That Sinking Feeling…Again

Sharon August 31st, 2008

The first few lines in my book that aren’t thanking someone else are about Hurricane Katrina.   They focus on the fact that not only could our leadership have known just how devastating Katrina could be because they were briefed, and because there had been discussions of this issue for years before,  but because just a few months before Hurricane Katrina, Fox ran a low-budget docudrama called “Oil Storm” that did quite a good exploration of what might happen were a severe hurricane to hit New Orleans and the energy infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico.   

Although I do not say this part in my book, because it is somewhat tangential to the larger subject, I do find it interesting that even if you concede that our current president was probably not bright enough to understand the scientific assessment without his one-on-one aide, Dick present, the subject had already been reformatted for fearless leader by his favored network and in an accessible, beer-in-hand, fictionalized format.  And they still missed it.

Well, the Republicans aren’t going to make *that* mistake again – it looks as though they may actually postpone the convention so that McCain can fully compete with Obama at photo-ops helping rescue puppy dogs, and be ready to call for drilling in deep water off the California coast to offset the new $5.00 gallon cost of gas (without mentioning that it won’t kick in until gas is at $12 gallon), caused by having our oil infrastructure in deep, vulnerable water in a rapidly changing climate.

Meanwhile, while the people of New Orleans may not have to suffer in the superdome again, the damage likely to be caused by Gustav and his friends (Hanna is right behind him and there are several other tropical depressions forming), is likely to set back the partial rebuilding of New Orleans, remind us just how tenuous the future of coastal cities really is, and disrupt the lives of literally millions.  The future of those caught on the roads when the hurricane hits looks worrisome. Tens of thousands will be back to the brother-in-law on the couch, thousands will, if New Orleans is badly flooded, probably decide not to come back this time.  And it seems unlikely that our increasingly straitened government will be able to find the money for yet another rebuild – only 3 years later.  It is hard to look at this with anything other than a sick feeling at the pit of your stomach - both for the future of those who live in the Gulf, and for the future of our country. 

Meanwhile, there is a real chance that we are about to see how the US adapts to much, much higher energy costs, and an extended period of disruption.  Dramatic reduction in refining capacity will send gas and heating oil prices higher, and natural gas will probably follow.  A nation in the early stages of an economic crisis may see itself shoved, unceremoniously, into something significantly deeper.  The best coverage of this issue is at The Oil Drum, btw: #node/4468#more.

Or it may not.  Three years ago, I speculated about whether Hurricanes Katrina and Rita together, with their effect on energy prices, would be sufficient to tip us into full awareness of peak oil and climate change.  And while they did make some real and significant shifts, the truth is that things are being spun far faster than understanding is reaching the general public.  Thus we are told that Katrina was an isolated failure.  Thus we will be told that Gustav is yet another coincidence.  And some of us will believe.

Both Republicans and Democrats will be spinning this as fast as the hurricane itself rotates – we will be told that whatever disaster we face, it was not the fault of either of the candidates for president, but of the other and the other’s party.  We will be told that the right president will keep us safe in the future.  What we won’t be told is this – that sinking feeling that we get when disaster strikes, and we know we can’t fix it – that’s getting to be a familiar feeling, and that we are just going to have to get used to it.  But while Americans will often believe any lie they are told, at least some of them are going to grasp that we are in the early stages of the end of what we’ve known.  And even those who half-believe the lies are going to be increasingly angry that the lies can’t seem to do much good.

 Whoever becomes president will inherit a sinking economy, a world involuntarily and without preparation transitioning to much lower energy use, a nation full of people who wonder what happened to the future they were promised, and, I hope, I secret fear, an internal sinking feeling at the pit of his stomach.  Because honestly, perhaps the best thing we can hope for in a leader at this point is one with the ability to understand the difference between the reality and his own spin.

For those of you facing the Hurricanes, please get somewhere safe, and know that you are in my prayers.


14 Responses to “That Sinking Feeling…Again”

  1. bryant says:

    It’s Sunday…does that mean I can nit-pick? First sentence, second paragraph; you typed “present” you mean “president”.

  2. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » That Sinking Feeling…Again The first few lines in my book that aren’t thanking someone else are about Hurricane Katrina. They focus on the fact that not only could our leadership have known just how devastating Katrina could be because they were briefed, and because there had been discussions of this issue for years before, but because just a few months before Hurricane Katrina, Fox ran a low-budget docudrama called “Oil Storm” that did quite a good exploration of what might happen were a severe hurricane to hit New Orleans and the energy infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico. [...]

  3. Squrrl says:

    As my husband and I said when we first heard about Gustav, this is exactly the sort of “predictable unpredictable” event that pushes things downhill faster than any calculation of everyday things can predict. That is, you can’t tell what they’ll be or how they’ll happen, but you can pretty well guess that _something_ is bound to happen.

