Now that the letters of the alphabet have been exhausted in the naming of Atlantic storms, letters of the Greek alphabet will be used to name the remainder of the season’s storms: alpha, beta, comma, ditto, etc. There is a better way.
The ancients gave us enduring understanding of human nature, including hubris—overbearing pride and arrogance. Classical dramatists mined it for tragedy, showing how calamity arises when the reach of powerful kings exceeds a reasonable grasp.
And although hubris seems a long way from hurricanes, maybe it is not far after all to a new, more relevant sequence of letters to name the next hurricanes.Most of us are tossed and turned long before the storm arrives. For example, I am done watching weather personalities standing sideways to the wind.
Sunday, with Hurricane Wilma on the way, I flicked off the TV and went outside to move the trash so it wouldn’t become confetti later on, and I stared at the gathering sky.
Anything more than a Category 3 hurricane, I’m bolting my family and myself to a safe place. Don’t put up hurricane shutters for a Category 1 or 2. Between a 2 and a 3, some of the shutters, facing the weather.
Sometimes you know where the stirring is coming from; sometimes you don’t. There was a clatter of fastenings in the neighborhood, and no end of surprises to prepare for.
If I were a Native American or ancestor living in southern Florida, the sky would tell me everything I need to know. It was not an ordinary sky.
The gusts of wind riffling the palm fronds were not ordinary, either.
My dogs looked up at me, as if to ask: What next?
We’re partly prepared. How is that? They wag their tales.
They’d bark if the man from the National Hurricane Center came through the door to explain why you should always plan for a storm one category higher than expected to make landfall.
My dogs would wag their tales if the sky fell in, so long as I am nearby. Maybe they are just watching me, the way I watch television.
These days the news is filled with hurricanes and the debate whether the frequency and intensity is related to global warming. It seems to me like the furor of counting angels on the head of a pin: an obsession in the 13th century when reputations, lives and fortunes were wagered on imagined truth masquerading as fact.
What is the point of an argument that could take years or decades to prove, one way or another—time that cannot be recovered?
There is thunder in the bands of rain that approach. There is hubris in diverting public attention to secondary squalls, peripheral eddies and currents while the big storm unfolds, for which we are ill-prepared.
The link between hubris and bad news is a better connection than the one between hurricanes and global warming.
So my simple suggestion is to name the next round of hurricanes for the iconic messenger of conservative foundations, their funders in the oil industry and related interests, and the architects of White House policy who choreograph scripts with lightning speed, if not by e-mail or faxes than by pneumatic tubes or carrier pigeons.
R—is for readiness against liberals.
U—is for unbelievable that we are still fighting battles against liberal influence.
S—is for sanity.
H—is for hello? Like, hello, global warming is fiction. . . .
Rush, as in Limbaugh. We are at an inflection point in human history, and it is not just a cycle of more frequent hurricanes. Global warming portends change that the planet has not experienced in a million years.
To our generations, disaster is when the potato chips are spent, the canned soup is gone and nothing can be bought for 72 hours until the supply chain restarts.
But there is no law guaranteeing the trucks with ice will come, or, that the electricity grid is fail-safe.
There is time, still, to walk the dogs and to think: The ancient Greeks didn’t have electricity, that’s true.
They kept a few seeds in their pockets, however, to plant after the storm passed.