Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Climate Change and the Flooding in Houston: A Relational Summary

Climate Adaptation and Mitigation
Professor Thomas H. Culhane
Climate Change and the Flooding in Houston: A Relational Summary
By Thomas H. Culhane
(picture from http://www.globalchange.gov/browse/multimedia/early-scientists-who-established-scientific-basis-climate-change)
Houston.  We have a problem!
9 trillion gallons of water dumped on the city within two days, averaging about 5 feet of water,  with no end in sight… people are literally dying in the streets. Yes Houston, we have a problem. And it is the result of climate change, so this is one current event we need to discuss it in this course in real time!
Scientist MATTHEW CAPPUCCI on NPR tried to help the public visualize such a quantity of water, called “epic” by our president, and “of biblical proportions” by the media,  flooding a modern city.  He said  “ If you took the Empire State Building, more than a hundred stories tall, you could fill that entire volume 33,000 times with the water that fell on Houston and the surrounding areas. That shows you how much there was.”
When NPR interviewed Cappucci they reported , “(He)  has yet another way of picturing this. He says that if you took that amount of water, 9 trillion gallons, and spread it equally over the 48 contiguous states, it would equal .17 inches of rain covering the entire country.
Cappuci said, “ If we took three pennies, put them on top of each other, that's how high it would stack up. It'd be a rainy day everywhere. And picture that crammed in just one small county area.”
NPR reporter Shapiro said this week, “ And it's not over yet. The forecast shows more rain in Texas through Friday. One more note - the colors that the National Weather Service uses to show rainfall on its maps, shades of yellow, red and orange - they couldn't represent the amounts seen in southeastern Texas. So it added two new shades of purple.”
This is unprecedented in American history.  
I listened to this interview about the “biblical proportions” of the damage wrought by this year’s hurricane Harvey while driving to USF through our own rain storm here in Tampa, and each day, as the news gets worse,  we finally hear more and more reporters and government officials and rescue personnel and flood insurance specialists bring up the issue of climate change. Sometimes recognizing the problem is the first step in finding serious and lasting solutions.
Insurers, of course, have been concerned about climate change for decades. They don’t want to give insurance guarantees in situations where the unknowns could dramatically  affect their profits. Conservative by nature, insurance companies don’t like situations where a so-called “black swan event” could wipe them out, and according to Fox Business News, (http://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/2017/08/29/key-flood-insurance-underwriter-sinks-further-into-debt-as-harvey-slams-texas.html)  “The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the singular source of flood insurance for most Americans, is already $23 billion in debt after servicing prior natural disasters, including Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.”

NPR reported that  the premiums for houses between 250 and 300 thousand dollars could be as much as 40,000 dollars a year, way beyond the reach of the families who own such properties, and some insurance companies  are saying they won’t insure at all, igniting an even larger debate about whether we should be building in flood prone areas at all, even when the area hasn’t experienced any damaging floods not just in the last 100 years, but in the last 500 years.
The extent and ferocity of storms that climate change models predict  makes previous predictions and risk assessments moot.  Climate change doesn’t just make storms worse, it makes them much less predictable.
And so even the headline of a conservative midwestern newspaper, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, reads,
“When water recedes in Houston, debate over climate change and flooding must rise”.  

The author notes that his own city, 777 miles away in Missouri, is still recovering from two major flooding events in the past 16 months, and criticizes the current president for just last week “erasing a 2015 executive order signed by President Barack Obama that had a simple goal: When building such projects, particularly federal ones, officials were directed to take climate change into consideration.”

