Flooding in Nebraska: A Case of Climate Change

Climate change is a vast issue, with consequences fanning out to every corner of our world. Yes, rising sea levels will be a massive problem to tackle, but as will changing bird migrations, decreases in glacier accumulation, and extinctions of whole ecosystems. Huge issues like the amount of plankton that are able to survive in warming waters to (seemingly) small ones like the dominant species of beetle in a forest. But even in terms of direct issues to humans’ survival, we will have to face many more issues than just the displacement of those in coastal cities (just the displacement of 200 times the amount of people displaced by the Syrian Refuge Crisis by 2100, according to some experts).

So what other kinds of issues may we see in the not-so distant future? Let’s expand on the best example I can give from a much-too recent memory (but one you will also have some background on): the hiatus of the Pixel Planet Today project. As was previously mentioned in blog posts and on social media, my girlfriend and I’s (creator of Pixel Planet Today here, hello) apartment flooded after a freak storm swept through while we were out of town for the weekend. If you have ever experienced flooding of some kind, you know just how devastating it can be to lose furniture, electronics, and things with huge sentimental value. We lost books, shelves, our couch, my tablet, my car, my Pokémon card collection – the list goes on and on. Thankfully, none of us were hurt during the flooding (including our cat, Blue 💙), a lot of the electronics were able to be dried out and still work, and we are now able to be back in our apartment (hence why the project lives on today ❤).

It’s an unfortunate event that could happen to anyone, but once you look at the details, the threat of climate change becomes a lot more clear. I may not have noted before, but we are based in Omaha, Nebraska – right in the middle of the United States. There is no ocean in sight – the nearest large body of water, the Great Lakes, are over four hundred miles away. While Omaha is right along the Missouri River, the flooding didn’t stem from the river, but from rain. In just one hour when the storm was at its worst, it dropped between two and four inches of rain on Omaha, with surrounding areas getting even more (on par with rainfall-per-hour seen from Hurricane Ida, though with less total rainfall amounts). Cars were picked up and moved from the floodwaters; there were some people that were airlifted from their vehicles as streets became rivers; outside our apartment door, the waterline showed that our front doorstep had been about 3 feet underwater (videos circulated online, later shown on news networks). The city was obviously not prepared for that amount of water on its streets, but neither would any inland city.

Mold, displacement of people, resources that go into making renovations – all things that will become exponentially multiplied as climate change continues to make storms worse. We were just two people, displaced for a month, but multiply that by millions as climate change causes more frequent severe storms, and it’s easy to see how devastating climate change could be.

Now, if you look at the political climate (puns) of Nebraska and the Midwest, you won’t be shocked to find that nobody is calling this proof of climate change. An insane once-in-a-lifetime flood event, maybe; an act of God, sure; or even just bad karma (what we did to get the bad karma, I don’t know). But in a state that has been painted red for decades before I was born, and one that continues to ignore the signs of a climate catastrophe – you would think that something would come from the flooding, right? Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Once the broken pieces were fixed, roads were repaved, and cars were towed, things just “went back to normal”. No increases in infrastructure spending to make sure nothing like this happens again, no call for climate emergency preparations, just fixes for life to carry on.

It’s a sad, dangerous reminder – not only that everywhere will be affected by climate change, but that we can’t go “back to normal” (because that’s where the issues stem). Large corporations and governments do, in fact, have the biggest say in what the climate crisis will become and what we will do about it, but we cannot sit idly by expecting them to do what is best. There’s a quote from Leonardo da Vinci that I love, and I think it summarizes the climate crisis incredibly well; “Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence.” Don’t act with silence, be part of the change.

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