Visual thoughts on disasters

This is one of those days when pictures shout louder than words ever could.

Damage from Hurricane Harvey could require years of cleanup. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Western states in flames (KHQ-NBC Q6)
I think I recognize this road in San Juan, from my trip there in July! Good luck, my friends!! (Alvin Baez/Reuters)
A final thought.

For your consideration: Prayers for the victims, local first responders, volunteers, and trained disaster responders are always helpful (if you believe in their power, which I do). But don’t stop there!

America’s Charities Disaster Recovery Fund-Hurricane Harvey 

Wildfire relief efforts in Washington state 

Charity Navigator Hurricane Irma

The American Red Cross

ASPCA Disaster Response

IMAGES: Many thanks to The Washington ExaminerAP Photos, and photographer David J. Phillip for the photo of Freddi Ochoa in his Houston, TX front yard. I also appreciate the vivid map from KHQ in in Spokane, WA, showing all the fires wreaking havoc in the Northwestern US on the day before I wrote this post. I especially thank ABC News, photographer Alvin Baez, and Reuters, for the horrifying photo from San Juan, PR. And I appreciate ShareQuotes4You and meetville.com for the Mollie Marti quote.

Prepared

The Monday-morning quarterbacking has begun: even before it stops raining, people are second-guessing whether Houston and other Harvey-hit parts of Texas and the Gulf Coast were “prepared.”

Exactly how does one prepare for such an event?

It’s harder in some places than others. Houston is a sprawling metropolis of 6.5 million peoplelying no more than 125 feet above sea level, with an extensive network of bayous all through it and untold acres of impermeable pavement to concentrate the runoff. As I write this, the rain is slowing down, but Harvey is easily the wettest storm on record in the Lower 48.

Exactly 12 years ago: Hurricane Katrina flooded the I-10/I-610 interchange in northwest New Orleans and Metairie, LA. (Wikimedia/AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Niemi)

I’m sure I can’t be the only person who’s been getting an uneasy feeling of “déjà vu all over again” (thanks, Yogi!) when listening to or reading about Harvey’s devastation. We heard the same basic stories of inadequate infrastructure, inadequate shelter facilities, stretched-thin rescue services, and unequal impacts to richer and poorer communities (I’ll give you one guess who’s getting hit worse) during and after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and Hurricane Sandy in New York/New Jersey.

A washed-out bridge, and then some: Mantoloking, NJ, October 31, 2012, after Hurricane Sandy. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

CAN a city prepare adequately? While it’s politically difficult to justify expensive improvements to infrastructure or seemingly-needless restrictions on development in floodplains when conditions are calm, it is true that many cities could and should do more. For an idea about some of the ways to prepare, here’s a checklist for municipal planners, from the EPA (grab it while they’re still allowed to mention the words “climate change”!).

Massive storms, floods, droughts, fires, and other disasters may be touted in the headlines as 100-year, 50-year, or even 1,000-year events. But seriously: How many years in a row can we have “100-year” events before it begins to dawn on even the slowest among us that things are changing?

It turns out that it actually is possible to plan, build, and prepare for even rather extreme disasters, but it takes forethought. It takes community acceptance that it’s necessary.

It takes keeping our weather satellites in place. It takes governing officials who acknowledge the realities of our situation, and can’t be subverted by special interests who’d rather take a short-sighted opportunity to make a buck, or by those who think all regulations are bad.

To any who, like Grover Norquist, want to make government small enough to drown it in a bathtub, I’d like to remind you that it’s harder to make the case for that, when your bathtub’s been washed away in the latest “100-year” flood. Of course, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is on this year’s budget-cutting list. So maybe you should just kiss that bathtub goodbye.

IMAGES: I first found the YouTube video of interspersed “before” and “flooded” views of the Buffalo Bayou in Houston on BoingBoing (the article compiles several more before-and-after images that are quite startling). According to streetreporter, who posted it on YouTube, “The still images are from unknown people shared by a French twitter user. I only made the dissolve to show perspective, which is transformative.”

Many thanks to Wikimedia, for the 2005 photo of the Hurricane Katrina flooding at the I-10/I-610 interchange in northwest New Orleans and Metairie, LA, an AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Niemi. Equal thanks go to Slate and Mario Tama of Getty Images for the photo from Hurricane Sandy.

I also thank Abode Home Group’s “Restoration” page for the Fire/Flood/Storm composite image.

Nature can teach kids about the world and themselves

The Artdog Images of Interest

Last May, I blogged in some detail about ways that kids can learn to think better and be creative by getting out into nature. That series was focused on keeping kids learning and teaching them to value nature during a summer away from school.

But just because they’re back in school now, that’s no reason for them to stop learning from nature. I’d like to hope that they benefit from classes that teach science on beaches and riversides. But if their schools can’t afford field trips, I hope they get an opportunity somewhere.

I’d like to hope they get to grow things in school-run gardens, to learn about plant life cycles and where food comes from. But if they don’t get that experience in school, I hope they get it from someone.

Maybe they’ll be sent on nature scavenger hunts. Those always make great homework projects. But if the schools are forced to teach to a different test, maybe their moms, dads, older cousins, Scout leaders or someone will take them out to find the wonder in nature, anyway.

Perhaps they’ll have a class project to observe a variety of clouds and learn to tell them apart. But if they don’t, I hope some caring adult will take the time to show them.

Perhaps their school will have a birding club, or they’ll take a trip to a zoo, aquarium, or nature preserve. Wouldn’t it be great if they could learn to observe animals with quiet respect? But if the school’s too busy drilling on grammar and math facts, perhaps an uncle, aunt, grandparent, or other trustworthy adult can help them learn the joys of such excursions.

Family is the first resource when schools are stretched too thin, but if your family can’t take on a full-fledged nature and science curriculum, remember there’s help available in faith communities and community groups. 

