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My attention is riveted on the YMCA’s news monitor as I step and sweat on my elliptical machine. Usually I try to ignore the football games, talking heads, and any image of Romney. But today, the cloud whorls on those cartoon-ish meteorological maps churn over the northeast, where 90% of my huge family and countless friends from my first 26 years hunker down from North Carolina to Maine. Everyone predicts chaos.

Pretty commentators warn, “Leave low-lying areas now while you still can.” My sister lives right outside of Manhattan. How low is she lying?

Worried, I fish my cell from my sweatshirt pocket. “What’s your plan?”  I ask, feet pumping the pedals.

She was puffing up five flights of stairs. “I’ll call you when I’m home.” My niece in Manhattan posts on Facebook that she and her husband are watching waves slam the island. I worry they won’t make it out before the tunnels close in a few minutes.  Though high tide and the hurricane have yet to hit, waves already bathe highways along the East and Hudson rivers.

Forty minutes pass. Still no call from my sister. Now I’m really breaking a sweat.

What we will be saying one week, one month, one year from now about this storm? The poster for Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth featured a smoke stack spewing a storm whorl exactly like the one on TV in front of me. During the movie, Gore showed a map—much like the ones featured right now—of New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey.
“This region is almost at sea level,” he said. “Let’s see how it will look after global warming makes oceans rise a few inches.” His map changed: Most of Manhattan, Long Island, and parts of NJ vanished. Millions displaced on the east coast alone. Hundreds of millions worldwide.

Such a clear and powerful warning could have prompted action from world leaders. But President Bush—in charge of the richest, most energy-hungry nation on Earth—blocked emissions caps and mired the world in eight years of industry-manufactured “debate” over whether global warming is man-made or naturally caused.

President wanna-be Romney takes up where Bush left off. Despite years of scientific consensus on the human causes of global warming, Romney states, “We don’t know what’s causing climate change.” So, no need to act. End of story.

Back up on the YMCA’s screen, people in boats now flee flooded coastal towns. I swig from my water bottle and step, sweat, step. It’s really happening. Just as climatologists predicted. And today, commentators aren’t saying the words “climate change.” They’re not saying, “Al Gore warned us this would happen if we didn’t act,” or, “Dang, the environmentalists are right!” Instead, they’re intoning, “Refrigerated food only keeps for four hours. If you use candles, firefighters might not be able to respond if your house catches fire.”

What I wish they’d say, after all the helpful hints, is this: We get it. Let’s stop pretending it’ll be okay after this blows.  It’s as if angry gods really are on environmentalists’ side, in a weird sort of way, making our predicament blatantly obvious by whipping the east coast power center just as our country makes a momentous choice: Can we really afford another president who dithers around on global warming?

I hope my family’s okay. And I hope they can all cast ballots.

Epilogue

Facebook message: My family hunkers down together, grinding coffee for the french press with a mortar and pestle.