The only silver lining to a hurricane

August 26, 2004

A hurricane in August reminds us why Florida was sparsely inhabited until air conditioning made its attractions sweeter. Not a lesson to wish for, but one that shows the flimsy nature of our conveniences.

Today, large-scale systems like electricity and transportation grids have made living in Florida as easy as flicking a light switch. It wasn’t always so. We have mostly forgotten what it took to get from here to there, to wring water from aquifers by hand pump and electricity from moving water or wind. Good riddance, some would say, to that. Read the rest of this entry »


Opportunity from misfortune

August 17, 2004

In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida like a bomb went off. And like today’s images in Charley’s wake—and ones that will broadcast from the next big one, the next time—the indelible memories of human endurance bear closer scrutiny for what they reveal of our own nature. Read the rest of this entry »

Safe sources of drinking water: Disguised in full

August 10, 2004

For most urban Floridians, water appears in faucets and disappears down drains as effortlessly as elevator music. It would be rash, however, to take for granted safe and affordable drinking water, the single commodity that dissolves class, race and religion.

The New York Times recently quoted an Iraqi about the good service provided by soldiers digging wells: “When this well is done, each time somebody takes a drink of water they will say the Americans did something good.” Read the rest of this entry »