January 25th and California Fires

The January 25th GIC-USFSM conference on adaptive climate change, Adapting to a Changing Climate: Challenges & Opportunities, to be held at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, includes discussion of fires as well as hurricanes. Here is a recent Bloomberg story for reference: “What Wildfires and Hurricanes Mean for the Global Economy” (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-22/what-wildfires-and-hurricanes-mean-for-the-global-economy).

2018 has been a horrible and murderous year for fires. We all know that. The issue for climate change deniers and for climate change believers is whether we can expect normalcy or whether something is different now, requiring adaptive solutions. January 25 will focus on that question.

Cumberland Advisors is proud to sponsor this conversation, which presents skilled professionals in a transparent and independent forum. Attendance costs only $50 to cover lunch (registration here).

Now we offer a guest commentary about the California fires. We thank our good friend and GIC board colleague Philippa Dunne for sharing her essay with our readers. Philippa is coeditor of three  macroeconomic newsletters – The Liscio Report, which has a trading focus, Sightlines Bulletin, which offers “concise data-driven monthly analyses of the direction of the American economy,” for professionals and academics, and TLR Wire, frequent, short notes and graphs on important aspects of fresh data missed by the mainstream intended for all readers You can learn more about both and subscribe at http://www.tlranalytics.com.

California Fires, by Philippa Dunne

Two differences jump out when we attend conferences with a higher percentage of speakers who were not born in the US, but may teach here, and we share these now as observations, not criticism. There is considerably more concern voiced about the effects of market concentration and pricing power, which we have outlined; and there is a general sense that US citizens, perhaps especially those in the financial markets, are not accurately anticipating the market impacts when, say, lawsuits and insurance claims caused by extreme weather start rolling in at an ever faster pace.

I grew up in Malibu, where fires were a central part of my childhood.

Every fire has its own unforgettable personality. One marches as a belligerent wall, missing little in its path to the shore; one changes its mind at the last minute, trapping the fire crews and their equipment on the wrong side of the column; and some, like the recent Woolsey fire, flame seemingly in all directions, pouncing on areas the size of football fields in a second.

And they all have different ways of introducing themselves. Sometimes a bunch of tumbleweeds thud into the house: the Santa Ana wind. Sometimes sirens race up the highway; by the time I was five, I could tell which canyon they turned into; and sometimes I would first see reflected flames flickering in my window. Then it’s grab all the animals and your toothbrush, unlock all the doors and gates for the firemen, kiss the ground by your bedroom door with hope, and head for the Georgian Hotel in town. From our rooms there we would stay up all night, looking out across the bay as the unspeakably beautiful flames winged up and down the mountains, seemingly in silence although we knew they were panting.

Firefighting is a male-dominated field. The first female firefighter in this country was Molly Williams, Volunteer #11, a slave owned by a New York City merchant. There have been all-female forest crews since the 1920s, but in the US only 2% of firefighters are women. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti promised that by 2020, 5% of the LAFD will be women; currently that’s 3.5%. I’m not being sexist when I refer to my wonderful childhood heroes as men.

An owl lands on the beach; a coyote limps on singed foot pads, showing no interest in a fleeing rabbit. A firefighter staggers in the wind.

The fires have always been unpredictable and terrifying, but they have moved into a new dimension. The Paradise fire has set records, but the recent Woolsey fire that flew to the beach in west Malibu, bad as it was, isn’t up to today’s standards. In 1970, the Santa Ana, blowing at 80 miles an hour and gusting to twice that, drove a 30-mile wall of fire from Newhall to Malibu. First we heard it mentioned on the news, and then it was barreling over the mountain so quickly that we barely had time to load up the animals. It did take out the Spahn Ranch, where Charlie Manson and his crew lived (no comment), but also the iconic Serra Retreat, a real loss. That fire was a record-setter then, but it isn’t even in the top twenty these days.

I recently visited friends in Santa Barbara and finally saw firsthand the incomprehensible destruction in the path of the fire and floods of last year. One friend, a real estate agent in Montecito, one of the most idyllic places on earth, said that he is having a tough time determining if business is slow because of interest rates or because buyers are afraid to invest in multi-million-dollar properties threatened by fires and rushing mud. We drove through the slide area: Geologists are still calculating how much the mud (A Look Inside the Montecito Disaster Probe), the consistency of honey and traveling at up to 27 miles an hour, was needed to launch “giant boulders” down the washes.

