25 August 2007

I Googled it.

"Define:" I typed, "Climate Refugee" and I deliberately depressed the 'enter' key...

And got the response that no definition existed. However, a link to the following was posted, so I clicked:

Climate refugee
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A Climate refugee is a displaced person caused by climate change induced environmental disasters. Such disasters result from both incremental and rapid ecological change and disruption that include increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and the more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, cyclones, flooding and tornadoes

I've been thinking about that term 'climate refugee' for the past week. The plain fact is the term applies to me and many others here in the Metro; we were displaced by climate related concerns.

For some of us, it was Ivan-although it took another year for me to leave the Gulf Coast region, I left it because of what I went through in Ivan. 18 hours of full-on terror will do that for a person.

For others it was Katrina.

But careful consideration in regards to myself brings me to the realization that it was actually the '71 Quake in L.A.

I've blogged here before about the quake. Briefly, for new readers (HI!) I was around 14 and knocked off of the couch by the waves emanating from Slymar that morning. The quake was my introduction to organized disaster relief-I was part of the group from Orange County that loaded a rental truck and drove it to San Fernando to bring relief supplies. What I saw on those truck runs led me to join the Coast Guard, the Red Cross, and grass-roots relief organizations; to try to take some sort of control by learning all that I could about natural disasters-surviving and triumphing...

30+ years later all of that training did little more than make it possible for me to hear over 80 simultaneous tornado warnings on the battery powered AM-FM and NOAA weather radio sets blaring as the dog and I took shelter in the bathroom, in the tub under a mattress at times. Crammed in the tub with us were the weather proof small evac bags with food, clothing (for me), first aid supplies, maps, compass...I clutched the dog's collar in one hand and the bag straps with the other, hoping the dog and the bags and I would somehow land in the same place if the place blew around and took us for the ride of our lives.

And when we emerged from the tub, the bathroom, the apartment, the landscape around us was relatively intact (compared to the places that took direct hits), but I was ruined inside. So was the dog, I think. Gator was never the same after Ivan, and so far, neither am I.

I lived in Florida during Hurricane Andrew. Friends brought their boats to our huge Lake Washington (Melbourne) yard, their cars, their children. We braced, but never saw so much as a cloud.

I was working for a landscape maintenance company at the time as a contract administrator; my boss and some of the crews went south with chain saws and other tools. They weren't gone more than a week and they brought back stories and photos that left them shaking visibly, and me shaking inside.

I started my personal plans to get the hell out of Dodge at that point, and I got my family out, back to Alabama where we owned a little place that Crusty hated.

We were in Guatemala when Opal knocked out the power for nearly two weeks. We heard from the neighbours that a mini-tornado came up our driveway; from the furrow left in the drive, I had to believe. They said at the very last second before it hit the little house it veered off to the right and went harmlessly out into the pastures.

I ramped up my training upon return from Central America. I became a certified Red Cross Disaster Relief Provider. I created a store of emergency supplies for my family.

I was OK. Until Ivan.

Now I am a Climate Refugee.

All my labels. Mom. Survivor. Ex-wife. Divorcee. Depression sufferer. Full time employee. Administrative Assistant. Christian. Optimist. Survivalist. Resilient. All my labels now refined, distilled down to one single description.

Climate Refugee.

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