My home state is broken, devastated and crippled. Hurricane Sandy has wrecked widespread havoc on my New Jersey. Whole towns and communities along the shore have been wiped out into sea. Thousands upon thousands of trees have been thrown about inland, destroying homes and cutting power to millions. A damn burst in Bergen County forced the displacement of entire towns. The NJ transit system, the main life-line to NYC, is still shattered. And we are running low on fuel and food. Many have written and will be writing about the devastation in New York City, especially the suffering down to Staten Island and the outer reaches of Brooklyn, but I just want to talk here about my home, my Jersey.
We lost power in the inland suburb of Maplewood sometime around 10pm on the Monday of the storm. Initially I had thought we were going to get through it alright, lower Manhattan had lost power several hours earlier without it effecting us, but we weren’t so lucky. But then again we probably got off easy. The winds were intense certainly, but my neighborhood is situated in a little valley, so there wasn’t as many downed trees as elsewhere in town. We lost power, but we didn’t lose our home.
But the lost of power was still pretty bad. No power meant no heat, day after day, night after night, with temperatures dropping consistently. After 3 days of waiting for the power to come back, we had to evacuate. By the end I was joking that I no longer feared death because at least hell would be warm.
Those who did end up worse were those people on the Jersey shore. These towns were just wiped out and off into the sea. These are the boardwalks like Sandy Hook, Tom’s River, Wildwood, which me and my friends would hang out on. Good summer memories. Now they’re gone. The people who live there, hard-working people, have seen they’re homes tossed about and hurled every which away. Destruction, total destruction.
There are many things that were revealed by this storm, very few of them good.
The utter and total vulnerability of our modern civilization was revealed. New Jersey as an organism, like the rest of the United States, is based around cars, gasoline and electricity. Cars are how people get around, its how people can evacuate, its how emergency vehicles do what they have to do, its how via tractor trailers resources and food can get into an area. The automotive transportation system is the circulatory system of our civilization. But when gas stations don’t have power, it doesn’t matter how much fuel they have underground, you can’t get at it.
The lack of electricity, for days on end, effects everything. It is the ultimate of negative multiplier effects. No power means no heat, no communication, no internet, no food preservation, limited cooking options, no lights, hampered transportation, no public services, no businesses. The difference between the 21st century and the 17th is only a couple of watts.
I hate to ever give the slightest credence to the Derrick Jenson, anarcho-primitivist, apaco-lust, collapse cults of the world, but there is some truth to their madness. Modern capitalistic civilization is incredibly vulnerable. Living in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation, nestled in an a continuous urban sprawl that stretches down the eastern sea-board from Boston to Atlanta, you’re acutely aware how many people you are surrounded by when shit really hits the fan.
The truth is storms like are going to become more and more regular, these sorts of crises are the new normal. Global warming is a fact. We don’t have to wait for climate to change because it has already changed on us. And we are all now at risk for it.
But that’s not to give anarhco-primitivists too much credit. There belief that capitalistic civilization is just going to keel over and collapse and the can hope to live in hunter/gatherer communes in a post-apocalyptic world, besides being absurd, elitist, sick, twisted and almost evil is totally wrong. If Fukishima and the risks that went with Sandy taught us anything is that if not by nuclear war then by nuclear plant meltdown, there is going to be no post-apocalypse for life on this planet. Capitalism isn’t going to collapse, its going to explode and take every last one of us with it if we let it.
The aftermath of the storm has shown some powerful and impressive displays of people taking it upon themselves to help each other. Organizing relief centers, opening their doors to others, donating supplies and so forth. But these displays of selfless altruism were so desperately needed only because, mirroring the regular infrastructure, the official aid systems were so lacking. If we are to properly prepare ourselves and our state for whats to come we are going need a far greater and concerted effort. The mitigation and adaption towards climate change is a global effort.