Despite all of the advancements of mankind, we are not—and likely never will be—a match for Mother Nature. Whether it’s an earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, tornado, typhoon, drought, flooding, volcanic eruption, or some other natural disaster of epic proportion, Mother Nature has a way of showing us who’s boss.
Her children, Katrina and Sandy, certainly put us in our places. The images of the aftermath of Katrina were riveting, as are those of Sandy. And Sandy’s timing is interesting, to say the least. Even Oliver Stone, a force of nature of a sort, agrees.
In an interview on HuffPost Live on Tuesday, Stone expressed his belief that Mother Nature was making a timely statement with the storm. He argued that neither Obama nor Mitt Romney tackled climate change in a substantive way. “I was a little disappointed at the third debate when neither of them talked about climate control and the nature of the situation on Earth,” Stone said. “I think there's kind of a weird statement coming right after ... this is a punishment ... Mother Nature cannot be ignored. That's all I thought about.”
I had a similar thought, Ollie. Mine was that Mother Nature was tired of all the blustering hot air being generated by this presidential campaign and decided to use it to her advantage as an extra ingredient in a deadly recipe to remind voters of what really matters—life and its quality, which does depend on a sound, healthy environment.
Ollie and I both probably are dead wrong in our suppositions, but they make for interesting theories in trying to explain this extraordinary event, the costs of which in both dollars and lives lost are yet to be determined.
John W.Schoen, NBC News, has reported that Sandy “will almost certainly turn out to be one of the costliest storms on record. Given the scope and severity of the damage, it’s difficult to guess the costs from the fires, floods, wind, and rain, but initial estimates of $30 billion to $50 billion may turn out to be too low. By comparison, the most expensive U.S. storm so far, 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, caused about $46 billion in damages.”
Schoen continued, “A full accounting will include not only property damage but business activity lost to closed factories and offices, along with widespread outages and shutdowns of transportation, telecommunications, and power networks. In an age when telecommuting helps offset weather-related business interruptions, Sandy threw a major monkey wrench into the work lives of tens of millions of people. More than 8 million customers were without power Tuesday in the greater New York area alone.”
Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, “figures that the 12 states in Sandy’s path account for about 23 percent of national gross domestic product, which works out to about $13 trillion a day in economic output. That means the upcoming weekly and monthly economic data—from retail sales to jobless claims—likely will include asterisks with Sandy’s name attached.
“Some of that lost business, from late Halloween retail sales to more than 14,000 canceled airline flights, will never be recovered.”
The good news in this mess is that cleanup and rebuilding will require manpower, and the infusion of insurance money for those companies that were insured may cause them to be “long-term winners, using claim payouts to rebuild and make improvements.”
What Sandy also did is refocus the attention of a large block of the electorate, who now are so busy dealing with day-to-day survival that they don't have time to listen to the campaign. Well, maybe it isn’t a refocusing as much as an intensification. After all, many Americans have been focused on day-to-day survival in the wake of the recession. For some, it’s just gotten so much worse.
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