The author uses his editorial power to pummel someone he shows to be an  arrogant, greedy and short sighted real estate developer turned president even  as the rain continues to pummel  Houston, explaining that
“Trump won’t tweet about climate change because he believes — or says he believes, anyway — that it’s a Chinese conspiracy.
So as people drown and die in Houston and Galveston and Corpus Christi, I’ll write about climate change and America’s love affair with bad flooding policy, because if not now, when?...
The author, who spent time working with the army corps of engineers during his city’s floods, is rightly skeptical about the intentions of real estate developers in the era of climate change, and says,
“In two to four years, Houston will still be recovering from Hurricane Harvey.
The president — or our next one — will still be talking about the need to improve America’s infrastructure. St. Louis will still be talking about building in flood plains, whether it’s a city project on the banks of the Mississippi River, or a massive entertainment complex in the levy-protected flood plains of the Chesterfield Valley or Maryland Heights, or even still, the current debate over building an ice arena in federally protected Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, by raising land so it is allegedly out of the 100-year flood plain.”
But, he says soberly,
“We will throw out those phrases — 100-year-flood and 500-year-flood — as though in the era of climate change they still have meaning.
And we will spend billions upon billions of tax dollars repeating the same old mistakes because we continue to believe the fallacy that it’s easier and cheaper to rebuild in the flood plain than it is to plan for — and around — the next flood.”
We increasingly see similar editorials and headlines facing up to the bad legacy we have created throughout our history of ignoring warnings about climate change effects.  A recent one from the Atlantic is titled,
“Houston's Flood Is a Design Problem”.  The subheading gives a clue to a solution. It says,
“It’s not because the water comes in. It’s because it is forced to leave again.”
There are calls for what is touted as a “new” climate mitigation and adaptation strategy: “permeable paving”.  Those of us who study history know it is nothing new:  Frederick Law Olmstead and his son were proposing the exact same measures even before the LA River flooded that city in 1938, but the powerful railroad and industrial lobbies ignored it and compelled the US Army Corps of Engineers to instead encase the river in concrete to try to move the water to the ocean as quickly as possible.  For some reason the idea of keeping the water in place never seems to… ahem… “sink in”!.
The article points out,

“the impact of flooding, particularly in densely developed areas like cities, is far more constant than a massive, natural disaster like Harvey exposes. The reason cities flood isn’t because the water comes in, not exactly. It’s because the pavement of civilization forces the water to get back out again.
There are different kinds of floods. There’s the storm surge from hurricanes, the runoff from snowmelt, the inundation of riverbanks. But all these examples cast flooding as an occasional foe out to damage human civilization. In truth, flooding happens constantly, in small and large quantities, every time precipitation falls to earth. People just don’t tend to notice it until it reaches the proportions of disaster.

Under normal circumstances, rain or snowfall soaks back into the earth after falling. It gets absorbed by grasslands, by parks, by residential lawns, by anywhere the soil is exposed. Two factors can impede that absorption. One is large quantities of rain in a short period of time. The ground becomes inundated, and the water spreads out in accordance with the topography. The second is covering over the ground so it cannot soak up water in the first place. And that’s exactly what cities do—they transform the land into developed civilization.

Roads, parking lots, sidewalks, and other pavements, along with asphalt, concrete, brick, stone, and other building materials, combine to create impervious surfaces that resist the natural absorption of water. In most of the United States, about 75 percent of its land area, less than 1 percent of the land is hardscape. In cities, up to 40 percent is impervious.

The natural system is very good at accepting rainfall. But when water hits pavement, it creates runoff immediately. That water has to go somewhere. So it flows wherever the grade takes it. To account for that runoff, people engineer systems to move the water away from where it is originally deposited, or to house it in situ, or even to reuse it. This process—the policy, planning, engineering, implementation, and maintenance of urban water systems—is called stormwater management.

The combination of climate change and aggressive development made an event like this almost inevitable.”
The article continues with best practice advice, worth quoting here in full:

