This catastrophe, very likely created by climate change – a crisis born of the colossal regulatory failure to prevent corporations from treating the atmosphere as their open sewer – is just one more opportunity for further deregulation. And the fact that this storm has demonstrated that poor and working-class people are far more vulnerable to the climate crisis shows that this is clearly the right moment to strip those people of what few labour protections they have left, as well as to privatise the meagre public services available to them. The flurry of attempts to use Sandy‘s destructive power as a cash grab is just the latest chapter in the very long story I have called the The Shock Doctrine. And it is but the tiniest glimpse into the ways large corporations are seeking to reap enormous profits from climate chaos.
So we know how the shock doctors are readying to exploit the climate crisis, and we know from the past how that story ends. But here is the real question: could this crisis present a different kind of opportunity, one that disperses power into the hands of the many rather than consolidating it the hands of the few; one that radically expands the commons, rather than auctions it off in pieces? In short, could Sandy be the beginning of A People’s Recovery, for new democratic processes, including neighbourhood assemblies, to decide how hard-hit communities should be rebuilt. The overriding principle must be addressing the twin crises of inequality and climate change at the same time.