Focus on resiliency, community strength after Irma

Working on post-hurricane coverage in the newsroom last week, I heard a staffer yell, “We should be out of rain by now,” as Miami’s daily rainy-season storm beat down on the windows.

This idea that we deserve a moment of relief after a disaster is fundamentally human but unfortunately not how the world works. We were reminded of this as storms José, Maria and Lee trailed behind Irma. We were reminded of this when two UM students evacuated to Mexico during Irma, only to experience two major earthquakes where they thought they would be safe.

The respite doesn’t always come. There could be more rain, more hurricanes, more natural disasters. Climate science predicts the frequency and severity of natural disasters will increase as the climate changes.

I’ve painted a pretty dark picture here, but it’s not meant to be disheartening. It’s beyond our power to prevent another storm. It’s beyond our power to precisely predict disaster. It’s beyond our power to prevent climate change altogether. But it is in our power to adapt.

There are considerations small and large that can make everyone more resilient.

Replenish your hurricane kit. Many witnessed people acting like animals in gas lines, supermarkets and hardware stores. Some acted like animals themselves to protect homes and loved ones. Those items you were scrambling for in the days before the storm can be kept on-hand all year.

Assess the trees left standing in your yard. Are they wind resistant, or do they have a tendency to come up by the roots or snap? Are they planted in spaces that are sheltered from the wind?

Reflect on the psychological stress of this storm. Between constant yet uncertain updates and a myriad of factors to weigh, decision fatigue and anxiety affected many people. If you didn’t evacuate, what held you back? Plans can be made with family and friends well before another hurricane with clear decision-making guidelines for what to do, when to do it and where to go when the time comes.

And while we can’t stop climate change, every effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – eating less meat, carpooling, reusing bags and containers – can slow or lessen the scale of devastating effects of climate change.

Miamians will find innovative strategies and technologies to preserve our beautiful home in the face of these challenges, though it may be expensive and hit lower-income folks harder without strong community efforts. But, if anything, we’re reminded that we have a fighting spirit and ability to come together in trying times.

Annie Cappetta is a senior majoring in political science and ecosystem science and policy.