“Accounting for a 100-year, 500-year, or “million-year” flood, as some are calling Harvey’s aftermath, is difficult and costly… it’s almost impossible to design for these “maximal probable flood events,” as planners call them. Instead, the hope is to design communities such that when they flood, they can withstand the ill effects and support effective evacuations to keep people safe. “Many planners contend that impervious surface itself is the problem. The more of it there is, the less absorption takes place and the more runoff has to be managed. Reducing development, then, is one of the best ways to manage urban flooding. The problem is, urban development hasn’t slowed in the last half-century. Cities have only become more desirable, spreading outward over the plentiful land available in the United States.”
The Olmsteads developed a brilliant plan for Los Angeles in the early part of the 20th century  to ensure that dramatic 100 year floods caused no damage, designing a series of flood plain wildlife parks and elevated bike paths and recreation areas robust to inundation while increasing the value of the land to the city.  But they were ignored.  It isn’t as if the arguments are new.
The article goes on to explain how the federal government ended up dealing with the issue in the later part of the 20th century but with no true concern for downstream environmental and social injustices. It says:
“The National Flood Insurance Program, established in 1968, offered one attempt at a compromise. It was meant to protect and indemnify people without creating economic catastrophe. Instead of avoiding the floodplain, insurance allowed people to build within it, within management constraints recommended by FEMA. In theory, flood-hazard mitigation hoped to direct development away from flood-prone areas through the disincentives of risk insurance and regulatory complexity.”
Of course, students of political ecology and political economy know that disincentives don’t really work for the majority of people:  As population grows and people weigh the unknown and unpredictable risks of living in a disaster area with the well known and quite predictable advantages of being close to the few jobs and opportunities that urban centers make available their own quite rational cost-benefit analyses lead them inevitably to take dangerous chances.  Just ask any of the literally billions of people living in dangerous slums and shantytowns and favelas around megacities like Rio and Cairo and Dhaka; just ask the millions and millions who have died in typhoons, monsoon floods, landslides, earthquakes and building collapses.  Life for most people is a kind of Russian roulette, a deadly gamble, a horrible game that leaves most people vulnerable, hoping that at least some family members can dodge the bullet while struggling to get into a better position before disaster falls, one way or another.
That is why on NPR this morning the commentators were saying that the system of disincentives is so perverse - because even while governments supposedly on the side of “the people” think of disincentives for them to live in a vulnerable or risky area,  insurance companies and developers actually have a direct incentive to keep “those people” -- the ones with little political power, the one’s who can’t easily sue, the ones desperate enough to accept any bad deal -- paying.
Says the article about our current policies,
“It’s more about living with water than it is about discouraging development in areas prone to risk… Sometimes “living with water” means sidestepping the consequences. Developers working in flood zones might not care what happens after they sell a property. That’s where governmental oversight is supposed to take over.”
But when the government is dominated with profit-oriented businessmen, particularly those who directly profit from real estate development, and whose cronies make their riches from the same schemes, especially in a time when there is resistance to regulation among the general public, that oversight is often deliberately overlooked.  Who is really going to look after “the little guy”?
In fact, the Koch brothers, who are funding so much of the current politics of climate change denial, are well known to espouse the philosophy of Charles Koch’s mentor James McGill Buchanan and his successor at George Mason University, Tyler Cowen,  who champion  the idea that :
with the "rewriting of the social contract" underway, people will be "expected to fend for themselves much more than they do now." While some will flourish, he admits, "others will fall by the wayside." Since "worthy individuals" will manage to climb their way out of poverty, "that will make it easier to ignore those who are left behind."
And the Koch brothers perverse pseudo libertarian philosophies, based on the logic of Cowen, didn't stop there, according to economist Nancy McLean’s new book “ Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America.”
"We will cut Medicaid for the poor," Cowen  predicted. Further, "the fiscal shortfall will come out of real wages as various cost burdens are shifted to workers" from employers and a government that does less. To "compensate," this chaired professor in the nation's second-wealthiest county advises, "people who have had their government benefits cut or pared back" should pack up and move to lower-cost, poor public service states like Texas."
Indeed, Cowen forecasted, "the United States as a whole will end up looking more like Texas." says McLean.
“ His tone is matter-of-fact, as though he is reporting the inevitable. Yet when one reads his remarks with the knowledge that he has been the academic leader of a team working in earnest with Koch for two decades now to bring about the society he is describing, the words sound more like premeditation. For example, Cowen prophesies lower-income parts of America "recreating a Mexico-like or Brazil-like environment" complete with "favelas" like those in Rio de Janeiro. The "quality of water" might not be what US citizens are used to, he admits, but "partial shantytowns" would satisfy the need for cheaper housing as "wage polarization" grows and government shrinks. Cowen says that "some version of Texas -- and then some -- is the future for a lot of us" and advises, "Get ready."
Well, if the agenda of the radical right wing, lead by the real estate developer president, is to make the  whole country look like Texas, and that Texas increasingly  looks like Houston at the moment, then we have a lot getting ready to do.

