Sandy in the City: Living with Severe Storms Flash Forum
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s torrent through the Northeastern United States last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told reporters that he did not “give a damn” about Presidential politics. Instead, his mind was set on helping those citizens most affected by the flooding, destruction, and power outages that the storm had left behind. That same seriousness and sense of urgency was present in Monday’s flash forum in the Rinker Environmental Learning Center. The panel consisted of Stetson Professors Tony Abbott, John Jett, Barbara Bischof, Clay Henderson, and Jim Buthman, who each gave their unique perspectives about Hurricane Sandy and the broader topic of climate change. Topics ranging from public policy, environmental law, biological diversity, and politics were all part of a highly informative yet understandably bleak discussion about the future of climate change in the United States and the rest of the world.
Dr. Abbott began the event by giving a brief overview about the nature of hurricanes, and why warmer oceans fuel hurricane power. This means that hurricanes will continue to travel further north every year, to the point where Great Britain might even begin to feel the brunt of these storms. Dr. Jett used his opening statement to detail the worrisome situation in New Jersey and New York, where large amounts of plastic and chemical waste from land has washed back into the ocean. The fact that much of the petrochemical industry in the region is now underwater does not bode well for the marine life in the Atlantic Ocean. Dr. Bischof discussed addressing global climate change in terms of risk versus cost, and warned of the huge price mankind will pay if no serious action is taken with regards to the warming planet. Clay Henderson, visiting Stetson Professor and recent recipient of the 2012 Hood Award, told of his recent travels to Malawi, a country who feels the effects of climate change harder than most. Henderson noted that a storm like Hurricane Sandy might help people understand the seriousness of climate change, considering that over half of the American population lives within 50 miles of the coast (NOAA). Political science professor Jim Buthman stressed the need for a greater dialogue when it comes to climate change. Buthman discussed the political hurdles that keep us from seriously addressing climate change on a policy level in an impassioned and articulate manner. In fact, each speaker was highly driven to have climate change become a subject of discussion on the national stage.
On a day where all the news was about the impending election, Stetson hosted a nuanced and critically important discussion about various topics in the context of climate change. This comes as a stark contrast to the climate silence that was evidenced from all three Presidential debates, and it certainly begs the question of what we should be talking about as responsible Stetson students, Americans, and citizens of the world.