First, let me start with the bad news, which is of course the updates from New York metropolitan area. I won’t go into much detail because there are so many other people writing about it who know so much more than I do. But given how related it is to our own struggles here in Miami, and the struggles of people in other coastal cities around the world, I have to at least say something.
New York City has done more adaptation and mitigation than Miami because of the different political climate. We were more vulnerable in Miami, but some of our politicians and business leaders were too proud to admit that our city was slowly but surely slipping into the sea. We really did try to adapt, but politics slowed down our transition. New York City went in the opposite direction and spent the past ten or fifteen years increasing their emphasis on clean energy and climate adaptation. Politics slowed down their transition too, of course, but not as much.
When you consider the fact that they’re the most populous metropolitan area in the U.S., New York City has a surprisingly high percentage of clean energy. This is mostly because they resisted the temptation to get drawn into the horrors of fracking. While some states were doubling down on fossil fuels in the form of fracking, the State of New York had a moratorium on fracking. That was when the fracking industry learned that poisoning the water of millions of New Yorkers was much harder than poisoning the water of millions of scattered and disempowered rural people in other parts of the country. So the frackers moved on to invade other states, leaving poisoned water, high cancer rates, earthquakes, and so on in their wake. Meanwhile, New York had to get its energy from somewhere, and coal was on the way out, so they went with clean energy. It was really a win-win for them, while all of the areas that chose fracking were left in a hot mess of poverty and pollution once the fracking bubble burst.
Even though New York City wasn’t fully prepared for that storm in particular — who could be? — they were prepared for storms in general. So that makes it much easier for them to gather data about the aftermath of the storm and deploy resources where available and necessary.
The official death toll of Hurricane Michael is currently at 950 who died during the storm itself and another 350 who have died during the aftermath, leading to a total death toll of 1300. For better or worse, all this surveillance we’re under nowadays makes it easier to count the casualties, even when rescue crews haven’t had time to find the body. If your phone records show that you were in a building when it was destroyed by the storm, for example, it’s safe to count you among the casualties unless you miraculously show up at an emergency shelter.
The damage is spread out over the whole metropolitan area and beyond. The storm itself affected a large area, and now the displacement of a massive number of people at once is creating all sorts of secondary problems. They have no quick and reliable way to calculate the number of displaced. They estimate that tens of thousands of people are very likely to face long-term displacement and ten times as many face short-term displacement. But that’s assuming that basic services like electricity, water, sewer, and so on get fixed in a reasonable amount of time. It could be more. Large portions of the city are still dark at night because a lot of the solar power comes from the big solar plants that feed into the grid and the grid is having a lot of problems right now. But some buildings have lights because they have solar or other backup power.
On the plus side, as I said earlier, they’ve prepared for this. They have plans. Lives are being saved by their extensive preparations. It’s estimated that the storm wall and related features saved over a thousand lives, cutting the casualty rate in half. Whatever politicians approved that project are probably going to be re-elected for as long as they want. They’re also trying to move the displaced toward various emergency shelters set up by the city and FEMA, although it’s very difficult with all of the flooding. Special pumps are working nonstomp to clear the streets, tunnels, and subways, but when a storm surge submerges large portions of your city under 10 or 15 feet of water, it takes time to clear it all out. They’re using boats and helicopters to do disaster relief in the many areas that still can’t be reached by buses and vans and such.
So that’s the latest news about the situation in New York. Now, I’d like to get back to the situation in Miami.
The situation in Miami is so much better than the situation in New York right now. I know it may not seem that way at first. The City of Miami is still mostly underwater, of course, and there are a lot of people who are still struggling to survive. The gangs and mafias control parts of the city without any objection from the police or Bastion. Most people who lived here prior to Hurricane Florence are still either a refugee out in the world somewhere or a refugee right here in the city, squatting wherever they can find shelter and doing their best not to cross paths with the many different types of armed enforcers roaming the streets at night.
But look at it this way. The city is on the mend. Miami is in the early stages of a renewal that could serve as a model for all major cities overwhelmed by the ocean. We have well-established and sensible rules for traveling by boat through the flooded parts of the city. We have stopped wasting money on fighting the ocean and started rebuilding ourselves as a smaller, leaner, but more sustainable Ocean City. A small but steady stream of people are contacting Miami Diaspora seeking reintegration into the city. Most of them — most of us, I should say — want to help turn Miami into a regional if not global model of climate adaptation and resilience.