But it isn’t like we haven’t had the warning signs all along.
And I’m not just talking about violent hurricanes, which are just the most obvious consequences of climate change,  but we can start there.
Exactly 12 years ago, on August 29 of 2005, while on a research trip  visiting cities that were preparing for climate change in Germany and Austria, like the solar energy capital of Freiburg, and the EPFL research university in Lausanne, Switzerland, with its building integrated photovoltaics and solar electric tourist boats, and the renewable energy research labs in northern Italy, I heard the news of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina flooding New Orleans. All the Europeans said, of course, “those crazy Americans…while we in Europe are investing and getting ready, and even as  the effects of climate change stare them in the face, they remain in denial.”
 Nearly 1500 people died in New Orleans as 80% of the city was buried under 20 feet of water,  that caused  $81 billion in property damages, with a total economic impact in Louisiana and Mississippi estimated at over $150 billion. The tragic irony is that the previous year,
in their 2004-OCT edition, National Geographic magazine had looked at how we were developing our landscapes and predicted the whole thing.  National Geographic  published an article by Joel K. Bourne titled: "Gone With the Water” that decried the  loss of wetlands that have historically protected New Orleans. As illustrated on the website, “http://www.religioustolerance.org/tsunami04n.htm” “The article started with a very accurate prediction of the events which occurred during Katrina's devastation of the city one year later. The author was in error in their estimate of the number of deaths. But many other points raised in this prefix to the article were deadly accurate”.

The website notes other articles predicting and warning us of the same consequences. Of note were a Scientific American article in 2001 and even, ironically, a Houston Chronicle article from that same year.  Houston’s science writer Eric Berger, wrote that New Orleans was facing a “doomsday scenario”, saying,
“It's been 36 years since Hurricane Betsy buried New Orleans 8 feet deep. Since then a deteriorating ecosystem and increased development have left the city in an ever more precarious position. Yet the problem went unaddressed for decades by a laissez-faire government, experts said.”
“Economically, he said, “the toll would be shattering. Southern Louisiana produces one-third of the country's seafood, one-fifth of its oil and one-quarter of its natural gas. The city's tourism, lifeblood of the French Quarter, would cease to exist. The Big Easy might never recover. And, given New Orleans' precarious perch, some academics wonder if it should be rebuilt at all.”
He concluded,
“In the face of an approaching storm, scientists say, the city's less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet of water. Thousands of refugees could land in Houston.”
Well here we are, 16 years later, and now the refugees are coming from Houston, and the same questions are being asked all over -- “should we rebuild at all?”.
Yet, history shows us that we almost always do.  As long as somebody can make money off of risky investments and sales of risk-prone buildings and infrastructure, some people will continue to develop, no matter how bad things might become.  It seems to be in human nature… at least, that is, in the nature of those who think it is okay to profit off the misfortune of others, as East German playwright Bertold Brecht pointed out  in his 1941 theatrical exposition of petty war profiteers posing as philanthropists called “Mother Courage and her Children”.
And we must be very clear… debates about climate change, and attempts to IGNORE its consequences when planning ways to benefit the haves and punish the have nots  are nothing new AT ALL. The question always revolves around the ancient Latin maxim “Cui bono” -- who profits? “Who stands, or stood, to gain (from a crime, and so might have been responsible for it)”?

Many  current so called “conservatives” who stand to gain  actually claim that today’s climate change is nothing to fear because climate change is “natural” and has been occurring since the earth began. And that may be true if you have access to a private helicopter and a second or third home on dry land.  Others have trepidation about the consequences of climate changes but still deny human agency, attributing it to everything from sunspots, to volcanic activity to the terraforming tendencies of space aliens, all while denying the contributions of  burning fossil fuels, clearing forest land and engaging in industrial agriculture, something  that is certainly convenient if you are making your money through those very activities.  Follow the money, right?
The irony is that the creators of the capitalist economy, who benefitted from deforestation and mining and drilling and agricultural expansion at one time in our history actually believed very very strongly in “anthropogenic” or “human induced” climate change back in the day.  It is just that they saw it as an overwhelmingly positive thing, dreaming for example, as many capital holders today do, of the beach resorts they could open in the north when the ice floes were all gone, and of all the wine grapes they could grow in previously frigid landscapes.
Much of this is  documented in the book “Historical Perspectives on Climate Change” by James Rodger Fleming, which is available from our USF library and summarized online  in the article “The first American settlers cut down millions of trees to deliberately engineer climate change”.  The subtitle is
“Long term, it worked, but not how they intended”. (https://timeline.com/american-settlers-climate-change-5b7b68bd9064)
The book points out that the second president of the United States, John Adams, was a climate change proponent.  The differences between him and our current president are actually superficial at best, when you think about it, based on whether, in the current political climate a politician is better off  assigning credit or blame for the changes. John Adams  was a believer that anthropogenic climate change  was possible and  real but he thought it was  desirable.  He thought it was good for reasons the allegedly white-supremacist-supporting 45th president would probably agree with :  “When the first colonists arrived, wrote John Adams, “the whole continent was one dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and bears and more savage men. Now the forests are removed, the land covered with fields of corn, orchards bending with fruit, and the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.”
Other presidents and wealthy, politically powerful (mostly white)  men were in favor of human-induced climate change.  The historical documents show how  early presidents presiding over  American colonist created  global warming trends were celebrating  and endorsing the changes they thought they were witnessing as America seemed to get hotter and hotter, allegedly as a result of their deliberate deforestation.  The book Historical Perspectives on Climate Change notes,
“Even our most famous forefathers chimed in with benevolent compliments for the deforestation agenda. In his Notes on Virginia, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “A change in our climate…is taking place very sensibly….The elderly inform me, the earth used to be covered with snow about three months in every year. The rivers, which then seldom failed to freeze over in the course of the winter, scarcely ever do now.” In a 1763 letter, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Cleared land absorbs more heat and melts snow quicker.” He added one caveat, however: More study was necessary to confirm these findings.
By 1811, Harvard-educated Hugh Williamson reported that New England snows had been more than halved over a fifty-year period. He argued that once future generations had “cultivated the interior part of the country, we shall seldom be visited by frosts or snows.” Period. “It follows, that a country, in a state of nature, covered with trees, must be much colder than the same country when cleared.”
Ironically, however, as the book points out, science did NOT confirm the findings.  There were plenty of voices contesting the views of the nation’s presidents:

