Making Natural Disasters More Disastrous

BY ON September 26, 2017
Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico, 2017 - NASA

Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico, 2017 – NASA

Love opens our hearts. What struck me immediately upon becoming a mother: I felt so vulnerable with love and protectiveness that I might as well have taken out my heart and put it on my sleeve for the world to pluck off. My children are my heart. Opening up to loving them meant opening up not only to the profound joy of their being, but also to concern, or anxiety and fear, for their well-being.

Love opens our hearts. (Tweet this)

I am feeling that deep sense of sadness and anxiety these days, on behalf of all the mothers and fathers suffering from the effects of hurricanes and wildfires that have destroyed homes and livelihoods. It is quite literally painful to check the news.

It does me no good to remind myself that we will always have natural disasters—even disasters of biblical proportions, as many have described the rains and flames and floods they witnessed. Of course that’s true. But each disaster brings fresh grief—and a renewed sense of caring responsibility for our fellow humans.

I see vividly, before my eyes, Houstonians wading through sewage-tainted waters, breathing air laced with poisons and heavy metals. I watch in horror as houses burn down, taking with them a lifetime of treasures and memories. I hear farmers weeping in Puerto Rico, because every coconut tree, every plantain tree, every cow that gave milk, is gone, destroyed, vanished.

Puerto Rico is devastated. I feel the pain of every parent agonizing about how they will feed their children, much less clothe them, send them to school, keep them snug at home—when there is no home, no school, no market.

Natural disasters will always be with us. But it is morally up to us to do everything we can not to make them worse—not to add the unnatural to the natural.

We each will do what we can to help immediately—donate money, collect food and clothes, say prayers, send labor and materials and know-how to rebuild.

And then we each must do what we can to acknowledge that we bear responsibility for one another, all the time. We must keep pressing to have sane, rational conversations about science, about climate pollution, about how best to protect our children’s health, about where we build and what we build.

Waters will recede, homes will be rebuilt, crops will be replanted—but what else will we do? Will we continue to spew climate-altering pollution into the atmosphere, deaf to the warnings of the world’s scientists? Or will we open our hearts to sane, rational, careful and respectful solutions to the climate chaos we are bringing down on ourselves?

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TOPICS: Climate Change, Heat and Extreme Weather, Latino Community