“Men argue. Nature acts.” Voltaire
Ian, like so many phenomena over the last few decades, did not bring out the best from what passes for leadership lately. The major difference though is that war, famine, disease, economic failure, etc. are for the most part either created or made worse by human stupidity. Hurricanes don’t fit anyone’s narratives as to either their cause or effect; they’re simply a force of nature and they just don’t care what we say about them. We can learn from what has been said about Ian over the past few days regarding our lack of intelligent and caring leadership.
The partisan virtue signaling has been anything but inspiring, filled more with venom than virtue. There’s the lambasting that Governor DeSantis was subjected to as if he invited Ian to visit Florida. Regardless of what anyone thinks about the Honorable Ronald, he appears to be handling the event well. He was accused of convenient fiscal tolerance for Federal funds contrary to his criticism of the administration’s spending frenzy; however, FEMA funds are a routine budget appropriation since the agency was founded in 1979. He was also accused of climate change denial, which is not true; he has consistently recognized its reality but does not agree with those that favor the “Green New Deal” as a way to address it, which in the immediate situation is an irrelevant political issue. Unfortunately, the DeSantis bashing is the least of the grotesque statements we hear.
Social media is full of some rather viscous comments, one in particular from a truly twisted individual stating that “Florida is getting what it deserves.” Another malicious individual claimed that apparently this is karma, a way for Mother Nature to punish all those he considers evil for living in a state having a majority of people he considers deserving of death and destruction. Regrettably, there were many sympathetic voices to these sentiments; while it would be wrong for the platforms on which such things were posted to censor them, it was curious given their inclination to do so that they did not.
While President Biden was slow to reach out to Governor DeSantis to pledge assistance, the two eventually spoke and pledged cooperation in the interest of the people affected; that would have been a good sign except for the fact that Biden then went on a press binge about all that he’s doing to address the disaster as if he were the governor and not DeSantis. The primary role of the President in such disasters is to get FEMA to act, but the actual emergency management is by the Governor of the state affected. All that though is relatively benign; what was truly malevolent came from Vice President Kamala Harris when she announced that the administration will be giving hurricane resources “based on equity” by directing funds to “communities of color.” Not only is such an action unconstitutional, it is blatantly racist, proving again that racism is not dependent on one’s race.
Regardless of anyone’s views on climate change, maintaining as some have that Ian is proof that hurricanes are now worse than ever before as a result of that is historically inaccurate. Looking at the North Atlantic/Gulf-Caribbean region only, in terms of loss of life, we have the “Great Hurricane of 1780” with 22-27K deaths; there was no “carbon footprint” to speak of then. More recently we have Flora in 1963 with over 7K deaths, and Mitch in 1998 with more than 11K deaths. While Katrina and Sandy come to current memory more readily, they were not as deadly. As far as property damage is concerned, we can rebuild but we can’t bring back the dead. Comparable storms in other parts of the world, particularly around the Indian Ocean in the 18C through early 20C, were far more horrific, often tallying over 200K deaths.
True, the economic loss to Floridians, and to a lesser extent some other areas hit by Ian, is devastating; but why do so many people insist on living in areas prone to such repetitive natural catastrophic events? While I was surprised to learn that this area on the West Coast of Florida has not been hit by a significant hurricane in over a century, look at all the issues with flooding in the Mississippi River states, the fires in California, and the droughts there and the Southwest. The latter is definitely more a manmade issue as that area has been prone to drought way before the population explosion of the Post War Era which literally drained the scarce water resources of the region. In the case of flood prone areas like Florida, the huge population explosion was facilitated by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Not only do taxpayers get saddled with the cost of such subsidies, but then again with the claims on top of the FEMA relief. While there will always be those who will insist on living in such areas regardless of the risks, providing the means to insure such decisions only exacerbates the problem.
While Ian doesn’t care about any of this, we really should. While it’s inevitable that we need to harness alternative means of energy, we can and should immediately end such programs as NFIP that only direct population growth where nature shows people are at the greatest risk. While we can’t really control Mother Nature, we should be able to control ourselves and avoid partisan bias in the face of such disasters as that is irrelevant. To seek some level of political gain, or evaluate human suffering based on race is an evil we can live without.
As far as Ian is concerned, we can’t bring back the dead, but we can help the living, even if they live in Florida and regardless of their race or politics. “Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them” Mark Twain