A long letter on a hard topic

Dear President Trump,

Warning – this is a long letter on a hard topic.

Last night on the way home I heard a piece on NPR about flood forecasting and how poorly people understand the phrase “100-year flood.” Most of us think if we live in a 100-year flood zone and we were flooded last year that we should be ok for 99 years. The climate scientists on the show acknowledged the terminology is confusing (and needs to be changed), but explained that really what the term means is that every year there is a 1 in a 100 (1%) chance of a flood event in the area, like flipping an unweighted coin (for you, I need to specify this) where each flip is independent. So, if you live in a 100-year area, over the course of a 30-year mortgage there’s a 26% chance (not sure why it isn’t 30%) of a flood occurring at some point during the life of the mortgage.

It was an interesting story, but I kept waiting for someone to indicate whether the various flood forecast models have been updated to account for climate change and global warming. Then, towards the end of the piece one of the climatologists lamented how the public doesn’t trust the models and thinks the model-makers don’t know what they are talking about when there’s flooding three years in a row in a “100-year” area. It was so odd. One of them could have cleared this up easily had they said, ‘hey, by the way, these models do account for climate change.’ Or, if the models don’t account for climate change, then the model makers don’t know what they are talking about and the models are basically useless. I bet people in Houston aren’t putting any stock in their flood models at this point.

Just before bed I read an interview by Sean Illing of Vox with Bill McKibben who wrote the 1989 book “The End of Nature.” They discussed his latest book “Falter,” which is about how it’s basically too late to stop climate change – that we’re already facing irreversible consequences of having taken the earth for granted, but that maybe, if we can pull our shit together quickly, we could still have a mostly-habitable earth. Probably not the best choice of reading material just before bed, but it did lead me to suggest to Laura that we finding out if solar panels would work on our house, thereby putting something in the “pro-earth” column before trying to sleep.

Then there’s the April job report that’s been gnawing at me since it came out. You’ve been crowing about “full employment” and there’s talk that with the economy humming along, you’re in much better shape to be re-elected, which is terrifying. It’s also an awful moral quandary (even though I have no power to do anything to affect said moral quandary); I want people to have jobs and to be financially ok (even though having a job or three is not a guarantee of financial ok-ness), but don’t want anything to tip things in your favor. What’s more, to keep the economy humming along, we have to keep consumer spending high, which means we need more goods to ship around for purchase, which of course means we must continue to trash the environment to feed this whole deadly thing.

I don’t know what the answers to this overwhelmingly gnarly problem are, but we can’t continue full (fossil-fueled) steam ahead with the status quo because it’s utterly unsustainable and unconscionable.

May we be safe from our unsustainable ways.
May we be willing to make real changes individually and collectively.
May we do so before it’s too late.
May we see that not changing invites dislocation and violent unrest.

Tracy Simpson

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