Importantly, there also are active youth organizations, such as Camp FireGirl Scouts, and Boy Scouts of AmericaYes, I know both Girl and Boy Scouts have been embroiled in controversy recently. But don’t let that make you lose sight of the fact that they’ve enriched the lives of several generations, and I’m here to tell you that both organizations still contain plenty of committed adults who only desire to help young people grow into knowledgeable adults. (Full disclosure: I was a Girl Scout myself, a Camp Fire summer camp counselor, my daughter was a Girl Scout who deeply loved her summer camping experiences, my son is an Eagle Scout, and I served as a Boy Scout Merit Badge counselor, so I’m not exactly unbiased about these organizations–though I’m also not blind to their flaws).

Whatever you do with your kids and wherever you do it, remember that an enduring connection with nature is a lifelong gift for your children–and a vital survival understanding for all of us.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the photo of young kids with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent observing life along a riverbank. I also want to thank the Green Corn Project Blog, for the photo of the enthusiastic class of second-grade gardeners; to Connecting Youth with Nature for the photo of the kids with magnifying glasses and Small Talk SLP via Pinterest, for the Nature Scavenger Hunt page; to InnerChildFun for the photo of the little boy with the “weather window,” and to E is for Explore! for a different variation on the “Weather Window Cloud Identifier” idea; to EDventures with Kids for the Animal Observation sheet, and to Cornell Labs’ Bird Sleuth K-12, for the photo of the budding birders with binoculars. Finally, I’d like to thank C&G News, and Harper Woods, MI Girl Scout Leader Anna Jochum for the photo of 2nd- and 3rd-Grade Brownie Scouts on a winter survival exercise, and to the Utah National Parks Council of the Boy Scouts of America for the photo of the Scout leader teaching a group of boys a little about leather tooling. I deeply appreciate all for sharing!

The choice is ours

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

We all know about Jane’s choices. From the very beginning, she took the opportunity to step up, to observe, to think independently, to choose compassion. No one’s perfect, but sometimes they’re the perfect person for a particular job.

Our quotes this month focus on making the world a better place. Jane did, and does, amazing things. She has demonstrated she has the will and the determination to do things that make a massive difference–for chimpanzees, and for people, too.

What opportunities lie open before you? What passions call to you, for your labors of love? What callings ignite your energies to work for a better world?

Say yes to them.

IMAGE: Many thanks to A-Z Quotes for this image!

Cleaning up our act

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest 


Last week’s Image of Interest opened my month’s Image theme of volunteering in our community as a way of making the world a better place. That photo showed kids working in a food pantry. This week it’s a photo from 2011, of the results from a cleanup effort along the Huron River. 

It reminds me of the sequence in the movie Spirited Away, when the Stink Spirit comes to the bath house for a much-needed cleansing . . . and of the aftermath left behind.

Water quality matters–just ask Flint, Michigan. Does your calling lead you to aid efforts that promote water conservation and anti-pollution efforts?

IMAGES: Many thanks to The Ann Arbor News, for the Huron River cleanup photo. I am grateful to Ouno Design for the image from the 2001 movie Spirited Away, from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

“When I am big . . . “

The Artdog Quote of the Week

A person could (people have and do) write many books about the value of outdoor play, the things children learn from it, and the reasons why “nature deficit disorder” really is a serious matter. We can’t save what we don’t value, but there are so very many reasons why we should and must value our natural environment, and cherish the many lessons nature teaches.

IMAGE: Many thanks to How Wee Learn on Pinterest, for this image. The board from which this was taken is loaded with other cool thoughts and ideas about teaching our children, too!

The balancing act: Keeping them safe

The Artdog Image of Interest

As a parent, I know that delicate balance between letting kids explore and keeping them safe. It can be a dangerous world. A responsible parent can’t disregard the hazards, even as we gradually expand kids’ boundaries.

Playing in nature definitely presents a list of potential hazards, from sunburn to tick-borne illnesses (a particularly knotty problem this year!), animal bites, falls . . . a worried parent could go mad. I believe it’s important to remember that our primary job as parents is to render ourselves unnecessary–to rear independent persons who are as healthy and well-adjusted as possible, equipped with the skills and judgment needed to succeed as fully-functioning adults.

But achieving that goal requires that they stay alive long enough to become adults.

So, where do we draw the line? And how do we adjust appropriately–because that line always keeps changing! Developmental stages flash by so fast, we have to work, to stay on top of “what’s developmentally appropriate today?” I managed (with a lot of help) to shepherd two reasonably-functional human beings into adulthood, and for me the key always seemed to be information.

I have yet to meet the child who responds positively to “because I say so!” And they’re RIGHT. That’s an extremely unhelpful answer.

As appropriate for the developmental level, I always tried to take the time to explain to the child why certain restrictions had to apply, if I possibly could. Granted, sometimes there’s no time. But that meant we needed a follow-up conversation. I discovered even the youngest child has the capability to be a rational human being (to the extent that someone can be, at any given stage of development). If we want them to grow into that capability as adults, we must treat them accordingly when they’re kids.

As appropriate for their age, that means teaching kids how to prevent their own bad outcomes (wear sunscreen and bug repellent; know basic safety principles about approaching animals or walking on rotten branches or uneven terrain). They may ignore it, but at least they’ll know why it happened, if they do.

It helps to remember the favorite saying of a friend of mine: “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” Giving them wide enough boundaries to explore and “push their envelope” means sometimes there’ll be unfortunate results. That’s why it’s just as important to teach them what do do if something does happen. There’s no emergency situation that can’t be made worse by the victim’s panic! The goal is not to terrify them, but to empower them.

It isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Citypages (Minneapolis, MN) for this image! (no info available, on who’s the photographer).