Thank you, always, to the fire crews, both the pros and the inmate volunteers making $2 a day (and $1 an hour when they are fighting active fires) – may many more go on to join Cal Fire; to the California Highway Patrol – you haven’t lived until a CHP yells at you to “gun it” in order to get over a smoldering divider; and to the migrant farmers who kept working in the fields through the smoke.

My job during the fires was always to drag panicked horses out of their stalls and onto the beach. They really do run back into burning barns. To give you an idea what it’s like, during the Newhall-Malibu fire I was pulling a mare across the sand when I noticed I was stumbling inexplicably, or so I thought. I looked down at my foot, now in slow motion, which was sitting on a board. I picked up my foot and the board came with it, held by a large nail that I couldn’t feel. A stranger ran over, said “It’s okay to scream,” pulled the board off, and raced me across the sand to the vet’s office. I got a tetanus shot and no other treatment. There was no time for that. And mine was just an ordinary fire experience.

No horses were lost in that canyon, but we feel a bit like those horses right now. We’re not a political newsletter, and this is one of the most divisive topics in our country right now. Voicing these opinions could lose subscribers, but we are willing to take that risk. We all have different opinions and want to hear yours.

The optimistic approach is the one that takes steps to slow the climate changes that produce increasingly heavy weather and the historic droughts that make devastating fires more likely. Stephen Pekar, who runs the paleoclimate research lab at the City University of New York, among his many other activities, notes that climate changes are now taking place between 100 and 1000 times faster than they have in the past. To get to the point of taking steps to curb climate change, we have to change the conversation. The risk is asymmetrical – didn’t that Schopenhauer guy have something to say about that? While it’s true that there have always been dramatic shifts in climate, the drivers of those shifts can be measured, and they do not fully account for what we are seeing. We all need to know what the cores drawn from the Greenland ice sheet are telling us. That key research is beautifully chronicled in Richard Alley’s Two-Mile Time Machine (https://www.amazon.com/Two-Mile-Time-Machine-Abrupt-Climate/dp/0691102961). Otherwise we have only opinions.

There are tremendous opportunities in the renewable energy sector, jobs that would help balance the increasingly unequal opportunities available to our working classes. For renewable sources to really take off, we’d have to drop subsidies for the fossil-fuel producers and let the markets work. When the mechanization of our farms sent farm work tumbling from something like 30% of the workforce to the current 1–3%, depending on how you jigger the numbers, the transition was largely enabled by the war effort. Workers were moved from the farms into the factories, and much of what they made was battle-related. Had they been left in the rural areas to fend for themselves, as so many of our machinists have been, what would have happened? Of course, we’d advocate for a green-energy rebuild and retrofitting, not more weaponry, and the tools are ready at hand.

Frank Nutter, head of the Reinsurance Association of America, told writer Eugene Linden a quarter of a century ago that “global warming could bankrupt the [reinsurance] industry.” Linden also points out that while the Insurance Information Institute was singling out Florida as having the greatest exposure to the combined effects of a changing climate, Governor Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio went on record to dismiss the threat.

Cargill’s Gregory Page agreed to be on the board of bipartisan Risky Business, which aims to put a price on all of this. You can tell he doesn’t like being there, and good for him for stepping up. He did say he was willing to do so only because the outfit aims to document risks, not look for solutions. Whatever, but he did add that in agriculture the “threat of long-term weather-pattern changes cannot be ignored.”

The IMF produced a 2015 report (https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2015/09/28/04/53/sonew070215a) showing that around the world fossil fuel subsidies amount to $5.3 trillion, or 6.5% of world GDP. Climate-minded economists reckon it would take 1% of world GDP to devise and implement remediation. But that $5.3T amounted to more than total health spending of all the world’s governments at the time. Apparently, the IMF rechecked their work when they saw their results, and we rechecked ours. (Read that again if you need to.)

