On October 28th 2013 Hurricane Sandy hit land on the East Coast of the United States.
The deadliest storm to hit the country since 2005 it caused tens of billions of dollars
in damage, destroyed thousands of homes, left millions without electric service, and
caused 117 deaths in the United States, including 53 in New York, making Sandy the
most life costly hurricane to hit the United States mainland since Hurricane Katrina.
In all an estimated 186 people were killed across the United States, the Caribbean,
and Canada. In the immediate aftermath of the storm not only did the emergency services,
state and federal government implement emergency plans of action, including both direct
intervention on the ground and massive financial support, so too did a number of charities,
community and residents groups across the US.One of the most surprising of these groups was what became known as Occupy Sandy.
As noted by the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute: “Within hours of
Sandy’s landfall, members from the Occupy Wall Street movement used social media to tap the wider Occupy network for
volunteers and aid. Overnight, a volunteer army of young, educated, tech-savvy individuals
with time and a desire to help others emerged. In the days, weeks, and months that
followed, “Occupy Sandy” became one of the leading humanitarian groups providing relief
to survivors across New York City and New Jersey. At its peak, it had grown to an
estimated 60,000 volunteers—more than four times the number deployed by the American
Red Cross.”What this phenomenon clearly demonstrates is the potential for digital networking
to improve response to catastrophic storm events at a community level. Far from being
solely a question of material support and logistics, the response to the disaster
was one equally definable as digital. Pointing to the possible rethinking of issues
around the extreme and localised consequences of climate change and responses to it
in purely traditional infrastructural terms, the social media focused organisation
of Occupy Sandy potentially offers us a new frame of reference to deal with these,
and less catastrophic issues around climate change and our response to it.This paper provides a discussion of the projected impacts of global environmental
change in urban environments in the United States, with a particular focus on their
impact on existing storm and sanitary water infrastructure. However, it theorizes
a new approach to this archaic system of infrastructure that exploits social networking
tools and digital technologies to build greater networks for climate change resilience
across the United States and, by extension, elsewhere.