New Yorker Letters to Editor, February 4, 2013
“Eric Klinenberg, in his article on how New York City might cope with intensifying climate change, makes the valuable point that improving physical infrastructure—burying electrical lines and erecting sea walls, for example—is necessary but insufficient…. Robust social infrastructure and tightly knit communities are also vital. My interviews with scores of government officials, planners, scientists, and activists in various countries suggest that the most important elements of social infrastructure are the political, cultural, economic, and civil beliefs and practices that shape the way that societies address public issues.
The Dutch lead the world in climate-change adaptation largely because their history and geography move them to elevate the common good over individual interests; to regard government—and the taxes that fund it—as a reliable tool rather than as a hapless oppressor; and to respect science, even when it clashes with ideological or economic preferences. The best adaptation plans in the world won’t much help New York City—or any other place—if the United States cannot leave climate denial behind, mobilize the government to implement strategies, and, above all, halt global warming before adapting to it becomes impossible.”
Fellow, New America Foundation