Rebuild or Evolve?

Rebuild or Evolve?

Words By Ambar Ramirez

Talk of global warming and climate change is nothing new. Almost every day we see or hear of a catastrophic natural event happening somewhere around the world, leaving people homeless, hungry, lost, or buried. 

Living in Florida my whole life, unpredicted weather is normal to me, as I’m sure it is for a lot of people that live in the (supposedly) Sunshine State. Regardless of how sunny the day starts, I know to always pack an umbrella or have a hoodie on hand. And whenever a hurricane comes around, as it does every hurricane season, instead of panicking, most locals are calm whilst shopping for toilet paper, water and filling up their gas tanks (the basics). But this year, something bizarre happened. Just weeks apart, Florida was hit by a hurricane then a tropical storm. Leaving the streets in St.Augustine flooded and homes abandoned while people close to big bodies of water had to relocate. 

While doing research for this article, I found that in 2021 there were 97 natural disasters in the United States alone; globally, 401. Including hurricanes, tornados, wildfires, flooding and scorching temperatures that lead to life-threatening droughts. And with the imminent rise of natural disasters, so does the cost of repairing storm-related damage. So far this year, the world has been affected by at least 29 billion-dollar weather disasters, according to an article released by Yale Climate Connections. While we continue to rebuild after each disaster, some are irreparable. Clothing, cars and houses can be replaced, but lives cannot. 

Despite the commonality of such events, each damaging storm that reaches our shores forces residents to tear down houses and start over — and, sometimes, over again. But in other parts of the world, where whole cities, states or even islands that have been damaged by storms (or wars and pandemics), are looking at the destruction as a way to improve and become better, a way to live in harmony with Mother Nature rather than harm it.

In Jacksonville, those who build our houses and repair the damages caused by storms are also looking at ways we can evolve. Especially for those that thrive living close to the beach. Finishing carpenter Miles Tabb is currently working on a house in Ponte Vedra and sees a lot of the storm damage firsthand.

“I think that’s something that people don’t really think about, you know, when they wanna live on the beach, you’re gonna constantly pay money, fix things, replace things,” Tabb said. “It’s not simple.”

One of the biggest issues that comes with living by the beach is the potential of flooding or worse. Not to mention the cost of living on the beach impacts not only your bank account but your livelihood. I mean, take a look at the famous blue house on Vilano beach that recently went Facebook viral. The wooden structure still stands tall on its stilts quite literally on the shore despite all of the hurricanes it has endured. But one comment mentions seeing no stairs to reach the actual home… guess it’s not all that indestructible. 

“All along the beach through here [Ponte Vedra], it took all the dunes away, and there were a couple of different houses you could see where they were just a little too low on the ground and you could see it. They all flooded,” Tabb said. “You know, the docks that lead out to the beach all got destroyed and the bulkheads and stuff. So it was surprisingly a lot of damage.”

While families are temporarily relocated to shelters or hotels, its people like Tabbs and those who directly work with storm damage that are getting caught in the eye of the storm. Eye to eye with the mold, damaged structures or pipes and flooding, that is. 

“I’ve done a couple of flood jobs before —some have been from storms, and some haven’t — but that’s usually kind of messy,” Tabb said. “You gotta rip all the floors out; we gotta cut the drywall back three feet off the ground.”

Still, people will live by the beach, and I don’t blame them! And if you can afford it, all the more power to you. This article is not meant to discourage but to uplift. Take a look at Puerto Rico. It took the island 11 months to restore power to all of those affected by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Not to mention the roads were so damaged that it became a challenge to circulate and distribute food. Now, instead of losing hope, the island is looking at ways of sourcing food inland rather than depending on getting most of their food imported from the states. Even a small town in Ukraine, Irpin, is looking toward a brighter future with safer structures amidst the rubble caused by Russian invasions. 

The possibility of storm damage is already factored in the building a house process during the sketching and planning stages. Yet, is there more we could do to be preventive rather than reactive?

“I think it’s really important that everything in the process is being looked at, like taking their time, you know what I mean?” Tabb said. “Sometimes people try to do things too quick, and they want to just get the job done. I really think it just comes down to doing every little step that needs to be done the right way. If you’re cutting corners, then you’re gonna be dealing with it later.” 

It comes down to more than just taking your time and checking every box on the list. For we as a society could do better at preventing such devastating storms from happening in the first place. The growing frequency of natural disasters are a direct result of climate change and the increase of global surface temperature. And the heightened cost of damage from natural disasters is tied to the increase of population and property. 

The United Nations has a list of simple steps everyday people can take to reduce their impact on the climate. Like riding a bike or using public transportation to reduce the release of fossil fuels. Saving energy at home, eating more vegetables, and of course, reduce, reuse, recycle. 

So I ask this, as natural disasters evolve: Shouldn’t we too? Or will we continue to live life on the thread that Earth is hanging by?

 

For more information on how you can become more eco-friendly, visit un.org/actnow.

 

About Ambar Ramirez

Flipping through magazines for as long as she can remember, Ambar Ramirez has always known she wanted to be a journalist. Fast forward, Ambar is now a multimedia journalist and creative for Folio Weekly. As a recent graduate from the University of North Florida, she has written stories for the university’s newspaper as well as for personal blogs. Though mainly a writer, Ambar also designs and dabbles in photography. If not working on the latest story or design project, she is usually cozied up in bed with a good book or at a thrift store buying more clothes she doesn’t need.
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