Re-Build? Re-think.

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Hurricane Sandy: Rebuilding is madness

Foundations and pilings are all that remain of brick buildings and a boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, after they were destroyed when a powerful storm that started out as Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast on Monday night. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)(Credit: AP)

Here’s a piece that I wrote that appeared here in over the past weekend.  (Despite the fact that Bill is visiting and making me drink way too much.)

Rebuilding is Madness

“No one could have predicted this.”

Those were the words of President Bush after Katrina, and as soon as they came out of his mouth you could almost imagine a hundred coastal scientists shaking their heads all at once, thinking, no sir, this is exactly what we predicted.  So, too, New York City last week, though honestly — and I know that this isn’t what people suffering right now want to hear — a lot of the predictions painted a picture that was a lot worse.  Water higher, winds wilder, buildings down.

Where I live we are used to such beatings. While I’ve lived on the Atlantic Coast for the better part of my life, it wasn’t until I moved to a barrier island off of North Carolina that I started to think hard about hurricanes. That thinking progressed, as thought often does, by way of metaphor. One day I was kayaking from the island I called home, Wrightsville Beach, over to our sister island to the south, the uninhabited Masonboro, a nature preserve which, bolstered by its backside marsh, still handled hurricanes in the old fashioned way. Pancake flat and nearly treeless, Masonboro doesn’t look particularly hardy, but its healthy marshes allow it to receive and interact with storms in ways my developed island could not: sand spilling over the island and the marsh growing, the island gradually but constantly migrating landward. It is through this sort of elemental rope-a-dope that the coastal islands have always interacted with storms, water rushing over land, sands breaking down and reforming, those sands retreating to the marsh on its backside, rebuilding in a new place, giving and taking.

My cluttered island, by contrast, looked decidedly fragile as I kayaked back toward it. In fact, paddling home, a strange metaphor came to mind. With its flat treeless land and tall buildings, the island looked like nothing so much as a dinner table full of empty plates and bottles after a party, waiting, I thought, for an angry drunk to come along and sweep it clean with his arm. Of course the hurricane is the angry drunk.

To read the rest please visit Salon here:


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