Dr. Theodore Hamm Published in VICE News
November 11, 2014
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – November 11, 2014 – Dr. Ted Hamm, associate professor and chair of the journalism and new media studies department at SJC, recently published an article in VICE News commenting on the shift in priorities in efforts to rebuild vulnerable communities devastated in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
In the aftermath of the storm, key figures in state government, such as Governor Cuomo and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, discussed comprehensive, large-scale projects, including a sea wall spanning from Staten Island to the Rockaways. As time passed, none of these great plans came to fruition. Rather than focus on comprehensive protection, the conversation shifted to a theme of resiliency—preparing for future storms through zoning and infrastructure upgrades.
These half-measures prompted Dr. Hamm to inquire as to whether or not New York City is missing a key opportunity to think big and meet the challenges presented by climate change. He cites how New York City has refocused its energies toward resilience as opposed to prevention, and how both Mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio have adopted this approach, instituting stricter building codes and helping homeowners rebuild in areas that are still vulnerable to storm damage rather than explore large (and admittedly expensive) comprehensive public works projects.
But, according to Dr. Hamm, not all politicians have abandoned big, inventive solutions to combat the growing threat of climate change-induced disasters. Howie Hawkins, the gubernatorial candidate for the Green Party in the latest election, advocated for a wide range of public works initiatives to address these problems—from relocating water treatment and utility stations from flood zones to the creation of a smart statewide electrical grid-powered exclusively from renewable energy sources, capable of swiftly redistributing energy to storm-afflicted areas.
Another approach Dr. Hamm cites is based on the work of Columbia University Sociologist Klaus Jacob, who calls for nothing less than the complete redesign of New York City as a whole. Instead of preventing and managing the impact of climate change, Jacob proposes to adapt to it—abandoning the reconstruction of flood-ravaged neighborhoods and forswearing new construction in low-lying areas in favor of a course of what he terms “strategic resettlement.” This measure calls for residential areas to be moved to higher ground and low-lying areas to be abandoned—a dubious proposal in light of the dearth of residential space in the five boroughs.
Dr. Hamm notes that skeptics are bound to disagree with any proposal — be it one of resilience, public works or relocation — on grounds of cost and urgency. Yet, in light of the frequency of and deep consequences of climate change-related catastrophe, he calls for vision, and, above all, to think big.
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