“Contrarians reported the absolute opposite, and their voices helped fuel a 19th-century conservation movement and more rigorous climate science. It was an uphill battle, however, with prominent voices continuing to extol the merits of a utopian civilization based primarily around commercialized agriculture.
Climate hadn’t been “improving,” argued Massachusetts doctor Job Wilson, who studied meteorological records spanning 16 years. Deforestation had made the country’s heat and cold even more extreme. One William Dunbar wrote to the American Philosophical Society, “It is with us a general remark, that of late years the summers have become hotter and the winters colder than formerly.” Noah Webster, of dictionary fame, agreed that clearing trees could certainly exaggerate extremes.
But attacking deforestation science often came with its own political motivations. America wanted to attract more people to the Western frontier, where the air was dry and hot. Desert loomed for hundreds of miles. Expansionists decried deforestation, promising to plant new wooded expanses for a more pleasant and habitable West. The country’s relationship with climate was a veritable Goldilocks tale — nothing was ever just right for everyone. And the reasons had less to do with science and more to do with motivations.”
The same is true today.
Scientists have been observing and predicting  dire consequences from climate change, most of it human-induced or exacerbated by anthropogenic activities,  mostly  driving natural oscillations to unprecedented extremes, for well over a century.  Time magazine had an article called “Scientists Have Known About Climate Change for a Lot Longer Than You May Think” in 2015 (http://time.com/4122485/climate-change-history/) and it is now common knowledge that Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius “had made the connection that the carbon dioxide caused by that coal could affect the climate” back  in the late 19th century.
Arrhenius wrote
“That the atmospheric envelopes limit the heat losses from the planets had been suggested about 1800 by the great French physicist Fourier. His ideas were further developed afterwards by Pouillet and Tyndall. Their theory has been styled the hot-house theory, because they thought that the atmosphere acted after the manner of the glass panes of hot-houses." (p51)
"If the quantity of carbonic acid [ CO2 + H2O → H2CO3 (carbonic acid) ] in the air should sink to one-half its present percentage, the temperature would fall by about 4°; a diminution to one-quarter would reduce the temperature by 8°. On the other hand, any doubling of the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air would raise the temperature of the earth's surface by 4°; and if the carbon dioxide were increased fourfold, the temperature would rise by 8°." (p53)
"Although the sea, by absorbing carbonic acid, acts as a regulator of huge capacity, which takes up about five-sixths of the produced carbonic acid, we yet recognize that the slight percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere may by the advances of industry be changed to a noticeable degree in the course of a few centuries." (p54)
"Since, now, warm ages have alternated with glacial periods, even after man appeared on the earth, we have to ask ourselves: Is it probable that we shall in the coming geological ages be visited by a new ice period that will drive us from our temperate countries into the hotter climates of Africa? There does not appear to be much ground for such an apprehension. The enormous combustion of coal by our industrial establishments suffices to increase the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air to a perceptible degree." (p61)
"We often hear lamentations that the coal stored up in the earth is wasted by the present generation without any thought of the future, and we are terrified by the awful destruction of life and property which has followed the volcanic eruptions of our days. We may find a kind of consolation in the consideration that here, as in every other case, there is good mixed with the evil. By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates, especially as regards the colder regions of the earth, ages when the earth will bring forth much more abundant crops than at present, for the benefit of rapidly propagating mankind." (p63)