Around the world we’re using big tax dollars to support a backward-looking sector, making it harder to implement programs tailor-made to get us beyond stagnant wage growth of our middle classes. Although fossil fuel operations lift wages in a slim tranche of well-paid workers, they are not engines of job creation. Green projects, whether they be high-tech explorations or muscle-power retrofits, create jobs that pay well, and retrofits are labor-intensive. They also offset municipal costs for heating and cooling, and cutting back on the time we spend stuck in traffic jams would raise productivity. There’s a lot more data; but as long as people see climate change as an ideological battle, data do not help much. We’ll be happy to send links; just email Philippa: philippa@panix.com

Cue in the creative destruction of a true market economy.


Here is the link to the latest US government report on climate change. We recommend perusal with and open mind and a willingness to alter views: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States, https://nca2018.globalchange.gov.

For more information on how to join us in this important conversation at the January 25th GIC-USFSM conference, please visit www.usfsm.edu/climate.

GIC & USFSM - Adapting to a Changing Climate - Challenges & Opportunities
 

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

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Red Tide, January 25th Sarasota Conference on Climate Change

The January 25th GIC-USFSM conference, Adapting to a Changing Climate: Challenges & Opportunities, to be held at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, is open to the public. The sponsors, including Cumberland, helped so as to allow the cost of registration to be held to $50, a registration fee that covers the lunch.

GIC & USFSM - Adapting to a Changing Climate - Challenges & Opportunities
 

Climate-change believers and deniers are welcome. The purpose of the event is to put facts and details in the public domain for discussion.

Red tide and the toxins it carries are among the issues we will take up. Ask any Sarasota restauranteur or hotel manager what has happened to business these last few months, and the economic impact on Florida becomes clear. All political personalities interested in mitigating the effects of red tide on their jurisdictions are welcome to attend or send staff.

Let me get to a specific health issue related to red tide. I will start with a quoted email from a national personality whom I know personally. He contracted an illness believed to be a result of breathing red tide toxin or the related algae bloom toxin.

He wrote:

“I’ve easily found articles with various analyses of probable causality between bodily responses to Brevetoxins and auto-immune system responses generally associated with organizing pneumonia.

“The experts I have want to identify similar episodic correlations in order to study specific trends and narrow the range of potential causality.

“Has your group associated among any Florida pulmonologists that have seen similar cases?

“One of the fundamental issues may be that the primary group at risk of serious chronic illness is visitors that have no prior immunities from low doses of Brevetoxin exposure. They suffer the effects of a red tide bloom of Karenia brevis algae and then leave Florida before any of the major chronic illness symptoms appear.

“They know they are sick but have no contact with medical professionals that understand normal red tide irritations. That now seems to be the primary missing link.

“Research is so much fun (if only I didn’t have to concurrently live the experience).”

My friend also sent this report:

“David,

“Initial biopsy result on the biggest spot in my lung found ‘organizing pneumonia’ and no malignancy – good news.

“The point at which the coughing and respiratory irritation that resulted in this particular ‘pneumonia’ began, however, directly coincides with my exposure to red tide in April. My med records are very clear that there was no cough or other irritation symptoms before that exposure.

“If there would be any interest in this situation among you and your friends, let’s talk.

“I’m going to enjoy Thanksgiving with family and head to FL. If there’s interest, maybe we can gather and discuss a follow-up for the public health of FL, as Judy and I traverse the Tampa area after Thanksgiving.

“My AA pulmonologist and I will do more to follow up in Dec. I’ve got numerous other spots we need to analyze further before declaring ‘victory.’”

Dear reader: My point of this personal story is direct. This could be you or me. Research and discussion are needed. And what we’re dealing with here is a second-order effect of climate change, just like growing hurricane intensity and rising sea levels.

We are going to have a full auditorium on January 25, with thorough presentations and discussions of facts.

Below is a series of extracts and links on the red tide and toxin issues:


“Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB)-Associated Illness… Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are the rapid growth of algae that can cause harm to animals, people, or the local ecology. A HAB can look like foam, scum, or mats on the surface of water and can be different colors. HABs can produce toxins that have caused a variety of illnesses in people and animals. HABs can occur in warm fresh, marine, or brackish waters with abundant nutrients and are becoming more frequent with climate change.”
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/habs/index.html)


“Exposure to harmful algal bloom toxins found in cyanobacteria (blue green algae) or Karenia brevis red tide can cause severe illness in pets, livestock, and wildlife when contaminated water is ingested or when animals lick their fur after swimming.”
(Florida Dept. of Health, http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/aquatic-toxins-program-animal-health.html)

“About Red Tide… Algae are vitally important to marine ecosystems, and most species of algae are not harmful. However, under certain environmental conditions, microscopic marine algae called Karenia brevis (K. brevis) grow quickly, creating blooms that can make the ocean appear red or brown. People often call these blooms ‘red tide.’

