Resilience after Hurricane Sandy

This op-ed was published in the New York Times today. In “Learning to Bounce Back,” Andrew Zolli argues that we need to think sustainability differently, by incorporating the idea of civilizational “resilience,” the ability to anticipate, resist, and recover from environmental trauma.

Writing in central New Jersey less than a week after landfall, I can only agree. The northern Jersey shore is, literally, a disaster area. Monmouth County, where I grew up, is entirely in the dark and cold. Atlantic City spent days under water. The people of Staten Island had to beg, on television, for relief, even as they pulled bodies out of the marshes. Hundreds of thousands in the Hudson Valley and Long Island remain in blackout. The subways are flooded. The bridges and rails of the NJTransit’s North Jersey Coastline were swept into the sea. Police guard the rest stops on the NJ Turnpike and Parkway to curb the fights breaking out over gasoline. Residents of the Lower East Side had to dumpster-dive for food.

It’s chapter one of the Zombie Apocalypse, because the undead are in charge of infrastructure and  climate policy.

At the height of the storm, as hurricane-force winds tore through my neighborhood, I stood on my porch searching the sky. I thought I saw lightning in the clouds. It was the transformers in the local power grid exploding, again and again, for over half an hour.

Resilience sounds like a good idea right about now. Those of us who teach the environmental humanities should consider teaching it to our students.





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