In 2005, investigative journalist James Howard Kunstler published The Long Emergency, a book that ominously describes economic and social collapse caused by climate change, crashing financial markets, and high oil prices. Hurricane Sandy (officially dubbed “Superstorm Sandy”) and the challenges our country faces recovering from it edge us closer to The Long Emergency.

This will be a hard winter for the many New York and New Jersey residents who lost their homes and jobs. Even our wealthy states don’t have the money or nimbleness to take care of all these people, so we’re going to see strains on food banks and shelters in the coming weeks. More families will be made homeless, further straining a struggling support system.

In the short run, people should systematically volunteer time and resources to man shelters and help neighbors. In the long run, we must rebuild New York and New Jersey to be more resilient. Electric wires should be underground. Communities should not be rebuilt in low-lying areas. Manhattan’s valuable real estate must be protected with both natural and man-made barriers. More civilians should be trained as first-responders, and we must have diverse sources of energy powering the city and our modes of transportation. Our military should be retrained to protect our cities from natural disasters (rather than causing disasters in other countries). This storm gives us an opportunity to postpone The Long Emergency, so we should seize it.

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