“K. brevis produces powerful toxins called brevetoxins, which have killed millions of fish and other marine organisms. Red tides have damaged the fishing industry, shoreline quality, and local economies in states such as Texas and Florida. Because K. brevis blooms move based on winds and tides, pinpointing a red tide at any given moment is difficult.

“ASSESSING THE IMPACT ON PUBLIC HEALTH

“In addition to killing fish, brevetoxins can become concentrated in the tissues of shellfish that feed on K. brevis. People who eat these shellfish may suffer from neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, a food poisoning that can cause severe gastrointestinal and neurologic symptoms, such as tingling fingers or toes.

“The human health effects associated with eating brevetoxin-tainted shellfish are well documented. However, scientists know little about how other types of environmental exposures to brevetoxin—such as breathing the air near red tides or swimming in red tides—may affect humans. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people who swim among brevetoxins or inhale brevetoxins dispersed in the air may experience irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Additional evidence suggests that people with existing respiratory illness, such as asthma, may experience these symptoms more severely.”
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/hab/redtide/pdfs/about.pdf)


Here are additional red tide resources:

“Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB)-Associated Illness… Publications, Data, & Statistics”
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/habs/publications.html)

Here is the link to the latest US government report on climate change. We recommend perusal with an open mind and a willingness to alter views: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States, https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/.

For more information on how to join us in this important conversation, please visit www.usfsm.edu/climate

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

Sign up for our FREE Cumberland Market Commentaries

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.




Congressional Panel Confirmed for February 22

We have now confirmed a bipartisan congressional panel for the February 22 “Cuba and the Caribbean: What Now?” event. Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo, whose district includes the Keys, which bore the direct hurricane hit, is joined by Virgin Islands Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett. The moderator of this session is Ben White, journalist from Politico and CNBC political correspondent.

What now, Cuba - USF Sarasota-Manatee

The full program and registration information can be obtained with this link: https://www.wusf.usf.edu/cuba_and_the_caribbean_what_now.

This full day is designed to inform a broad range of people — tourists, travel agents, investors, policy wonks, and weather-forecasting folks. And those who wish to think about the government’s responsibility and actions in the hurricane-damaged parts of Florida or Texas or Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico or Cuba or elsewhere in the Caribbean, this program is for you.

The event costs only 50 bucks, and that covers lunch. This open forum is made possible by USF Sarasota-Manatee, the Atlanta Fed Americas Center, and the Global Interdependence Center. All media are welcome to cover the panel, and the entire community is invited.

Cumberland Advisors provided a grant to USF Sarasota-Manatee and to GIC to assist this event aimed at public education. Please come.

Cumberland Advisors is a proud sponsor of the Global Interdependence Center.




Key West, Bob Bunting

Bob Bunting, a friend and accomplished professor whose expertise includes hurricanes, joined our small, fact-finding group on a trip to Key West and five other Keys that were hit by Hurricane Irma. Here is his narrative of the trip, which he has agreed to share with our readers. We thank Bob for joining us and reflecting on his findings.

Hurricane Irma - Florida Keys

UPDATE – September 10, 2018 – Bob Bunting reminds us that one year ago, Hurricane Irma terrified citizens of Florida as the largest evacuation in US history and moved 6M people before the storm struck with 140 mph wind gusts at Marco Island before traversing the center of Florida. Had the storm moved 50 miles west, a knockout blow to Florida’s West Coast would have changed life as we know it. Now on the first anniversary of Irma, there is another massive storm named Florence that could have a catastrophic impact on the Mid Atlantic states after a weak hurricane season in 2018. It just takes one!

UPDATE – February 22, 2018 – Bob spoke,  at “Cuba and the Caribbean: What Now?” The full event ran from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and Bob participated in a presentation moderated by WWSB’s Chief Meteorologist Bob Harrigan. Focus was severe weather and it was held at the Selby Auditorium at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

A video of the day’s talks is available here: Cuba and the Caribbean: What Now?

