will effect my business and lifestyle. I’ve witnessed the ways in which the weather patterns seem to be altering as well, which is circumstantial but strong evidence for myself. I’ve also written about the struggles that farmers are having in the last handful of years as weather patterns shift and extreme weather events become more commonplace. These days we tend to get all the rainfall in one day that we used to get in a week or even a month, and those extreme events wreak havoc on farms.

You would think I was just getting cranky with the weather if it wasn’t for the scientific data back that backs my feelings up.

With all the negative directives coming from the new administration in it’s first few months in power, whitewashing information about climate change out of our Governmental websites and discontinuing research into climate change may have some of the most far-reaching and destructive consequences of all. As the administration dismantles the EPA, there can be no doubt that the energy policy focus of the White House is on supporting the fossil fuel industry and getting rid of the rules that regulate it.

But I don’t want to dwell on the federal politics — as attractive as it is to gossip about kings and queens, it gets us nowhere in our own lives.

My dream led me to think about the common ground that exists in all of our peasant lives and how instances of tragedy and disaster have a way of intensifying those commonalities. I can sit here on my office chair thinking in abstract terms about climate change and how we can reverse the course of environmental destruction that has already been implemented by industry and government, but meanwhile thousands of people and pets in Houston are struggling to get by in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Even so, I think it is constructive to have conversations about the overarching issues that affect us all in the big picture while also being concerned about our present day issues. I don’t see a conflict there.

This year my girlfriend and I experienced what could have been a much worse tragedy then it was — a once-in-a-100-year tornado raged through our neighboring county, destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property, injuring dozens of people, and killing one. I wrote about it here. My girlfriend’s family cabin was in the middle of the tornado’s path, but it emerged relatively unscathed while neighbors lost whole buildings. The surrounding area was chewed up and spit out, with hardly a tree left standing. Almost immediately after the last winds of the tornado subsided, the community came together and crews worked through the night to create some sort of semblance of order out of the chaos that had descended upon that swath of sleepy rural America. Nobody was asleep now, and everyone was there to help.

When I woke up this morning I desperately wished I could set aside my business responsibilities and drive down south to help out in Houston, but I literally can not do that. I was frustrated until I realized that in the future , there are going to be thousands of these types of instances as climate change creates situations like this over and over again.

It’s a sobering thought. As I sipped my coffee in the comfort and safety of my own home, I wondered, as a society are we just going to keep handing out fishes to feed the hungry or are we going to teach the hungry how to fish? And what does that even mean at this point?

When it comes down to it, we need to show compassion to our fellow human beings first. If we are to create a society based on equality and peace, we must start with each other. If humans can’t even get along with one another, how is it possible for us to live harmoniously with the planet?

Everything is possible, but only if we can look at the big picture and the small picture at the same time with compassion in our hearts.

What do you think the solutions are?

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FOR MORE, GO HERE: How I Learned to Stop Worrying