Hurricane Sandy was worse than anyone had imagined it to be. I have seen countless horrible images of mayhem. I can barely believe the reports. I cannot believe that some homes were burned down while others were buried under sand and water.
Countless lives were shattered by just one storm. I keep viewing the pictures and the videos, which have a dream-like quality. I expect that I will wake up and find it was only a nightmare.
But it isn’t.
It is real to thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy will change their lives in the short run by the effort and cost to rebuild, and in the long run by an apprehension of future weather monsters.
I live in Pennsylvania where the damage is minimal compared to New York and New Jersey. Sure, trees fell, roads flooded, siding flew off homes and the power has been down for many days, but the damages do not compare to those whose lives have turned upside down.
As I look at the images and the videos of this storm, I keep wondering, “Could this happen again?” The answer is yes.
It is unfortunate that during the three presidential candidate debates, the important topic of climate change never came up.
It has also been nearly absent from the candidates’ speeches during the campaigns. Neither candidate wanted to mention the subject.
Either the economy was the focus, or the candidates felt the issue was too technical, with too many opportunities to misspeak.
If we continue to dismiss the scientific reports of how our polluting, consumerist lifestyles and greed are affecting our environment, we will continue to destroy our planet.
Scientists have warned us that global warming and pollution will cause catastrophic environmental events.
They have warned us that our pollution is creating and enlarging a hole in our upper atmosphere ozone layer at the north and south poles, and this in turn will melt away our polar ice, which will increase the sea level.
This in turn will expose more water surface to the sun, which will increase atmospheric humidity, creating more frequent and more damaging storms.
Meteorological trends lead me to believe Sandy is only one of the kinds of storms to come more frequently.
Eco-theologians such as Sallie McFague, Celia Deane-Drummond and Heather Eaton have warned us for close to 25 years about taking care of Earth.
If we continue to consume the way we do, we will need to find four more planets to sustain our way of living.
But we do not have four more planets. We have only one. We need to stop consuming resources just for our selfish, short-term pleasure.
We need to heed the warning of both the scientists who predict catastrophes and the theologians who identify the selfish intent behind our way of life.
Living by self-interest alone will only lead to planetary economic shortages comparable to the famines of biblical times. We need to stop raping the land and start nurturing the land as a mother nurtures her children.
As Christians, we have failed to do our part in becoming good stewards of the earth. We have stopped taking care of the planet that God created and gave us to have, protect, nurture and conserve.
We have neglected God’s commands to take care of the earth. We have chosen primarily to exploit and deplete, as if we were playing some grand game where we could always start over.
We have become greedy consumers whose thirst for goods has not been quenched.
A storm like Sandy reminds us to become better parents to posterity. To take better care of the place that God has given to us. We cannot ignore this storm and go back to our old ways.
As we start cleaning up, we need to remember that the economy is tied to global climate changes and that the two are in eternal symbiosis.
We therefore need our policy officials to take more seriously the concerns about our environment – or we need to make a point of electing those who will take these concerns seriously.
The less we care, the more problems we will create and leave behind for our children and grandchildren. I know we are smarter than that.
Do we have the wisdom to listen to what we know? Let’s not only clean up New York and New Jersey, let’s clean up our act. Let’s flourish here on earth for generations to come.
Remember, our probes to Mars have yet to discover any “alabaster cities” or “amber waves of grain” on the red planet.
Just dust, just like us, if we don’t improve our care of the land.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is associate professor of doctrinal theology at Moravian Theological Seminary.