On Monday, it was my privilege to accompany David Kotok, a small group of thought leaders and the press to Key West in the wake of Hurricane Irma. David, an avid fisherman, was concerned about the recovery of a small but important group of people who are professional fishing guides. As an atmospheric scientist and a former senior manager not only at NOAA but also at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, I was intrigued. Much of my life has revolved around studying, researching, and predicting severe weather events, especially hurricanes. When I was five, Hurricane Carol struck and damaged my childhood home, scaring my family. That was the moment I knew I wanted to be an atmospheric scientist. As life evolved, other interests have entered, but all have leveraged patterns and predictions as the baseline.

My takeaways from this personally impactful visit to Key West and the lower Florida Keys are far-ranging, and David asked that I share them with you.

With Hurricane Irma leading a record September for hurricanes in the Atlantic, the media was “all hurricanes, all the time.” But how quickly we forget disasters as the news cycle becomes shorter and shorter in the age of social networking, tweets, and 30-second sound bytes. The communications revolution seems to have reduced people’s ability to focus, and as a consequence very little is ever reported about the aftermath of serious disasters like Irma and Maria. That is too bad, in my view. Our visit was rich and impactful and much more interesting and educational than what we are exposed to in the daily blur. How I long for in-depth reporting.

Expectations of the government’s role in disasters have certainly changed over time. Government was created to protect life and property as its first and most important mission. It is not the government’s job to repair all the damage and rebuild once the initial disaster recovery phase is over. This is what I was told when I was forecasting severe weather events for NOAA.

The expectation of a bigger, more costly government role is hurting actual recovery processes. The real recovery structure starts with government, but the handoff after the initial phases is to a complex network of organizations, helpful volunteers, and storm victims, each with different strengths, weaknesses, and time frames.

Upon our arrival at the still lightly damaged Key West International Airport, our host Doug, a leader of professional fishing guides, began an all-day tour. He masterfully guided us as we observed how the hurricane and its aftermath had impacted the venerable and important economic subgroup of professional fishing guides.

Our first stop is a great-looking fishing retail store in downtown Key West. The owner laments that he is waiting for customers who are not coming because their impression is that there has been great damage to Key West.  Key West, 30 miles southwest of where Irma’s eye made US landfall, did sustain damage, but most repairs are complete and the town is open for business.

Next we see Doug’s house, further north and closer to ground zero where Cat 4 Hurricane Irma roared ashore.  As we pull up to his home heavy damage is evident, and the sights and sounds of workmen rebuilding create a memorable scene. Doug says he is experiencing a “too long” lull in business and explains with a half simile that he is “self-insured.” Sadly, while the hurricane was bad, the lingering perception created by media hurricane coverage continues to amplify the negative economic impact some two months after landfall.  The fish, not knowing any of this, are reported to be biting strongly.  Too bad the fishermen are not enjoying themselves here on this nearly perfect day!

Now it’s on to Big Pine Key – ground zero – some 12 miles further north.  It’s two months since landfall and we see massive damage, piles of debris, boats strewn along the roadways, one painted with “Do Not Remove.” Then more visuals, including, wrecked cars, every conceivable household item, piles of broken mangroves, and mangled street signs, one reading “Do Not Dump: $500 Fine,” next to a field of small American Flags.  Goosebumps!

This is where John, a guide with a wife and two young children, once lived. John did not want to join us in his ruined neighborhood where we met the Millennial philanthropists. He and his family are in temporary housing supported by cash philanthropy of the Guides Trust Foundation. But meet him we would at the end of this memorable day!

Money plays a critical role in recovery, but actual human assistance should not be underrated. On Big Pine Key we fortuitously crossed paths with a group of Millennials that were highly motivated to help. Going house to house, helping folks in need and sleeping in a nearby church, these young people were having a wonderful time with one another while doing great service. What a human interest story and one that has been totally missed by the media, which has long departed. BTW, this Y generation is often talked about as being both entitled and spoiled.

While I can attest to those attributes after having taught about a thousand of these young adults in my entrepreneurship classes at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, it is also fair to say that they are focused on helping the world be a better place. They should get credit for that! The cadre of young adults on Big Pine Key are building self-esteem and perfecting the ability to communicate socially without devices. This experience will serve them well in a 30-second-soundbite and multi-megabyte world!

