Just before my October column was due to our editors I was headed to northern Colorado on business and had carved out time to take part in a daylong workshop that would involve “pitching” a yurt, like the ones seen in this issue of Green Builder. It was something that sounded like fun and I looked forward to a day in the sun, the learning experience and the team exercise. However, Mother Nature had ideas of her own and instead the site of the workshop and an area the size of many eastern states was inundated with what the weather experts referred to as “floods of Biblical proportions”.
The importance of the cancelled workshop quickly evaporated as we witnessed the destruction of entire communities through the live reports of multiple television news crews throughout the affected region. Stories of heroic rescues intermingled with real time camera coverage including heartbreaking scenes of swollen rivers bloated with automobiles that looked like discarded toys and chunks of completely deconstructed buildings.
One news clip, still impossible to forget, showed a lone horse, apparently hitched to a fence post, standing knee-deep in a raging current. As the helicopter camera panned back it became clear that the poor beast was left in the middle of what had essentially become a massive lake where there had once been a farm.
After almost a week, the storms finally moved eastward but they left behind the images of natural disaster based tragedies that we are becoming all too familiar with in this country; hundreds of miles of ripped out roads and bridges, entire neighborhoods and business districts still underwater, floating livestock and rotting crops in muddy fields, unsafe drinking water supplies and infrastructure damage that will take months, if not years, to rebuild.
Several people lost their lives, more than a thousand were unaccounted for as friends and families waited anxiously for contact from them, tens of thousands of homes and businesses were either totally destroyed or suffered significant damage. The financial losses quickly became unimaginable.
Yet, the lasting impression we are all left with is one of hope, the same hope and determination expressed by people who have endured other floods like these, by the survivors of Katrina and Irene, the many communities hit by tornadoes, hellish wildfires, and Superstorm Sandy. The vast majority these people refuse to see themselves as victims and they vow to rebuild, no matter what it takes.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if your intent is to construct a city or simply to pitch a yurt. To build something is one of the noble acts we have left to us as human beings. To rebuild it, is to transcend to an even higher level of expression of the human spirit. My hope is that we can learn to turn these tragedies into opportunities to provide a more sustainable set of solutions for the future as we humbly acknowledge that, despite all our suggestions to the contrary, nature is still in charge.
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