DEAR READERS: Our country was hit a devastating blow by Hurricane Sandy that sent millions of Americans reeling. I live in Manhattan, N.Y., which was divided between those who had electricity and power and those who did not. Millions of gallons of water flooded New York City's tunnels. I don't know if the average New Yorker fully understood how essential the underground transportation system is to the daily commute. Same for the bridges and tunnels.
But, truth be told, we had it good. Yes, people in four of the five boroughs were inconvenienced, some dramatically. But Staten Island, our little sister borough, was decimated. And the state of New Jersey was dealt a catastrophic blow.
The good news is that the death toll is low, considering the swath of havoc this hurricane horrifically cut across our East Coast landscape. Still, people have died -- children and the elderly and parents. It's a reminder that life can never be properly valued. It is, as that famous commercial says, priceless.
As we are now days away from this tragedy, I wonder what we are learning from it. For sure, we see that nature is far more powerful than we are. I think some of us also recognize that we should heed the warning of emergency experts. Some lives could have been saved had people evacuated when it was required.
But more, something is happening to our world. We have had multiple weather disasters in the last few years that tell us our world is changing, and we better figure out how to change with it.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has basically told people to take their heads out of the sand, no pun intended, and to take the change in climate seriously. Others, including former Vice President Al Gore, the focus of the Academy Award-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" (www.climatecrisis.net), have been sounding this alarm for years.
I hate to admit it, but I think most of us don't have a clue what we can do to help make our world a safer place. We know the political arguments: One side says that global warming is real and is caused largely by the human desire for convenience, driven by excavation and use of fossil fuels and the like. The other side says the geologic and climatological times are simply changing.
I wonder if we now will consider putting politics aside so that we can figure out how to support our country in rebuilding itself -- in a safer way. There is a lot of talk, especially during high political seasons, about preserving our country for the future. I would like to learn how we can actually do that.
Without question, we can all give something to the aid organizations that are helping with the immediate crisis on the ground that has displaced so many people. We can give generously to the American Red Cross (redcross.org), the Salvation Army (salvationarmy.org) and other local organizations that have risen to the occasion. But more, we need to research and learn about our world and how we can be better citizens of it. One source for information is epa.gov/climatechange.
The time is now.