With my feed full of images of Cyclone Idai and the floods in Nebraska I’m reminded of my own closest encounter with climate impacts where I live – tropical storm Irene in 2011. My family and neighborhood were fine, but many nearby were not.
Bridges washed out. And some, just miles from my home, are still not rebuilt eight years later. The river took back some of its ground.
Farms were devastated when most of their topsoil washed away, gobbled up by an overflowing, rushing rivers. Lots of housing stock was damaged, some destroyed, and families were displaced.
There also were a few bright spots, like the town downstream of a wetland that was vastly less damaged than similar towns upstream of the wetland. The wetland provided water with room to spread out and slow down.
It is striking to me that climate impacts are so often mediated by water. Where it falls (and where it doesn’t). Where it flows (over pavement or compacted land) and where it is welcome to gently soak in.
And also, what it carries with it, that we have placed within its reach: trash, toxics, tires, sewage, and some of the most dangerous infrastructure we have, like refineries and nuclear power stations.
How we navigate the climate change that we can’t prevent, it seems to me, will depend, among many other things, on how well we learn, or re-learn, or learn from those who never forgot, how to live with water, respecting it, treasuring it, working with it, and giving it room.
With the most ferocious storms, as we are seeing in both unfolding disasters, all the water sense in the world wouldn’t be enough to keep everyone safe. But maybe the harm could be lessened?
And, wouldn’t communities that pay attention to water, that celebrate it, care for it, and respect its power, also be better, healthier, more beautiful places to live, day after day, not just during extreme events?
I learned from tropical storm Irene that what people need in the days after a disaster is pretty concrete: resources, food, shelter, clean water, medical care, rebuilding, and mental health support.
So, my musings aren’t really aimed towards the people in the path of these storms; they are for the rest of us, safe for now on dry ground, who have the luxury, should we choose to use it, of developing a deeper relationship with water as it flows through our communities.
And, because this is the era of preventing future climate change and adapting to what we can’t prevent all while responding to immediate crises, here are two organizations that I ended up feeling were good conduits for the donations I made, here in the Midwest and in Mozambique.