Hurricane Sandy and the Importance of ‘Blue Gold’

Hurricane Sandy killed over 100 people in the U.S.; over 40 in New York.  It devastated neighbourhoods in New York and New Jersey, shutting down the entire subway system for days.  At its peak, 8.5 million people were without power.  New York isn’t popularly considered a vulnerable target for tropical storms, but the increasing disruption of our water systems combined with rising global climates threatens to bring violent storms and flooding to New York much, much more often.

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New York makes the list of the top 20 cities at risk from rising sea levels. (see Top 20 Cities Most Vulnerable to Climate Change)
Tuvalu and the Maldives have been struggling with rising sea levels and pleading with Western governments to take action on reducing fossil fuel emissions, but their testimonies are not widely heard in North American media.  New York, however, as such a large, rich and iconic city in America will absolutely put the effects of climate change into the limelight.

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We are taught in elementary school about the proper functioning of the water cycle.  Water must evaporate into the sky, rain down, and enter the earth before it can re-start the process.  However, as people around the globe are increasingly urbanizing and paving over fertile land, the water that evaporates can no longer return to the earth in many areas.  Trees are also great water storers, but are razed for urbanization as well as industrial production and agriculture.  This leaves much more water above ground than below, and it has nowhere to go.  This extra water in the atmosphere contributes to the more violent and frequent storms we are seeing, as rising temperatures make the perfect conditions for these storms to take shape.  It is also responsible for the huge increase in flooding occurring around the world, including the floods throughout the Southern U.S. in the past few years.

But flooding is not the only problem; the disruption of the water cycle and warming climates is also causing droughts.  Reporters described the U.S. droughts in 2012 as the worst they’ve had in decades, and several countries around the world have seriously struggled in the last decade as well.  Basically, we have water coming out of the ground and unable to return where it needs to.  This is leading to desertification in many areas, while others are being pounded by the storms caused by extra water in the atmosphere in warmer temperatures.  What’s worse is that we are only exasperating the problem.

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The global industrial food system is also a culprit, sucking up enormous quantities of water and polluting it with fertilizers and other chemcials.  As transnational companies are quickly trying to buy up our remaining fresh water sources, the remaining water we’ll have will only be available to those with the capital to pay.  Much like the privatization of any other public good or service, accessing water based on financial standing will create segregation; modern-day apartheid.  These issues are all intertwined (climate change, floods, droughts, food security, water security), and they all stem from our current system of global market relations.  Free market capitalism at a global scale without environmental or government regulation will only push these problems to a breaking point.  We need to be aware of the implications of climate change, come together to demand a clean energy future, and fight the ability of corporations to own fresh water sources and sell it back to us.

To be able to fight, however, people first need to be informed.  Below is the documentary Blue Gold that outlines and explains our global water crises:

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