The current level of concern regarding preparations for a U.S. strike by Hurricane Irma is instructive.
Here in Williamsburg, it is a beautiful day. There is a light breeze with just a few clouds in the sky. What hurricane? If I wasn't glued to the television and updating the storm status hourly on my phone, I wouldn't be concerned in the slightest. But the experts tell us there is a reasonable chance we will have tropical force winds here next week. Because of this, cases of water, flashlights and first aid kits were flying off the shelves at Costco yesterday. They were already out of D batteries.
At the same time, every politician worth their salt is on cable news discussing preparations for evacuation and recovery. They are wearing baseball caps, blue jeans and polo shirts to show that they are ready to get to work boarding up windows and tying down lawn furniture. And in the days after the hurricane, you can bet these politicians will be giving interviews at the sites of the worst destruction, and promising billions of dollars for recovery.
Yet the same politicians are unresponsive to the long-term warnings of the experts we are all listening to so carefully right now. And unfortunately, that mindset is shared by a great number of citizens.
"Climate change is real and we are causing it," the experts say.
"Prove it!" we say.
"It is going to result in terrible flooding, droughts and wildfires," the experts say.
"These things have always happened," we say.
I realize that it is the immediacy of the experts' current predictions that gets our attention. We can see photos of Irma from space. We can see the destruction on the islands it has already hit. How can one argue with that? We see it with our own eyes.
But what is coming may be far worse. When will we find the will to make the changes that will mitigate some of this damage? When will we start listening to the experts whose words we are hanging on right now? I suspect it will be a few more years. But two storms, one producing record rainfall and the other producing record wind speeds, may finally give some folks pause to think: Maybe the experts are on to something.