All of this is “good news,” and we need to focus on more on it. The media outlet news cycle seems to recognize only political controversy and deviant behavior, while real news stories like this one are not of interest. Having met thousands of people, my guess is that 95% of them are caring, helpful, and good-to-great human beings. Such is the case in Key West, where people have pulled together in the face of great adversity and have become closer, more optimistic, and grateful!

I have questions running though my mind. Isn’t it ironic that gratitude sprouts when times are tough? What ever happened to in-depth reporting? Is it a victim of rapid communication and our multitasking society? Is the communications revolution really increasing communication or making us more remote because human interaction is not needed and perhaps not wanted? I continue to ponder.

After lunch at the No Name Cafe we stop at National Key Deer Refuge. The park ranger assures us that the wildlife and biota are all recovering nicely but says they had to truck in water for the deer because after the storm the water was too salty. Interesting!

As we head back toward Key West, iguanas are darting across the road.  They somehow found their way to the lower Keys and seem to be flourishing on the hibiscus. We pull into a small waterway, where John, the guide without a home, boats in and begins talking with us.

Still worried but not afraid, he is bubbly and optimistic about his family’s future and displays solid determination despite many issues with business and rebuilding his home.  After two months, he still waits for FEMA and the insurance companies to get to his case. His children are in a new school and the family is comfortable, thanks in part to a gift from the Guides Trust Foundation. I am struck by his clarity, resolve, and gratitude in what is a nightmare situation. His children are not afraid of hurricanes but wonder when the next one will hit. John says he has experienced three hurricanes in the past 18 years or so.

He says there is only one thing he hopes will not go back to its pre-storm condition, and that is the connection he now has with his coworkers in the guide business, not just on the Keys but all over.  I realize that John has gained something special from the disaster that took away his home, damaged his livelihood, upset his kids’ schooling, etc. Watching him, I wonder why society is so averse to experiencing setbacks that provide such meaningful learning and growth.

Hurricanes are ever-fascinating, so magnificent in organization, scope, and awesome power – but so scary when they are headed toward you! To see the gradient of damage from downtown Key West to Big Pine Key was amazing, even to someone who has flown into hurricanes. Destruction was contained in Key West but almost beyond belief in Big Pine Key just 29 miles away, where a 10-foot storm surge and 130 mph winds created an unearthly scene. As an atmospheric scientist who is one because of a hurricane long past, I am certain I followed the right path.

The piles of debris are memorable. The fact that we humans lead lives that are defined in part by artificial “needs” and the consumption a lot of stuff hit me. I am told that 1.2 million cubic feet of debris has been removed from the area north of Key West, and it looks like millions more are still waiting for removal. It will take time.

It is remarkable how well the infrastructure did in the face of the storm, even on Big Pine Key, confirming that hurricane-prone areas need to be built using methods and materials that ready them for storms. A few weeks after Irma, Maria hit Puerto Rico. The impacts were similar, but the outcome was different.

Clearly, investments in infrastructure in the Keys have provided a strong backbone, but Puerto Rico lacked that advantage. My takeaway is that governments can function well at strategic levels if the people running them are capable, honest, and motivated to protect. After all, this is the #1 function of government.

As we took off in the Twin Air for our trip back to Sarasota, I looked back at the runways and a view of the beautiful Keys just before sunset. I am ever more clear as to how what happened on Big Pine Key could have happened on Longboat Key/Sarasota, where the forecast was for a Cat 5 hit with a 10-foot storm surge. A very small change in path happened as Irma moved over Big Pine Key – that jog to the north drove Irma inland east of Longboat/Sarasota by about 30 miles… the same distance that separates Key West from Big Pine Key! So grateful!

In closing, I am surprised at how much this trip inspired me. First we saw devastation, then we observed that the initial government-led recovery, followed by a complex web of nongovernmental help backed by individual and organizational philanthropy and victim self-help, seems to be working – more proof, in my opinion, that we can do anything we want once we decide what we want to do. What a Good News story!

Bob Bunting
CEO, Waterstone Strategies
bobsstocks.com

Pledges to the Guides Trust Foundation can be made through their website: http://guidestrustfoundation.org/memberships-donations.cfm

See pictures online at www.cumber.com/key-west-bob-bunting/


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

Sign up for our FREE Cumberland Market Commentaries

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.