Tag Archives: flood

The Arts of Survival

Creativity can give us options. Creativity can give us something to fight for. And creativity can help us recover from the worst when it happens. Like in 2010, when Mt. Merapi erupted in Indonesia, monsoon rains flooded the Indus river in Pakistan, and a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti to it’s core. Or in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina.

Across all four regions and cultures survivors turned to art to reclaim their homes. In 2011 some of that art was featured in an exhibit called The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Disaster at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“The Arts of Survival provides a window to the many ways contemporary folk artists use what they know best to respond to natural disaster with vision, perseverance, dignity and imagination-even in the midst of political infighting, infrastructural log jams, and environmental after affects. Through this experience, they learn that the most fundamental power is the indomitable spirit of mankind.”  — Exhibition curator Dr. Suzanne Seriff

In Indonesia, master makers created shadow puppets representing the volcano with fire and ash spewing from it to memorialize the story.

In Pakistan local craftswomen took to needle and thread, creating ralli purrs (quilt tops) from excess clothing from relief efforts into much needed blankets, both for warmth and to raise funds for rebuilding.

In Haiti, street artists pulled scrap metal from the wreckage, transforming it into sculptures depicting the terror they had experienced. Others stitched Vodou Flags or crafted terrifying papier-mâché masks.

Evelyne Alcide, Earthquake!
Evelyne Alcide, “Earthquake!”


In New Orleans, they painted poems on the sides of broken houses, stitched quilted memorials from moldy bedsheets pulled from drowned buildings. One built an entire village from broken furniture, old chain link fencing, and other salvaged materials.

When asked  why, one artist answered:

“My reason for making this is to bring together the human family, so we can get together and rebuild New Orleans, so we can rebuild ourselves and our soul.” Joe Minter

Joe Minter, Rebuild and Restore New Orleans
Joe Minter, “Rebuild and Restore New Orleans,” 2007, mixed media. Photo: Paul Smutko


Pineapple Express

Flooded roads, downed power lines, all-in-all it’s been a messy day on the California coast, thanks to heavy rains and wind sweeping in from Hawaii.

All in what a recent study analyzing tree rings calls the worst drought in at least 1,200 years.

Although there are 37 times over the past 1,200 years when there were three-year dry periods in California, no period had as little rainfall and as hot of temperatures as 2012-14, the scientists concluded.

Which can make storms, when they do come, even more damaging. The dry earth is less able to absorb the water, so it runs off into low lying areas, including 101 in San Jose, downtown Rhonert Park, and vineyards in Sonoma.

This is exactly the kind of situation that we prep for. Keeping new batteries in flashlights,  having enough food for a couple of days, being able to batten down the hatches on a moments notice, paying attention to the weather reports so you don’t find yourself up to your windshield while driving through a “puddle” on your way to work.

The storm is forecast to continue through Friday night, so please stay safe out there (or better yet, stay in).

Plague, Snow, Bomb

As difficult and often scary as last night’s events in Ferguson were, they were not the only devastation that happened this past week.

  • In Madagascar, an outbreak of plague has killed more than 40 people–2% of these cases have been pneumonic plague, a significantly more contagious variant that spreads though cough.
  • Buffalo, NY was hit by a lake-effect storm that dumped 7 feet of snow and killed at least 13 people in just a few days. The city is now threatened with flooding as the snow melts.
  • In Kabul, Afghanistan more than 40 people were killed by a suicide bomber at a volleyball match. Two soldiers were also killed in a separate incident.

It’s hard to look at that list plus last night’s events and not feel like all but one could have been prevented*–by fighting institutionalized inequality and racism, by addressing healthcare quality and living conditions…by… I don’t know what to say about Afghanistan or about war in general. I have to believe that there is some alternative to sending in troops and killing soldiers and civilians alike. But what that might be, centuries worth of smarter minds than mine have failed to identify. Then again, maybe smart isn’t what’s called for in any of these circumstances. Maybe what’s called for is empathy.


* If we take a hard look at humanity’s role in climate change, we could probably include Buffalo, too.

Remembering Sandy

Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy, Live Cam NY 1

Two years ago yesterday, on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City with a storm surge that flooded subways, tunnels, and streets, caused widespread power outages, and even shut down the New York Stock Exchange. Which was crazy enough on its own, but turned out to be only a fraction of the damage done. From its formation on October 22, just south of Kingston, Jamaica to its dissipation over Ontario, Canada on November 2, 2012, Hurricane Sandy was responsible for approximately 150 deaths and 21 missing, millions of people without power, severe gas shortages and rationing, more than 19,700 flights cancelled, and approximately $68 billion (USD) worth of damage.

Those of us not in affected areas spent our days watching unbelievable images–row after row of drowned taxi cabs, boats resting on train tracks or piled like a child’s forgotten toys, street signs buried up to their necks in sand, a roller coaster half submerged in the ocean.

For the US, Sandy was the second costliest Atlantic hurricane, after Katrina in 2005 which did $108 billion in damage. But what really struck me about Sandy, perhaps more than any other disaster before or since, was how just plain apocalyptic it looked–billion dollar, summer blockbuster, The Day After Tomorrow-level apocalyptic. And suddenly, this whole climate change thing felt really, really real.

Here are a few refreshers, just in case those images don’t still haunt your dreams:
50 Dramatic Images of Destruction (The Telegraph, UK)
Hurricane Sandy Then and Now (CNN World)
Shocking Before and After Photos of Hurricane Sandy (Buzzfeed)