The stark inequality of climate change

Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey

RACHEL RIEDERER / THE NEW YORKER – As Hurricane Florence moved across the Atlantic in early September of 2018, state officials issued evacuation orders for communities along the Virginia and Carolina coasts. The writer and law professor Jedediah Purdy, who was teaching at Duke at the time, was situated well inland, where the Atlantic coastal plain meets the Piedmont, and in his new book, “This Land Is Our Land,” he writes about his own surge of disaster preparation. Stocking up on canned goods and candles, he was also cataloguing his dependencies, contemplating how his household might get along without stocked shops and available gasoline. Could he make a cup of coffee if the electricity went out or remember loved ones’ phone numbers without the use of a smartphone? Human beings, at least we modern ones, are “an infrastructure species,” he writes, dependent on elaborate systems for shelter, electricity, and water. Purdy contemplates the potential devastation—the friendliest, nearest-term end of the the disaster-scenario spectrum laid out by David Wallace-Wells in “The Uninhabitable Earth,” but still no picnic—and thinks of the fate of what King Lear calls “unaccommodated man,” defenseless and soggy, “like an oyster ripped from its shell.” …

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