Frankenstein was the name of the doctor who created a monster. Frankenstorm, the tongue-in-cheek name for the storm labeled Sandy, was created by human action under capitalism. It makes sense to call it that–not the idiotic way the mainstream media uses the term because of the coincidence with Halloween, but because Sandy was made by capitalist climate change.
Scientists have linked warmer sea surface temperatures to more frequent and stronger Atlantic hurricanes. Record high temperatures in the Atlantic sea water fed Sandy the energy it needed. Rising sea levels as a result of record polar ice melts earlier this year also broke storm surge records up and down the Atlantic coast of North America.
Sandy’s odd trajectory from east to west was caused by a weather “blocking event,” which have occurred with more frequency of late and are linked to extreme weather events such as heat waves. Those heat waves are, some scientists believe, linked to polar ice melting at a faster rate, and that melt is unquestionably increasing due to man-made climate change.
Warmer water, polar ice melt, and heat waves: capitalist climate change made Sandy what it was.
Meanwhile, as climate justice activists have long observed, the impact of severe climate change is much more often felt in impoverished regions and by marginalized populations. Sandy was no exception. While the damage in New York City was devastating and spectacular (and let’s hope it opens some eyes in the process), between 150,000 and 200,000 homes were destroyed in Cuba, and untold millions of dollars worth of damage suffered in Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas, not to mention dozens of fatalities.
Yet the mainstream media has, with very few exceptions, focused on the damage in New York, including the closing of the stock exchange that harmed nobody. That’s what sells tickets. And speaking of selling, the incredibly crass decision by some retail chains to capitalize on Sandy by holding a “Hurricane Sale” while millions of people remained without power, received the cold treatment it deserved on social media networks.
Sandy was capitalism’s monster, from start to finish, which is why some are calling for Hurricane names to be named after oil companies instead of individuals. These extreme weather events will continue, and will continue disproportionately affecting oppressed people, until we harness human activity to move beyond capitalism and its oil economy.