November 03, 2012 | Ronda Jambe

Who’s punishing who? A sad and sandy story

Long Beach Island New Jersey was where I came of age. It was where I had one of my first waitressing jobs, my first hangover, even my first car prang. It was a great place to be a teenager heading off for college.

Of course, being part of NJ, and just north of Atlantic City, it has always been a bit more populous and popular culture than the equivalent Australian beach scene. Aussies find it hard to believe you actually have to show that you have paid with a badge to go on the beach.

Now if you google Long Beach Island, videos come up of the recent devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Inevitably, pundits and preachers of all persuasions, including filmmaker Oliver Stone are saying the hurricane is God’s punishment for everything from ignoring climate change to sinful behaviour. ie:

Some Muslim clerics say Sandy is God’s punishment

Stupidity might be a more realistic interpretation.

Have just about finished a book about the history of the financial crisis in the US, ‘All the Devils are Here’, it is now more understandable why the Yanks just haven’t managed to grasp the issue of climate change.

In the case of the sub-prime and complex financial products that funded them, everyone was playing the same game of musical chairs. Problem was, when the music stopped, all the chairs vanished. The regulators, the public, the companies on both Main St and Wall St all thought they had a safe position.

Now Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has endorsed Obama as the only one even talking about climate change. Having the subway flooded focussed his mind. This storm affected The Beltway, which includes Washington, and also extended to the financial people and the corporate media in NY, and the rich who live further north in Connecticut. New Orleans mostly had poor black people. But this storm affected people with money, property, and influence.

Unfortunately, it also includes lots of decent folk who are also going to suffer, even if they never refinanced with a sub-prime mortgage. Their sins are those of omission: neglecting to see that their whole system of governance is so corrupt that residual good (like having sufficient funds to clean up after Sandy) is now threatened by these enormous events.

But all is not lost, remediation in the face of climate change is still possible, and adaptation is now essential. A report on barrier islands and climate change a few years back used Long Beach Island as an example. Like the anguished Mayor of Ship Bottom, they concluded that despite the expensive homes and marinas, over time the island will have to be abandoned.

Greenhouse Effect, Sea Level Rise, and Barrier Islands, case study of Long Beach Island, New Jersey. by James G. Titus, Environmental Protection Agency1

For years the Army Corps of Engineers has been building up the sand dunes on this island, laying mesh and creating walkways to keep feet off the fragile plantings. People with houses right on the beach, (their private walkways might not have withstood Sandy) found their bottom story looking at piles of sand rather than water.

But all that was vanity, as the 10-15 metre storm surge pushed lots of sand inland.

The punished will include generations of teenagers, who will have to find another place for an illegal tipple.

But here we are still having lots of fun on beautiful beaches, while planning to triple our coal exports. What’s to worry about?


Why Seas Are Rising Ahead of Predictions: Estimates of Rate of Future Sea-Level Rise May be Too Low



Posted by Ronda Jambe at 8:33 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. There’s no point in beating breasts about this – It’s the way humans operate, wait till it’s too late and then do something useless. Only catastrophe can force us to act. Impending doom is no use, we need the actual doom itself before we’ll do anything, and that’s what’s happening. Australia won’t change its ways until we have no food and water, and then we’ll say we weren’t told. But we’ve known about this for a very long time. The New Zealand glaciers have been shrinking for most of last century and In the 1980s, low lying town councils were refusing building permits on land that might go under water in the future.
    Yet everyone’s still breeding, playing and spending, like the proverbial cricket. I’m very pleased I’m old and have no children to feel guilty about.
    The Bedouin of southern Jordan have a wise saying: ‘Nature is god, thought is prayer’. This makes it not so silly to say god is punishing us… not for the things dour monotheists declare, but for our arrogance in thinking we could control nature.

    Comment by Saki — November 5, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

  2. your comments are tragically true, and I’m glad to be old, too

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — November 6, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

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