It’s been five days since Hurricane Harvey crashed into Texas and Louisiana, leaving thousands displaced and at least 30 dead.
While the aftermath of such a catastrophic natural disaster is horrifying, there’s something bittersweet about the way it brings humanity together. In the face of death and the wake of tragedy, we somehow have a greater capacity to tear down the walls built up by religion, race and socioeconomic status, and see people for who they really are: human.
Sons, daughters, mothers and fathers. Simply neighbors—in need of our help.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” ~Galatians 6:2
Amidst the rising racial division that has plagued our country in recent months, one such story is shining a ray of hope for this kind of unity.
Among the Houston residents who have gone out on their own to offer assistance to hurricane victims is professional MMA fighter, Derrick Lewis. Alongside the rescue crews, Lewis has served as one of the selfless volunteers wading through the treacherous floodwaters of Houston to help in any way that he can.
The UFC fighter, known as the “The Black Beast,” showed a softer side of his bad boy persona when he encountered a stranded hurricane victim who was clutching a Confederate flag, an item that has long symbolized racism in America.
“I picked up one guy and his family, his wife―he just kept apologizing to me, because all he really had was his clothes, and he wanted to take his Confederate flag,” said Lewis. “He wanted to take that with him, and he just apologized and said, ‘Man, I’ll sit in the back of your truck, man. I don’t want to have my flag inside of your truck like this.’”
But Lewis’ response left the ashamed man speechless.
“I said, ‘Man, I’m not worried about that,’’’ Lewis explained.
Clearly embarrassed by her husband’s unwillingness to leave behind his precious flag, she kept hitting him saying, “You should have just left it.”
Unshaken by the man’s actions, Lewis again reassured the couple that he was not offended.
“I don’t care about that,” Lewis told MMA Junkie. “I live in Texas. It ain’t nothing new. I’ve been living in the South all my life, and it ain’t nothing I hadn’t seen before or discussed about. I don’t care about that type of stuff. I just wanted to help him.”
“I’ve always been that type of guy that I like to help people more than I like to help myself and so I just seized the opportunity,” he added.
And what does he want in return?
This Good Samaritan just has one modest request…
“Just send me some Popeyes,” he playfully remarked. “Give me that 12-piece.”
With the police and firefighters making public news announcements that they were only going to help in “life-or-death situations,” Lewis knew he couldn’t be a passive bystander.
To him, the satisfaction of helping those in need far outweighs his successes in the UFC ring.
Myron Ebell, who headed the EPAs transition team when Trump became president, said the last decade has been a period of low hurricane activity
Conservative groups with close links to the Trump administration have sought to ridicule the link between climate change and events such as tropical storm Harvey, amid warnings from scientists that storms are being exacerbated by warming temperatures.
Harvey, which smashed into the Texas coast on Friday, rapidly developed into a Category 4 hurricane and has drenched parts of Houston with around 50in of rain in less than a week, more than the city typically receives in a year. So much rain fell that the National Weather Service had to add new colours to its maps.
The flooding has resulted in at least 15 deaths, with more than 30,000 people forced from their homes. Fema has warned that hundreds of thousands of people will require federal help for several years, with Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, calling Harvey one of the largest disasters America has ever faced. Insurers have warned the cost of the damage could amount to $100bn.
Some scientists have pointed to the tropical storm as further evidence of the dangers of climate change, with Penn State University professor of meteorology Michael Mann stating that warming temperatures worsened the impact of the storm, heightening the risk to life and property.
Conservative groups, however, have mobilized to downplay or mock any association between the storm and climate change. Myron Ebell, who headed the Environmental Protection Agencys transition team when Donald Trump became president, said the last decade has been a period of low hurricane activity and pointed out that previous hurricanes occurred when emissions were lower.
Instead of wasting colossal sums of money on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, much smaller amounts should be spent on improving the infrastructure that protects the Gulf and Atlantic costs, said Ebell, who is director of environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian thinktank that has received donations from fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil.
Thomas Pyle, who led Trumps transition team for the department of energy, said: It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the left is exploiting Hurricane Harvey to try and advance their political agenda, but it wont work.
When everything is a problem related to climate change, the solutions no longer become attainable. That is their fundamental problem.
Pyle is president of the Institute of Energy Research, which was founded in Houston but is now based in Washington DC. The nonprofit organization has consistently questioned the science of climate change and has close ties to the Koch family.
The Heartland Institute, a prominent conservative group that produced a blueprint of cuts to the EPA that has been mirrored by the Trump administrations budget, quoted a procession of figures from the worlds of economics, mathematics and engineering to ridicule the climate change dimension of Harvey.
In the bizarro world of the climate change cultists … Harvey will be creatively spun to prove there are dire effects linked to man-created climate change, a theory that is not proven by the available science, said Bette Grande, a Heartland research fellow and a Republican who served in the North Dakota state legislature until 2014.
Facts do not get in the way of climate change alarmism, and we will continue to fight for the truth in the months and years to come.
Harvey was the most powerful storm to hit Texas in 50 years, but according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it is premature to conclude that there has already been an increase in Atlantic-born hurricanes due to temperatures that have risen globally, on average, by around 1C since the industrial revolution.
Scientists have also been reluctant to assign individual storms to climate change but recent research has sought to isolate global changes from natural variability in disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.
However, researchers are also increasingly certain that the warming of the atmosphere and oceans is likely to fuel longer or more destructive hurricanes. A draft of the upcoming national climate assessment states there is high confidence that there will be an increase in the intensity and precipitation rates of hurricanes and typhoons in the Atlantic and Pacific as temperatures rise further.
Harvey may well fit that theory, according to climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, as the hurricane managed to turn from a tropical depression to a category four event in little more than two days, fed by a patch of the Gulf of Mexico that was up to 4C warmer than the long term average.
When storms start to get going, they churn up water from deeper in the ocean and this colder water can slow them down, said Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. But if the upwelling water is warmer, it gives them a longer lifetime and larger intensity. There is now more ocean heat deep below the surface. The Atlantic was primed for an event like this.
While the number of hurricanes may actually fall, scientists warn the remaining events will likely be stronger. A warmer atmosphere holds more evaporated water, which can fuel precipitation Trenberth said as much as 30% of Harveys rainfall could be attributed to global warming. For lower-lying areas, the storm surge created by hurricanes is worsened by a sea level that is rising, on average, by around 3.5mm a year across the globe.
The oil and gas industry has sought to see off the threat in the Gulf of Mexico with taller platforms post-Katrina, offshore rigs are around 90ft above sea level compared to 70ft in the 1990s but the Houston, the epicenter of the industry, is considered vulnerable due to its relaxed approach to planning that has seen housing built in flood-prone areas.
Barack Obamas administration established a rule that sought to flood-proof new federal infrastructure projects by demanding they incorporate the latest climate change science. Last week, Trump announced he would scrap the rule, provoking a rebuke from Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican congressman who called the move irresponsible.
Curbelo, who has attempted to rally Republicans to address climate change, wouldnt comment on the climate change link to Harvey. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Texass Republican senators, didnt respond to questions on the climate link, nor did Abbott, the states governor, or Dan Patrick, Texass lieutenant governor. All four of the Texas politicians have expressed doubts over the broad scientific understanding that the world is warming and that human activity is the primary cause.
Its essential to talk about climate change in relation to events like Hurricane Harvey and its sad a lot of reports dont mention it in any way, said Trenberth.
You dont want to overstate it but climate change is a contributor and is making storms more intense. A relatively small increase in intensity can do a tremendous amount of damage. Its enough for thresholds to be crossed and for things to start breaking.