It’s time to get out of the way

Weather station on Stock Island, in the Florida Keys.“IThe rain is falling outside my window, and has been, steadily, for three days.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott – who in 2015 decreed the phrases “climate change” and “global warming” would not be spoken or printed by state employees, is warning his constituents to prepare for what could well be the worst hurricane since Andrew came ashore in 1992. Residents who are not leaving probably should be, as they brace for an onslaught of wind and water in a county where water already gushes up through its streets with the rising tides, even when the sun is shining.

In Houston, Texas, Hurricane Harvey buried the city under more water than most people could even dream of remembering, and there are estimates as high as $180 billion to rebuild the place for people put out of their homes. On television news, waterlogged residents without savings or flood insurance are depending on government assistance to rebuild their homes, and Texas lawmakers who bemoaned money going to New Jersey and New York City after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 now stand with their hands out, begging Washington, D.C., for assistance.

Experts have been on television noting that rising sea levels are making storm surges worse with each passing hurricane season. Millions of people already have lost nearly everything, some surviving with only the clothes on their backs and bottles of water in single-serve plastic bottles trucked in from places less prone to such catastrophe. More millions are preparing for the same fate.

At risk of seeming cruel, maybe it’s time to seriously consider moving at least parts of some of our larger cities away from what is becoming regular danger. Maybe we should think about protecting humans, our national financial treasure and freshwater supplies threatened by tides of industrial waste, vehicle fluids and household chemicals set free of their normal confines by catastrophically rising tides.

Houston has been through this, three times in three years, each time worse than the previous. It flooded in 2015 and 2016. It was virtually submerged last week. Just up the Texas coast, the oil refining centers of Galveston and Beaumont have undergone much of the same punishment.

Katrina in 2005 wiped out a large portion of the Gulf Coast, at an estimated cost of $108 billion, and was followed by Hurricane Rita, that also drowned a portion of the Texas coast, including regions surrounding Galveston and Beaumont. One month later, Wilma left $21 billion in damage to Florida.

It’s not a new idea. In 1993, several towns along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers were moved to higher ground when the notion finally sank in – reinforced by pictures of floating dead livestock – that severe, deep, flooding was becoming a habit along the Mississippi River system.

About 70 percent of Mother Earth’s skin is covered with water, but it turns out the amount of freshwater actually available for drinking by humans and other land-based mammals is quite small. About 97 percent of the planet’s water inventory is saltwater – definitely not suited for human consumption. Of the three percent that is freshwater, only about one-third is actually available for sharing among our fellow travelers as we orbit our sun through space.

As I write these thoughts, two more hurricanes are headed more or less our way. I know President Trump and some of his more dedicated followers want to build a wall along our southern border, but allow me to suggest we might be better off using the money to build safe homes for our fellow citizens – homes that will not wash away in ever worsening storms almost as soon as we build them.

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