After Sandy

 

The memories are very clear. I remember the transformer exploding. A flash of white. Purple, green and a neon pink. Then the lights go out.

nick1

Cut.

 

I am on Rockaway Beach, beloved title of The Ramones for the first time. Only I am 150 yards from the shore.

nick2

Cut.

 

I am at 520 Clinton, a church turned into Zuccotti Park indoors. The energy is palpable, the numbers substantial and only a few are old OWS types.

nick3

 

Cut. Staten Island, weeks after the storm. It’s still a mess. A Uniqlo truck turns up to dispense free stuff and there’s almost a riot. FEMA vests on a few people are the only sign of the state.

nick4

Cut.

 

I’m onstage at the Rolling Jubilee. Janeane Garofolo was last up. I’m talking about Sandy and climate change. I’ve been holding forth about climate change at Occupy-related events since October 2011. The difference is that people are listening. Hope.

nick5

Cut.

A panel with researchers on Sandy. I talk about this change. Those who have been doing interviews in storm-affected areas report that there’s repeated denial that climate had anything to do with it. Out of respect for their loss, I don’t want to say what I’m thinking—that of course anyone who lives in the new flood plain would have to say that. Social science doesn’t really have a module for denial. Freud was not always wrong, however.

Cut.

A year after Sandy, it’s denial and climate denial that continues to dominate the discussion. After Occupy, I came to think of its strategy as “leap and pivot.” That is to say, you make a leap to an unexpected position. From there, you attempt to pivot to political advantange. So with the leap to occupy Zuccotti Park, the pivot was made to put inequality on the agenda in a new and dynamic way. Occupy Sandy did remarkable mutual aid. It did not make a pivot to change climate politics.

nick6

Perhaps we have to stop cutting away from the climate except when there’s a disaster or an anniversary. Perhaps we just have to push this every day in an everyday way, as the right-wing do with the supposed deficit crisis.

 

Top image courtesy of Erica Lansner

Related Posts

Downton Abbey and the Fantasy of Structured Idleness   In perhaps the jauntiest Broadway ditty ever written to punctuate that precious moment before everything falls apart — "What Do the Simple Folk Do?" from Lerner and Lowe's Camelot (1960) — King Arthur and Guinevere, speculate about the amusements in which commoners indulge to comfort themselv...
Never the Usual Terms: A Song for 21st Century Occupations   First, a word about what these thoughts, and we, are not.  We write not as archivists, historians, or even critics of what has been called the Occupy Movement, nor for that matter as particularly historicizing readers of Walt Whitman's poem from 1855, later named "A Song For Occupations."  R...
Global Day of Action Saturday, December 3 Today was the Global Day of Action against the UN COP17. Here in Durban, a large and very spirited crowd wound through the city towards the site of COP17 negotiations. Here are photos of the day, all of them mine except the first two, which are by Maxim Combes.    I ho...
Combined and Uneven Disaster   As we wound down this dossier on Hurricane Sandy and NYC, Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda struck the Philippines a devastating blow. The still-unfolding tragedy is a stark reminder of the fact that climate change is not experienced evenly. While Hurricane Sandy did billions of dollars of damage to th...

Nicholas Mirzoeff

Nicholas Mirzoeff is a member of the Social Text Collective.