And so here is the rub:
As usual when it comes to the utopian experiment we call “civilization”, there is good and bad, winners and losers.  In order to maximize their own success, some groups will try to change the environments that surround them and sustain them.  When the changes benefit them, when the cost-benefit analysis yields a positive result for THEM and when nobody else gets hurt or complains in a way that can threaten their profits,  they will naturally take credit.  When voices of dissent grow large enough to threaten their well being, they will deny there is a problem or they will find someone or something else to blame so long as the Cost Benefit equation still yields profits. People are opportunistic, and most of those who wield power seize every opportunity they can, because they can.  Only when the changes that are happening  hurt them, will they try to change course.
So let those of us who stand to be harmed by climate changes, however they are caused,  take a page from the playbook of the Koch brothers and their climate change denying cronies and gurus.   “We the people” can actually use the same logic and tactics that they use for a more inclusive democracy (and more Sustainable one!) and still benefit the wealthy and powerful at the same time. Recognizing that possibility -- that a win-win scenario is still possible --  is my principal goal in this course -- to find ways of mitigating and adapting to climate change that also mitigate and adapt to the changes in our political climate so we don’t plunge into war or strife as we navigate the uncertainties in our food/energy/water nexus and life support system.
Nancy McLean’s “Democracy in Chains” tells us how the current regime, who we should actually call “climate change responsibility deniers” are driving their agenda, and we can learn from them:
"Buchanan offered strategic advice to corporations on how to fight the kind of reforms and taxation that came with more inclusive democracy. In the 1990s, for example, as Koch was getting more involved at George Mason, Buchanan convened corporate and rightwing leaders to teach them how to use what he called the "spectrum of secession" to undercut hard-won reforms through measures that have now become core to Republican practice: decentralization, devolution, federalism, privatization, and deregulation."

Ironically, these same threats to democracy wielded by those who believe in Buchanan’s “Marginal Revolution” , in the hands of we the people, in the hands of democracy advocates,  especially those of us marginalized by the wealthy oligarchs and robber barons and elites, could be our most powerful antidote in the quest for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Decentralization is the key here. Decentralization for energy, food production, for waste and water management. Devolution of power to the local level, particularly as concerns food production systems.  Federalism could let us work together at the state level to ignore government rulings that would force us back into the fossil fuel age, creating our own local green economies as California is doing. Deregulation could help us so that we can get away from stodgy bureaucratic rules that were intended or inadvertantly keep us dependent on fossil fuels and fertilizers, rules that keep us  from producing our own electricity and fuels and that keep us from turning our front lawns into permaculture plots, and that keep us from treating the organic residuals from our toilets and kitchens on-site and turning them into sources of local wealth.  As for privatization ,we could be saying, on our private property, with our shotgun legally in our hands  "hey, you don't get my shit. Literally. You don't get my banana peel, or the parts of the banana that passed through me. That shit is MINE. "
And regarding flooding, we can say “you don’t get my water. You don’t even get my pee, the water that passed through me, and you don’t get the water that falls on my roof or my parking lot or any of my land. That water stays on MY land, in my community, in OUR neighborhood.”  
We can build our homes the way the coastal people of Belize and Nigeria  have traditionally done -- on stilts, well above the highest flood waters. We can build our houses on wheels, build our houses like boats. We can win the right to capture and use our rainwater like they do in Bermuda,  to drink, shower and bathe, wash our clothes and water our lawns and gardens. We can set up tidal surge and wave generators and stream generators and wind generators to capture high velocity waves and winds and waterfalls --even off our roofs and rain gutters.  We can insist on permeable paving that recharges our aquifers, or we can insist on no paving at all, populating our landscapes with water loving, water hungry lush plants -- preferably ones that can make us food independent too. With all so called “wastes” safely in biodigesters and recycling industrial ecology systems, so that nothing can wash into our streets and drains and rivers and oceans when the storms come, and our houses and businesses and communities built to take advantage of and be comfortable with the consequences of climate change we can say, hopefully sooner rather than later, when it comes to big rains, “bring it on”.
Let’s get ready.


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