At the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s Gracie Mansion reception Wednesday night marking the 5th Anniversary of the City’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program, his staffersÂ handed out “Million Trees NYC” pamphletsÂ promoting theÂ Parks Department’s initiative to plant a million trees over the next decade. Whether it was intentional or not, this was a rare time where theÂ public education campaigns onÂ emergency preparedness andÂ global warming wereÂ tied together on the same program.Â
In fact, earlier thatÂ day in Washington, D.C., IÂ was discussing that very subject withÂ Time magazine’sÂ Amanda Ripley. We have both been struck byÂ the fact that whileÂ preparing the citizenryÂ for emergencies has much in commonÂ with theÂ effortsÂ against global warming,Â the nation has largelyÂ embraced one cause and largely ignored the other.
It was a point that DHS Secretary ChertoffÂ madeÂ to me last month when I asked him for his thoughts onÂ improving civilianÂ emergency preparedness.
“I tell you what’s fascinating. If you look at like this whole global warming thing. At some point, it captured the imagination of somebody and it became a big media thing. And then all of a sudden, every kid was coming home with information about global warming. And I wish we could get that media attentiveness in the area of preparedness, so that kids come – because this – actually, this is an area where it could make a difference if everybody had the plans and the kit and everything. You could actually see every individual could make a difference.”
The global warming campaign can and should beÂ a model for civilian emergency preparedness in a variety of ways, includingÂ as Chertoff noted somewhat enviously, getting kids to lead the way andÂ involving the media. But preparednessÂ will also require the sameÂ kind of governmental and corporate commitment,Â high profileÂ public spokespeopleÂ andÂ someÂ governmentalÂ incentives that has boostedÂ the climate change effort.
The two campaigns areÂ complementary and should be moreÂ linked closer together in the public’s mind — and actions.Â In both, society is being asked to mobilize in order to avert or mitigate potential disasters, and bothÂ areÂ part of strengthening the nation’s general nationalÂ resilience.Â Yes, global warming has some skeptics, but so does emergency preparedness -Â ironically they are usually not the same people whichÂ may conveniently add to its complementary synergy.