The TakeAway: Yet another deadly tornado has ripped through Oklahoma, killing at least 91, including 20 elementary school children. It came on the heels of severe weather yesterday, which generated at least two dozen tornadoes across Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois. We can’t continue to let this happen, so many innocent people dead or damaged by Mother Nature’s fury because of what we’ve wrought. Before yet another tragedy strikes, please consider a series of 14 concrete actions we can take to fight against the destruction created by these catastrophic weather events, and the human-made climate change that helps create them.
The images are horrifying as whole sections of the Midwest are destroyed by massive tornadoes that wreak fury on land, lives, and livelihood, leaving “pockets of fright” (as one newscaster put it) remaining in their path. This afternoon, a massive tornado estimated to be two miles wide ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, shortly after an earlier round of storms the day before. Strong atmospheric winds—meteorologists call it “wind shear”—fuel the intensity at levels unheard of in regions familiar with tornadic destruction. A “tornado emergency” was declared, which means, Run for cover underground, there’s no likelihood of survival.
Schools were hit, children are being pulled from an elementary school in a desperate rescue mission, and hospitals are evacuating patients to ready for the rush of injured.
At this writing the full scale of the carnage remains unclear, but 91 people have died, 20 of them children from the Plaza Towers Elementary School. Emergency workers and neighbors go from house to house to see who’s in the rubble.
Those of us who grew up in the Midwest know that sickening feeling when a tornado “watch”, or “warning”, is issued. You don’t mess with these things, and everyone is taught from an early age where to seek shelter in the basement. Midwesterners, like most people, are a resilient bunch, and come together when emergency happens. We know that tornados are vicious and deceptive: when they touch the ground, they can leave unspeakable damage on one side of the street, while things are unchanged on the other side.
Having lived in New England for 42 years, I’ve never experienced this kind of fear—until a couple of years ago, when the first tornados in anyone’s memory landed in central and Western Massachusetts, killing four people and devastating 19 communities.
Those of us in the Boston area once again, just 5 weeks after the Marathon bombing, watch moving images as the tornado stories unfold, helpless in the face of sudden catastrophe, our hearts going out to those whose lives are changed forever. I live in Watertown, so have special knowledge of the ripple effect of the Marathon bombing, the bizarre chase for the bombers, their death and capture. (I swim where the kid brother used to work.)
But you don’t have to live in Boston to know that the Marathon bombings were caused by human hands and warped minds, and as people try to come to terms with cause—how do you prepare for the actions of a madman?—we know, deep down, that you can’t always prevent these kinds of terror.
But we can be more vigilant, more aware of the little things that add up to crazy, erupting with sudden force in ways that dwarf our petty self interests and apathetic “Whatevers”.
Natural disasters, it seems, are also caused by human hands and ignorant minds, as people refuse to come to terms with cause—how else do you explain the utter failure of our national leadership to pass comprehensive climate policy?—yet believe, deep down, that we’re not doing enough to prevent this kind of terror.
We need to be more vigilant, more aware of the little things that add up to crazy—our addiction to a carbon economy, our refusal to move our politics beyond gridlock, our apathetic, “It’s too big to address.”
Well, hell, that’s just downright dumb. Continue reading