Honestly, I almost feel a certain guilt about how well things are going here while all of those people in New York and surrounding areas are swept up in such a devastating and all-too-familiar tragedy. But I’m happy that things are improving here.
The City of Miami has expressed its support for Ermete’s SmartBuoy system. Now he’s working with some of our newest members to speed up the manufacturing process. We don’t have the resources or demand to do any type of industrial-scale manufacturing, but Ermete has put together a small team of people to scavenge or trade for the simpler parts, put the buoys together, and deploy them where the city wants them. It’s really exciting to see Ermete’s plan become such a successful reality. And the city has connected us with a funding source for the SmartBuoys, so we have enough money to buy most of the expensive parts (solar modules and IT hardware) and keep the rest of it as profit so that we can actually feed ourselves.
Getting in the city’s good graces also makes me feel a little more comfortable about Bastion, who have been increasingly hostile toward us as we increase our numbers and work more closely with other people outside of Brickell. They see us as a dangerous influence in what used to be a tightly controlled stronghold of the big banking interests remaining in the city. Of course, I’m sure that won’t stop them from taking advantage of their free access to the Smart Buoy system. They complain about us, but they’ll use our tech when it serves them.
In other good news, we’ve also started setting up the two other Synergy Centers.
Synergy Central, formerly known as One Broadway, will probably always be our main base of operations. The layout of this building is a bit odd for us since it’s mostly segmented into individual apartments. We’ve had to repurpose some of these apartments to be workshops, classrooms, storage areas, and of course greenhouses and indoor gardens. It’s funny on some level to see fancy Brinkell apartments being repurposed into Ermete’s mad science workshop, and Harold and Tenalach’s indoor gardening projects, and our own modest armory, and so on. But it works. We’ve filled almost the entire upper roof, tennis court, and swimming pool area with solar modules and a green roof filled with plant beds that capture and clean the rainwater. We’ve also added composting toilets in the building to make up for the fact that the sewers are basically out of commission for the foreseeable future. Once our gardens reach full capacity, we’ll be able to feed and house fifty or more people in a carbon-negative building.
I’ve gotten really used to living at Synergy Central. This place is home to me now and I plan on staying here. But it’s also good to see us expanding into two other locations. I haven’t even been out to visit the other locations yet because they’re basically just empty buildings at this point. But Jess and Harold have gone out with a few of our Green Guard members to check out the locations that our new team members in Little Havana and the Roads have picked out. They all agreed that the spots were decent, although no spot is ideal, especially since the whole city is still in a fair amount of fluctuation and chaos.
This is going to be a big change for us here at Synergy Central. There are already some new people filtering in from Synergy Havana and Synergy Roads, which is what we’re calling the two locations until they get settled and possibly come up with more creative names. We’re also sending out a few of our people to help them get settled, including a couple of our original team members: our plumber, Murray, and our jack-of-all-trades, Lou. Murray’s skills are desperately needed by people working on new residential plumbing systems, including setting up rainwater catchment systems, greywater systems, and various types of low-flow or no-flush toilets. Lou just likes a challenge and is travelling between the two new centers to do odd jobs and teach martial arts, including basic gun safety and use. They were both big helps around here and their presence will be sorely missed. But I’m sure they’ll be a big help out there, and new people are coming in to fill some of the roles they used to fill.
Jess says that Synergy Central and the two new Synergies are all becoming one big social experiment. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I see what she means. This is what she’s come out here to study for her degree — how people from different cultures and backgrounds can work together on climate adaptation and mitigation projects. How do their different cultural backgrounds and economic situations inform their approach to the work? How do they work together across social and economic lines? What barriers do they encounter and how do they work through them? She spends most of her time doing various types of practical work like the rest of us, but she also spends a few hours each week interviewing people, taking notes, and so on. It will take her a while to do the research, but since she’s right here in the middle of it all, I’m sure it’ll be very exciting research. I talk to her about it about once a week, and I’m looking forward to reading it someday, once it’s published and everything settles down. If everything ever settles down.
Here I am writing all night when I should be sleeping! I have to be up at six in the morning and it’s almost midnight. Oh well. No rest for the wicked, as they say. I didn’t even get around to talking about the upcoming elections. Hopefully I’ll get to that tomorrow. If not, I’m sure I’ll post again soon. So much is happening that it sometimes keeps me away from this blog for a few days. But then again, so much is happening that I have to keep writing about it. Somebody has to tell the story.