We need to talk about Harvey and Irma. They have brought us destruction, loss of life, and pain and suffering. We don’t debate that these things are real.
There should be no debate, as a result of our common humanity, that we need to help ease the destruction, loss of life, and pain and suffering of future storms. What we need to do now is to speak through actions.
Actions like placing emergency generators on an upper floor rather than the ground floor so that when flood waters inundate large areas as they did in Houston, the generators have a much greater chance of operating as intended during the emergency.
Actions like balancing the amount of paved and non-paved ground surfaces so that rain and floodwaters can infiltrate the ground, leading floods to recede much faster.
These are just two examples of the kinds of things architects and planners are recommending for implementation as part of a broader resiliency strategy for our communities.
Make no mistake about it, the impact of these actions is small and incremental; there are no big and game-changing solutions. But additionally, let’s not forget about the power of the small and incremental actions we take when we are active as dutiful citizens.
Governmental policymakers have the biggest opportunity for accelerated impact, since prudent and responsible codes and standards benefit all and remove the temptation to forgo safeguards. These policymakers are chosen and sent to work by the citizens who vote. If you are a voting citizen, you are their boss.
In light of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it is important to recognize that Florida is on the cutting edge of responsible political engagement via the Climate Solutions Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The caucus was founded in February 2016 by South Florida representatives Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, and Ted Deutch, a Democrat. The most innovative aspect of the Caucus isn’t its content, but rather its procedural rules for membership: representatives must find a colleague across the aisle to join as a bipartisan pair.
Today, the caucus consists of 52 members — 26 Republicans and 26 Democrats. This model, organizing in a non- or bipartisan way first, committing to reason and prudence second and getting into the specifics of policy last – represents true leadership in Washington and is a powerful guide for the urgently needed way forward in responsible politics.
One way to help ease the pain and suffering of current and future storm victims is to call your U.S. House representative this week to encourage him or her to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.
In Illinois, only two of 18 lawmakers, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-13th) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd), have joined so far. They are true leaders and deserve credit for their courage in joining across party lines; 16 representatives to go.
Storms don’t care which party you are voting for – but you should care who you are the boss of. Contact your employee and tell him or her what is important to you and your children.
Riverside resident Tom Jacobs is co-founder of Architects Advocate, a nonpartisan grassroots network for Action on Climate Change, principal with Krueck + Sexton Architects in Chicago, and adjunct professor at the College of Architecture at IIT.