    I’m also rather frustrated and a tad bitter, because last night I decided that I was not going to stand around and wring my hands this time, I was going to offer help and a home to someone in need…and now I find that I can’t find out HOW to do so. Boy, we’re obviously all set up to help each other out around here!

  4. Karin says:

    All I can think at this time is the nightmare that the folks on the gulf coast have been through in the last three years. And now a bigger pile of paper will be tossed upon them with deferred aid.

  5. Shamba says:

    My prayers and best thoughts for all the gulf Coast humans and other creatures in the path of Gustav.

    I wonder what kindn of a punch this gives to american society and economy in the aftermath of Gustav? Not much, I hope, but it’s got to be a “little” more down the economic scale since the US economy is much weaker than it was before Katrina. We won’t know that till we see the other side of Gustav ….


  6. Heather Gray says:

    Squrrl, don’t know if this helps or not, but I did a google for “how to help with gustav” and got some hits. But they were for specific companies, groups, or states, nothing national. Still, if you’re in a state that’s kind of close to there (or at least as close as California is — one of the search results…), you could try “gustav” plus your state.

    I also did a search for “gustav fema” but that didn’t get a lot of useful hits. “red cross” might be a good search, or you might contact whatever local outreach/charity/emergency organizations are in your area and see what they’re doing in response to Gustav.

    Good luck!

  7. Daily Kos is running a series of diaries on Gustav including information for people needing resources; they will be posting how to help as info comes in. At Daily Kos you look for the “mother ship” diary on the right side, and it will direct you to the current “child” diary with continuous updates.

    Don’t know if that’s helpful for those of you wanting to contribute, but I hope so.

  8. Oh p.s. and the Kos comments said food supplies were already in doubt. I reminded people not in harm’s way that now is the time to stock up on supplies, emergency kit etc. Don’t wait until a hurricane/earthquake/snowstorm to start building up your pantry and equipment. Thanks to Sharon for her continuous lobbying and instruction in this area.

  9. Alan says:

    Not to throw gasoline on the fire, but most of our thoughts and preparations seem based on just that __one__ terrible event.

    What would it mean to this country if, say, a large earthquake were to strike the San Andreas, or the New Madrid Faults while the Gulf Coast is being drowned by a gigantic hurricane?

    Or terrorists were to choose an approaching hurricane as their moment to strike?

    Nothing says that disasters come in singles separated by months or years for us to recover.

  10. Tara says:

    Squrrl, as someone else said, how you can help will depend on where you are. After Katrina my husband and I spent two days at our local Salvation Army shelter – we took a whole carload of food, toiletries and supplies and volunteered our time for two days. We are, however, right next door in Texas so there were many, many people arriving there from NOLA.

    We have personal ties to that area and we’ve found the folks living there to be some of the warmest, kindest and most determined we’ve ever met. It will devastate us to see the same thing happen to them again, so soon.

    Incidentally, I can personally state that Katrina was the defining moment when I realized that in the face of disaster, NO HELP WILL BE COMING, and we’d damn well better be able to take care of ourselves. :(

  11. Rosa says:

    I turned on the radio this afternoon to find out who else had been raided/arrested, and got to hear two meteorologists and a forester answer climate change and weather questions at the Minnesota State Fair.

    They were firmly in the “we can’t say for sure if it’s caused by humans” camp but also very, very firm that it’s real. Repeating things like “we have 100 years of data for this area so we can see a trend” and “We haven’t had growing seasons shorter than 90 days, which were historically normal, in northern Minnesota in the last 30 years.”

    I think people are coming around…whether they will change their behavior is a different issue, but people are changing their minds about climate change.

  12. Kate says:

    Sharon, to be honest I can’t focus or plan for anything long-term until I know the outcome of this election. So much depends upon the direction this country will take and I’m terrified McCain might pull one out- or at least be close enough for “election irregularities” like Ohio and Florida.

    This really matters. Competence or delusion- each will have profound effects on how we take the slide. Plus, I don’t need a side of religious fanaticism with my Peak Oil.

    (On a side note, I tried to leave a comment on Hen and Harvest, noting that an article cited in “Everything’s fine, Keep Eating” is not current, but from 1981. The comment said it was in moderation, but then disappeared. Here’s the info: U.S. ACTS TO SHRINK SCHOOL LUNCH SIZE IN ECONOMY MOVE

    Published: September 5, 1981)

  13. Lisa Z says:

    For some reason my comment didn’t go through, maybe because it had a link in it?

    Anyways, I’m having a REAL sinking feeling because of the actions of police here in Minnesota right now during the Republican National Convention. Go to my blog for the latest I’ve heard about–the impounding of the Permibus, a family bus touring around teaching Permaculture skills. This is outrageous!

    Lisa in MN

  14. Harrison Fulton says:


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