You Don’t Have to Give Up the Beach to Believe in Climate Change
We all want a piece of the American Dream, and if you live by the ocean, you want to hold on to that piece more than the average person. For the 134 million Americans who will live along 95,000 miles of shoreline by 2020, the notion that a rising ocean due to melting ice caps could threaten their existence, just isn’t conceivable. Deborah Star Reed is one of these people. As one hurricane after another hit New York Jamaica Bay and Deborah’s concrete home, she was asked to evacuate, but refused. In Bloomberg’s article, Deborah is quoted as saying, ” Sandy was something exceptional, some crazy Frankenstein. I think we use climate change as a way of saying to people they should leave”. As it turns out, Deborah is not alone in her thinking. Most people live in denial that large events like Hurricane Sandy could happen again.
According to an ecoAmerica research report, American Climate Values 2014 Psychographic and Demographic Insights, most Americans see environmental messages as often about reducing, sacrificing, and doing more with less. This is in direct conflict with “the American Dream” – a set of stable cultural norms and values that promise a better life for those that work hard and try to get ahead. The report goes on to explain how greater progress can be achieved on climate solutions by connecting to these norms, rather than expecting Americans to change their fundamental beliefs. With a new set of messages, we can connect success, jobs, national prosperity, and opportunity with new energy solutions. If we want to build public support and political will for climate solutions, we need to use those messages and not attack basic American values.
Flavia Krause-Jackson and Fred Pals, Contributors to Bloomberg.com
When Hurricane Sandy came, Deborah Star Reed stayed home. Irene, the year before, had been over-hyped. Her 1919 concrete house was left unscathed by Donna in 1960 and the “Big One” of 1938.
So, on Oct. 29, 2012, the retired construction worker was munching on spare ribs with a friend, having ignored the evacuation warnings, when the first wave crashed into her home at the edge of New York’s Jamaica Bay. Hours later, hip-deep in water next to a bobbing piano, she began to pray.
Reed is still relying on the power of hope over experience. Science says she’s fighting in vain against the encroaching ocean. Instead of leaving, the 63-year-old has renovated the interior, rebuilding the kitchen, and erected four bulkheads by her pier and a concrete wall along the water.
“Sandy was something exceptional, some crazy Frankenstein,” she said from her deck with a view of Manhattan’s skyline. “I think we use climate change as a way of saying to people they should leave. I know I am protected.”
Reed’s resistance is borne out by academic studies that say it’s human nature to quickly normalize abnormal weather events. She personifies the dilemma facing the 134 million Americans who will live along 95,000 miles of shoreline by 2020 and underscores the paradox that people most directly affected often find it most difficult to adapt.
Image Credit: Michael Nagle, Bloomberg