You have to know what you're called to. And for me the directive always has been, still is, and will continue to be to evoke the deeper wisdom that underlies crisis. In this context the focus here is primarily on a disaster wrought by two back to back hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, in the late summer of 2005 - a crisis that has severely impacted the every day lives of millions of people, some of whom I know personally, and myself included.
And while the terrain surrounding this challenge (of how to best support the safety and well-being of the American people in the face of past and future natural disasters) has become a tremendously political one these days, I really can deal with that. I recognized a long time ago that I do not live in a world that is wrapped up in a nice, neat package with a pretty pink bow on top of it. Change, indeed life itself, is a messy business.
Thus, the ability to embrace polarity and paradox and to live well along side many competing agendas is the highest emotional competency one can master, and I strive to master that one on a daily basis. I do that primarily by continuing to stay aware of what my own true north is. True north for me in this context (and well beyond it ) is to stay out of the arena of politics and private agenda and to work passionately instead to help people face, navigate and transcend significant, complex challenges in order to bring about positive change.
Having said this, on the subject of the ensuing controversy at the National Hurricane Center and beyond, if you've been following the blog for the past few days you will no doubt notice that some of the posts that were previously published here have been deleted. I want to categorically state that I am not being censored by anyone nor am I afraid to take a stand for issues that I passionately believe in. The issue is simply one of personal discernment. For reasons that even I do not fully understand yet, it just seems like the right thing to do. Given that there is much I still do not know about this subject--and may never know- it seems to me that the best course of action going forward is to look for and voice the deeper wisdom in this crisis as the NOAA investigation continues.
What I can say that I am passionate about, however, is living in Louisiana, and being a citizen of the gulf coast. Louisiana is a wonderful place to live with it's natural beauty and unique culture despite it's vulnerability to hurricanes and crazy politics. This is my home and hurricanes are a fact of life here. To deny that reality is akin to trying to nail Jello to a tree, although I have found that many newbies to this region don't entirely "get" it yet.
The fact is, Hurricanes have always come bringing forth their devastation, and they will continue to come again, and again, and again. And that's the ONLY reason I continue to bang away on this keyboard almost two years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and it's also why I have even ventured into the fray of this controversy. Any issue affecting the order and harmony of the people who are working on behalf of my safety (and millions of others) at the National Hurricane Center (and beyond) impacts me and my fellow gulf coast citizens, especially at the height of hurricane season. To me this debacle is yet/ but another metaphor for the systemic issues that have already been mirrored to us through the Katrina disaster--- Issues that we are all responsible for creating and perpetuating.
And just so you know, I have personally lived through and experienced first hand the devastation of 7 major hurricanes, some of them hitting during a time when hurricane technology and science were very crude. And what I have found has killed more people in hurricanes - then and now - and for more than any other reason is folks own stubborn, naive refusals to respect the power and the fury of nature. And that has shown up in many ways, but one very simple example is the refusal to evacuate.
Even without advanced technologies and cutting edge forecasting models, it's always been a common sense rule of thumb that if you live along the coastline anywhere from Brownsville Texas to the Florida Panhandle, when a cane enters the Gulf of Mexico you start packing up the car and at the very least prepare yourself to leave. Canes will ultimately land where they decide to even with the best forecasting we have today. And long before we had 72 hour forecasting windows, emergency personnel in cities within the cone would go door to door warning people to leave. Forecasters warned, the media disseminated the information, and emergency planners went grass roots knocking on doors. For the most part the system worked for those who cooperated with it.
What we didn't have "back in the day", however, were controversial scientific arguments around what causes hurricanes, fringe groups with blind agendas, people blaming their government for not taking care of them, nor quite the flagrancy of greed from certain groups trying to cash in big on the potential for disaster. Likewise, we didn't have to endure the resulting bureaucratic spin and the muzzling of public servants that accompanies all of that. Hurricanes were just not a political thing back then.
So I think I long for those days again (in spite of the higher propensity for uncertainty and our crude forecasting technologies) when after a hurricane strike, you grieved your losses, cleaned up your mess, and then rolled up your sleeves and moved on - when the lessons learned were less about blaming everyone you could point a finger at and more about respecting the power of nature. Instead, this whole, complex, confusing dog and pony show beginning with Katrina's landfall, has just become so...well tiring, counter-productive, and actually antithesis to the safety and well-being of those of us who must live intimately with and recover from land-falling hurricanes. And do not be deceived. This new point of view also doesn't bode well for our ability as a nation to navigate and transcend large scale disasters. Collectively, we better get our acts together.
Having said all this, I really don't know if the answer to the safety of our citizens living along populated hurricane-prone coastlines relies on the purchase of a new QuickSCAT satellite or not. I'll leave that one for the scientific types to figure out. What I do know is needed is for the hurricane community - citizens, leaders, forecasters, emergency planners, and those who communicate critical information - to be wise ---to hang together---to remember and heed the lessons of past hurricanes. The issue is always one of safety over personal agenda. (and I challenge anyone to argue that one.) The deal is (technologies aside) I have always expected to be able to count on accurate forecasts made by centered, focused people. This was as true "back in the day" as it is this hurricane season.
In conclusion then, while I tend not to argue with political realities (for they too are a fact of life) unfortunately hurricanes have become a tremendously complex topic these days. From the question of what informs them, to the issue of forecasting them, to the challenges of recovering from them, I find I must embrace the paradoxical nature of living life in a hurricane-prone region -- and this is indeed a precarious, slippery slope fraught with so much complexity and many competing agendas. The task for me is to "keep on keeping on", doing what I do, heading true north, in spite of it all.
Having said ALL of this, my deepest and sincerest hopes are that the challenges at the National Hurricane Center (and beyond ) will come to a successful and speedy resolution very soon, particularly as we move toward peak season.
Peace to all...