Monday, August 29, 2011

Aftermath and Going With the Flow

"The wind ain't blowing at all....."
I spoke a little too soon when writing those words yesterday.
Though barely a breeze blew on Manhattan's Upper East Side either before or during the actual hurricane, the aftermath was a slightly different story.
The trees were briskly swaying in the breezes yesterday as the last remnants of hurricane Irene left with a somewhat lively "goodbye."
So much so, that Central Park was forced to close for what is the first time that I am aware of.
Though disappointed that I could not check on how Brad and the other ducks at Harlem Meer faired during the storm, it seemed the move to close the park was both prudent and probably wise under the circumstances.
With the grounds entirely saturated and winds blowing up to 60 MPH yesterday in Manhattan, its more than likely that some or maybe even many trees in Central Park went down.
Remembering back on a conversation with a park ranger last year, the knowledge of this makes me sad, not only for the trees, but the hundreds of little creatures, including small birds that might live in one tree.
I am nevertheless hopeful that the damage and destruction is not as bad as one might suspect.
In my immediate area, for example, one wouldn't even know that a significant storm passed this way  -- well, with the exception of some leaves strewn upon the streets.
Most of the stores however, were closed both yesterday and most of Saturday with perhaps the exception of the 24 hour CVS which remained open throughout the hurricane without incident.
Yesterday, I was critical of Bloomberg and other city leaders for what I felt to be "extreme" over-reaction to a potential crisis.
I still feel that way, though realize I am in the minority in that deduction.
Most people interviewed or offering opinions praise Bloomberg and say, "It was better to be safe than sorry."
But, I cannot help wondering at what costs for all that "safety" and were all the actions necessary?
With the city, state and country in so much debt, how much did it cost to evacuate, transport and shelter thousands of people, close hospitals and nursing facilities, shut down all mass transit (and presumably thousands of small businesses whose employees had no way of getting to work) and overwhelm and frighten the public with numerous press conferences and non-stop media coverage?
Did we really need the mayor to tell us to come in out of the rain or that "nature can be dangerous?"
Even though I live in an area that is not noted for flooding and whose buildings don't normally fall apart during a storm, many people were nevertheless in a seeming panic.
Supermarkets were packed prior to the storm with people loading up on everything from batteries to canned goods to entire cartons of bottled water.  It was as though people expected to be marooned without electricity or running water for weeks!
But, was that a realistic fear under the circumstances?
I didn't think it was.
Nevertheless, when hearing that mass transit would be shut down, I figured many stores would in fact close. And so yes, I made sure to have those necessities that would be needed were the power to go out temporarily or stores might close for a few days.
But, I didn't feel it necessary to hog and hoard,  nor did I feel a sense of panic.
There was, in my view, no reason to send many thousands of people living in the higher ground level areas of the city into a panic.
But, I think that is exactly what Bloomie and the media did.
"Nature can be dangerous."
Did our public officials and the media just wake up to that (mostly remote) possibility?
Or, is that just the way they normally think?
Sure, nature can sometimes be dangerous.   But, it is also very resilient.
None of the tiny trees in my neighborhood, though planted just last year, went down.
And just as most of the trees learn to "go" and bend with the crushing winds and rain, so too, do we need to learn to be a little more resilient and less panicky -- especially when it comes to nature.
Respect the power and possibility of nature. But, never fear and think of it as "dangerous."
I love to swim and am a good swimmer. But, I have enough respect for the sheer power of water to realize I am no match for it -- particularly oceans prior to or during a storm.  The secret to endurance swimming is to relax and go with the water, rather than trying to fight, outsmart or overpower it. 
Nature usually isn't "dangerous" at all, when one learns to respect and flow with it.
I believe in many ways, we have become very disconnected from nature and have learned to fear (or even hate) rather than respect and just go with the flow of it.
(Maybe that is due to too many Lysol commercials?)
Certainly, our bizarre "relationship" with Canada geese is an excellent example of that.
Unfortunately, most of our culture (especially, public officials) seems to look at these birds as either "pests," "health threats" or shooting targets.
That is truly pathetic as there is so much we can learn and connect to about nature simply by observing these (and other) wondrous and magnificent birds.
But, we would rather shoot geese or make irrational claims that shoe contact with the droppings of nature is somehow going to inflict us with some flesh eating, deadly disease.
Pure lunacy.
We have taken "concerns for human safety" and fears of the "dangers" of nature to irrational levels that in many ways, defy common sense.
One can, after all,  wash their hands two hundreds times a day for "safety."
But, is that normally necessary, (assuming one is not a surgeon)?
But, nor was it necessary to practically shut down an entire city for the fear of a temporary act of nature.
Take those actions that are necessary and appropriate for those living in the most vulnerable areas.
And for the rest of the people, advise them to go with the flow and always, always respect the power and resiliency of nature. -- PCA

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