Hurricane Sandy’s immense power, which destroyed or damaged thousands of homes, actually pushed the footprints of the barrier islands along the South Shore of Long Island and the Jersey Shore landward as the storm carried precious beach sand out to deep waters or swept it across the islands. This process of barrier-island migration toward the mainland has gone on for 10,000 years.Should we fight in New Jersey and on Long Island, fight the seas and oceans, fight with growing confidence and growing strength, whatever the cost may be, fight on the beaches, fight on the shorelines, fight for the summer cottages and ocean views, fight and never surrender? The enemy is Nature, and a show of fierce determination will not influence her in the slightest. She's not angry or vengeful or subject to intimidation. She's incapable of perceiving that we think we're at war with her, but if she were, our fist shaking could only be mildly amusing. It doesn't even make sense to say Nature is assured of victory or even that victory was always hers. "Victory" requires a pre-victory condition, and there was never any such thing.
Yet there is already a push to rebuild homes close to the beach and bring back the shorelines to where they were. The federal government encourages this: there will be billions available to replace roads, pipelines and other infrastructure and to clean up storm debris, provide security and emergency housing. Claims to the National Flood Insurance Program could reach $7 billion. And the Army Corps of Engineers will be ready to mobilize its sand-pumping dredges, dump trucks and bulldozers to rebuild beaches washed away time and again.
We give meaning — glory! — to life by pretending there is a war and imagining never surrendering or at least holding out in a long — make believe it's long! — siege. But should the government deliver floods of tax money to imbue our charade with more realism?