Last night a week ago, I had a Facebook chat with a dear friend in Columbia, South Carolina who was waiting to see if she would be evacuated should a dam break. She lives on a bit of a hill that overlooks the main road, with no lake or river nearby--and she might be evacuated.
In the end, she wasn't. But how surreal to be exchanging information about the weather, thoughts about how to secure what might be left behind, ideas about how the scenario would end if we transformed it into a movie, chat about how we both couldn't sleep when a storm is in the area--all the while knowing that a knock on the door could come at any moment.
I thought of all the ways we are lucky: if she had to leave, I could likely keep track of her. She was not swept away by the first round of flooding like so many people were. Above all, we live in a first world country, which, while our government cannot control the forces of the weather, it can respond in the aftermath. We do not have to fear rebel forces who will sweep in to take advantage of chaos. We will not be taken away to camps, never to see our homelands again. Our houses will be rebuilt.
Of course, the minute I wrote that last sentence, I thought about all the flooding victims who will not see their homes rebuilt. I'm thinking of the obvious Hurricane Katrina examples, but there have been many epic floods in the last 10 years--here and throughout the world.
I am already missing the planet we used to have. And yet, I understand that the planet has never been in a state of stasis. I realize that we can count on nothing but change.
I wonder how our societal institutions will change in a time of climate chaos. There are the obvious examples of providing help; I was touched by how many of my South Carolina friends were organizing water deliveries, even when the roads to the victims were still flooded.
Institutions will also be needed to provide other kinds of comfort--and courage, along with the comfort. Our deepest ideas and ideals will be tested.
As institutions, are there ways we can prepare for those challenges now?
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