Hell hath no fury

like Mother Nature scorned.

As we begin to recover from the recent hurricanes, with an eye out for more (the hurricane season doesn't end until November) we need to think seriously about some important items that we ignore to our literal peril.

I'm not going to argue about global warming; it's a real thing, like gravity and a spheroid earth. What I do want to highlight is that on top of global warming making hurricanes and other weather events more severe, so too do some of the choices we make when building and settling areas of land.

In the 1800's when Florida was being absorbed into the US, its southern most areas were still marshy. To this day Miami isn't far from the magnificent (if not shrinking) Everglades. But America was hungry to increase warm weather agricultural lands, and by pushing out the Seminoles and draining much of the wetlands, the landscape was altered severely.

Natural systems are like a sweater with a loose thread; pull on the thread, unravel the sweater. Wetlands can store flood water, slow or prevent soil erosion, and provide a habitat with unique species.

Over the past two hundred years, the US has lost (that is to say, destroyed) half of its wetlands. And we still don't seem to understand why tampering with natural environments with a big, clumsy, bumbling methodology is a bad thing.

Houston similarly was built on a combination of swamps, marshes and a flat plain. Remove the wetlands-guess what gets flooded?

So am I just giving the victims of big storms a big "you got what you deserved?" Not at all. Most of us don't know that we've built up modern settlements against the larger flow of Nature. When the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami hit in 2004, much of the areas that were destroyed had been deforested; areas where mangroves grew, and mangroves provide protection against flooding, erosion and hurricanes. But a rising global demand for shrimp had led to mangroves and similar areas to be farmed. I don't think most people enjoying a shrimp cocktail set out to destroy large swaths of Asia, and I don't think the farmers were hoping to cash in and then head for the Himalayas.

The point I'm trying-clumsily-to make is that we have made some big mistakes, we have paid a heavy toll, and we need to rebuild and move forward intelligently. We need to find ways to work with Nature, not against it. We need to understand the larger mechanisms of an ecosystem, and figure out how we can interact with it in a way that doesn't, seemingly yearly, destroy lives, homes, businesses, and habitat. Encourage your friends, family, neighbors, clergy and politicians to become better informed on these issues, and to support intelligent solutions that are win-win, not ones that exchange a quick benefit for long term suffering.

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