Closing the window on Irene

Irene versus the St-Laurent Street Fair in Montreal
Irene versus the St-Laurent Street Fair in Montreal

As the remnants of Tropical Storm Irene pounded Montreal this past Sunday, I hunkered down in my apartment. Listening to the winds blow and the rain fall, I thought to myself: “I should really close the living room window, my roommate’s XBox is getting wet.”

If you were expecting my rainy day thoughts to be something more profound or at the very least profound-ish sounding and dealing with the nature of nature and its relationship to our very unnatural culture, well, that’s not the case here. And why should it be?

Yeah, I had been outside earlier in the day. I had felt slightly stronger-than-usual winds press up against me as I ran some errands. I witnessed the closest thing my neighbourhood got to destruction: near desolation at the St-Laurent Street Fair which had been buzzing with people the day earlier. I had my interesting and relevant pic to post to Facebook (of the aforementioned desolate street fair) and I heard the   complaints from people as they entered my apartment. I had had my fill of Irene.

Apparently, New York City had had their fill as well, and it wasn’t anything close to the catastrophe the media had been predicting. Just a smattering of downed trees, power outages and a bit of flooding. When I turned on the news, I discovered that there were some downed trees and power outages in Montreal as well. That sucked, but I was fine and I fell asleep.

The next morning, I learned on Democracy Now that things weren’t so pretty in Vermont, a state known for its natural beauty almost as much as it’s known for progressive politics. There was massive flooding. There were power outages everywhere. Historic covered bridges that had survived the previous great storm of 1927 simply got swept away by the waters.

This wasn’t a story on the larger corporate media outlets until Monday evening. In fact, coverage of the aftermath of the storm’s very real and still lasting effects seems to have dwindled. Instead we get stories about Michele Bachmann saying that Irene was God’s way of telling the US congress to get the economy in order.

Now I’m all for stories that expose some of the Republican contenders for president as the nutjobs that they are (she later claimed her statement was a joke, kind of like her campaign for president), but I think a better thing to cover would be the ongoing mass protest in front of the White House against the Keystone XL pipeline that’s supposed to transport tar sands oil from Alberta to the US.

Don’t get me wrong, the media has mentioned the protest, celebrities going to the slammer will do that. But pretty much all of the coverage has dealt with the close to 600 arrests and not the issue at hand. It is also not being linked at all to coverage of Irene. As far as I can tell, only independent media like the aforementioned Democracy Now mentioned the two in the same breath.

While there have been huge storms and hurricanes before, this one seems a little different. The destruction in northern areas seems considerably more rough and widespread to the point that it’s easy to wonder just how much affect a changing climate had on it.

While it may be easy to wonder and speculate a link between climate change and Irene, I don’t think many will. Just as the storm’s destruction is happening, for many of us, myself included, elsewhere. Very close to home in some cases, but still elsewhere.

Climate change is also happening elsewhere and unless something affects us directly and in a major way, there’s a strong chance that we may ignore it and go about what we’re doing. If it was like that for me last Sunday, it can be like that for you, too, not to mention for politicians and those in a position to directly do something about the situation.

Unless we start realizing that elsewhere could be here very soon and thinking about what we can do right now, things will get worse outside. Until then, we’ll just close the window. At least the Xbox won’t get wet.

One comment

  • Democracy Now is turning out to be one of the few credible news sources out there…that and of course FTB

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