Coming Soon To A Town Near You
tl;dr: issues are important before they impact you, too
Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history. It spanned about 1,500 miles and although it was only a Category 2 storm when it hit the Northeast US, it caused $89 billion USD (adjusted for inflation) worth of damage, affected 24 states, and killed 233 people. The devastation and damage were widespread, but what was slightly unusual was the amount of damage inflicted in the states of New York and New Jersey. On Oct 29, 2012, people across the nation were shocked to see floodwaters close subway lines, tunnels, and streets as millions of people lost power. To give you an idea of how bad things were, the stock markets were closed for two days. It was the first weather-related multi-day closing in 127 years.
In December of that same year, a federal aid package was being created and Congress started the approval process. Finally, on January 28, 2013, the Senate passed a bill by a vote of 62-36 giving $50.5 billion in relief. 36 US Senators voted against this aid package. What is notable among the list of nays is that two of these elected officials represent states that were directly impacted by Sandy itself! That's right, Sens Ayotte (R-NH) and Toomey (R-PA) voted against a bill that would spend part of that money in giving relief to their own constituents. However, the point of using this awful storm as an example is to focus on the particular votes of the two Senators from Texas, Sens. Cruz and Cornyn. Both voted no on this bill. Senator Cruz might have communicated in that fashion that only Ted Cruz can do, but please do take care to remember that both of these people voted no. It's going to come in quite handy in a moment.
In August 2017, a very powerful Category 4 hurricane made landfall in Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane Harvey caused $146 billion USD (adjusted for inflation) in damage, catastrophic flooding, and killed 68 people. Harvey is tied with Katrina as the most expensive hurricane/cyclone in recorded history. The first chunk of federal aid, a $15 billion disaster relief bill passed in the US Senate on September 7, 2017, by a vote of 80-17. The 17 Senators who voted no on this bill were Sens. Bob Corker, Steve Daines, Mike Enzi, Joni Ernst, Deb Fischer, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley, Ron Johnson, James Lankford, Mike Lee, John McCain, Jerry Moran, Rand Paul, James Risch, Ben Sasse, and Pat Toomey. While it is nice to see Pat Toomey remain cruelly consistent, where are the votes of Sens. Cruz and Cornyn? They are not in the nay column. They are in the aye column. They voted for the disaster relief bill for their own state when it got slammed by a hurricane and voted no for similar circumstances just five years earlier when Texas wasn't impacted. Sen Cruz responded to this criticism by saying, "There's time for political sniping later" and stated that he enthusiastically backed Hurricane Sandy aid. If voting no is enthusiastically backing something, I shudder to think what virulent opposition to something looks like. Wait, we might have some examples of that...
This not designed to be a slamfest on Sens Cruz and Cornyn. The examples of Sandy and Harvey are meant to offer some insight toward a critical - dare we say almost "cruz"ial - part of how we approach problems. Bluntly, this insight is that when it comes to tough issues like giving aid or addressing sustainability issues today, it isn't that many people are indifferent. It is that they are insensitive. Without exception, mature adults understand that bad things happen. Sometimes events are so bad that we have to rally and try to work together to overcome these setbacks. Otherwise, what good is society? Unfortunately, this only seems to work for some when it's convenient for them. If not, well, in the crudest manner possible, shit happens. And that is easy to say...until the shit happens to you. Then it isn't so funny anymore.
This topic was inspired by the upcoming World Refugee Day, which is observed on Jun 20. Refugees are people that have been harmed to such a degree that they cannot continue a sustainable existence where they currently live. They must relocate to survive. Refugees are created from a myriad of sources ranging from genocide to climate change. Many people are sympathetic to the plight of people who are forced to flee their homes. They agree that someone needs to help them, but they also don't want the refugees to come to their town. Again, people aren't indifferent. They are insensitive.
The challenges that face us in the field of sustainability are so large that if we do not start taking action now, we will drive many people from their homes, and this time the refugees will be us. There are major US cities that are about to run out of water. This won't happen in 2050, but in a couple of years. The Colorado River cannot sustain the demands placed upon it anymore. We are seeing record temperatures that are making going outdoors a really, really bad idea for many people that are elderly or infirm. The risks are not just isolated to that region. We face threats that could make refugees out of all of us. Whether you live in the Northeast, Great Lakes, MidAtlantic, or Southeast region, there is no part of the country that is immune.
If we understand this and start leading more purposeful lives when it comes to our decisions regarding consumption, then when those threats impact our communities, we won't have to bear the criticisms of hypocrisy that "Lyin' Ted" and people of his ilk have to endure for their actions. Also, it is important to point out that most of the criticism has focused on Cruz and spared Cornyn. This is most likely due to the fact that Sen. Cornyn wasn't as malicious and public about his hypocrisy as was his more junior counterpart. However, he shouldn't be left off the hook, either.
We cannot afford to be insensitive anymore. Our choices and actions have impacts that ripple farther than we can imagine or may want to admit. If we happen to utter a sentence that declares that "somebody really needs to be doing something about that", then perhaps we might also ponder how that somebody can be us. Because if we don't do that for others, do we deserve the same consideration when something affects us? The reality is that a sustainability issue impacting you directly is not a matter of if, but when. And the when is coming sooner than you might think.