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Hurricane Sandy Spoke: Were You Listening, Hollywood?

Guest Blog: The tragedy of hurricane Sandy means it's time for Hollywood to make a movie that will show people what will happen if we don't get our act together on climate change

Hollywood has given us ''global cooling'' on a grand scale with "The Day After Tomorrow," and it has given us comet strikes and air-borne contagions and "4:44."

But when will Hollywood put "global warming" front and center on the silver screen? How much longer do we have to wait a real climate-related script to get greenlighted and for a powerful post-super storm Sandy super-movie era to emerge?

Back in 1959, Ranald MacDougall made a sci-fi doomsday flick starring Harry Belafonte, who at the time was the peak of his career. The movie was titled "The World, the Flesh and the Devil, and the script was based on two literary sources: "The Purple Cloud, a novel by M.P. Shiel and a short story titled "End of the World" by Ferdinand Reyher.

The movie theater poster carried the tagline" "The Most Unusual Story Ever Told." and the "almost end of the world" movie ended with two words — not "The End," as most movie titles announce, but "The Beginning." Belafonte's character survived, along with the two other
co-stars, and they marched, hand in hand, into the future.

Last year, Abel Ferrara's "4:44 – Last Day On Earth" appeared, and the movie scared the pants off everyone worried about all kinds of "end of the world" scenarios. William Dafoe and Shanyn Lynn starred.

But what about super storm Sandy, that ''nor'eastercane" that struck the East Coast with a fury? Will it engender more super storm-related films? While Sandy spoke, was Hollywood listening?

Stephen Leahy, a climate reporter in Canada, assumed the ''voice'' of Sandy and penned a series of "Hurricane Sandy Speaks" op-eds that went viral after the storm, with Nick Kristof of the New York Times tweeting a link to his 1.3 million followers. Bill McKibben of the climate site 350.org  called Leahy's pieces — there are seven so far, with more to come — "remarkable." Huffington Post, Daily Kos and Climate Connections also picked up Leahy's "Sandy" commentaries.

His last one was titled "I Helped Re-elect President Obama," and it made the point that failure to deal with climate change has consequences here and now as well as in future. And people are beginning to understand that.

Of course, Sandy was not caused by global warming, as most climate scientists will attest. It was just, as the pundits have dubbed it, an unusual “super storm.” Such storms have been hitting that region of North America for centuries.

Hurricane Sandy was a combination of a powerful tropical hurricane and a nor'easter, and the New England region sees such storms every once in a blue moon.

There was one in 1938 that my Brooklyn-born father told me about. There was a big New England hurricane in 1955 that made an unforgettable impression on me when I was a kid. In 1988, another monster storm hit the New York region and do not forget Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans a few years ago.

Storms happen. They are not caused by global warming or climate change.

However, there is one thing Sandy did that none of the earlier storms did: it cemented in the world’s imagination, and the New York media world's imagination, via news photographs and blogged videos, surreal images of sea level rises, residential destruction and power outages that speak of things to come when global warming does impact the Earth. Was Hollywood paying attention?

After Sandy, there should be no more debate about whether climate change and global warming are happening, only over the details and when climate chaos will hit. It may happen 500 years from now, 1,000 years from now, or maybe in a few centuries, perhaps seven more decades.

Nobody can predict the future, but climate scientists and now the general public in most nations knows that climate change will threaten life on Earth in ways that for the moment only Hollywood movies can imagine.

Remember the story of Cassandra? She is a figure from Greek mythology who was blessed with the gift of prophecy, but cursed because her warnings would always go unheeded and she would be mocked and pilloried.

Ancient Greece gave us the tragically relevant tale of Cassandra. Now the modern world, from Al Gore to James Lovelock and hundreds of climate scientists in between, gives us new iterations of the same story.

These people can be called “climate Cassandras,” because they are warning of very possible future climate scenarios and yet still have a hard time being taken seriously.

Interpreting scientific atmospheric data and using computer modeling to predict climate trends is as close to trustworthy prophesy as civilization is likely to get.

While super storm Sandy was said by some to be hard evidence of global warming and climate change, most scientists say climate had nothing to with the week-long event. Hurricanes happen, period.

Superstorm Sandy washed ashore in Manhattan, but the images broadcast worldwide can help turn the tide in terms of showing humankind what might be in store for it in the future if it does not get its act together now. A more realistic movie than "The Day After Tomorrow," which targets a warming world, is certainly in the pipeline, no?