482: Florida’s Condo Collapse, Doom Psychology, and Our Environment

July 1, 2021 by Joshua
in Podcast

Here is the article prompting this episode: Majority of Florida condo board quit in 2019 as squabbling residents dragged out plans for repairs

Here are the notes I read from:

  • Read article about collapse and will read some parts.
  • Everyone has long viewed Titanic as metaphor for man’s hubris over nature. But long enough ago we dismiss. Scale is off. We believe we’re passed those problems from another age.
  • Listen to these quotes.
    • Opening: “The president of the board of the Florida condominium that collapsed last week resigned in 2019, partly in frustration over what she saw as the sluggish response to an engineer’s report that identified major structural damage the previous year.”
    • “Despite increasingly dire warnings from the board, many condo owners balked at paying for the extensive improvements, which ballooned in price from about $9 million to more than $15 million over the past three years as the building continued to deteriorate”
  • Imagine someone had said lives were at stake. People would have rolled their eyes at the blatant attempt to overdramatize.
  • People miss from the story of the boy who cried wolf that the wolf came. In our case, imagine the wolf came every time yet the townspeople ignored its damage. The response to pandemics fueled by our overpopulation, overtraveling, factory farming, and encroaching on wildlife territory in cases like ebola with returning to normal—that is, the culture that created it. Articles on record temperatures in Canada aren’t followed up by stopping what everyone knows is causing the problem.
    • “The engineer, Frank P. Morabito, found “major structural damage” to a concrete slab below the pool deck, caused by a flaw that limited water drainage, according to the 2018 review”
    • “A resident told The Post that minutes before Champlain Towers South came down, she noticed that a section of the pool deck and a street-level parking area had collapsed into the parking garage below. Experts have said the collapse appeared to involve a failure at the lowest levels of the building or in the parking garage beneath it.”
    • As recently as April, residents appeared divided over the repairs — with dozens signing a letter that questioned the details of the proposed spending and asked the board to consider a lower assessment. “We cannot afford an assessment that doubles the amount of the maintenance dues currently being paid,”
    • “But what may have looked to Prieto like a running start soon became a slow walk.”
    • ““A lot of this work could have been done or planned for in years gone by. But this is where we are now,” current board president Joan Wodnicki told condo owners in a letter on April 9, 2021, which warned damage to the structure’s concrete support system was accelerating.”
    • “Her warnings to homeowners about the urgent need for repairs had gone on for months. “I want you to know that the numbers we are hearing so far are much higher than the original Morabito estimate,” she wrote on Oct. 23, 2020. “However, the project is also much larger . . . The concrete damage is more extensive than it was when first looked at in 2018, and prices have gone up.””
    • “The pandemic appeared to exacerbate tensions in the building. A March 2020 note to homeowners said the board had adopted a new rule: “No Owner, resident or guest may be verbally or physically abusive or otherwise engage in conduct that is offensive, threatening or harassing to any other Owner, resident or guest.””
  • Beyond metaphor. Clear problem, well-understood, easily resolved. Expensive, yes, but not compared to destruction and loss of large fraction of population. Instead of acting, squabbling.
  • Maybe you believe, in the face of temperatures breaking records every year, plastic choking oceans, and you’ve read the headlines, that our behavior isn’t responsible. In that case, via con dios. There’s no point in our talking.
  • But if you have the slightest inkling that our behavior, driven by our role models, beliefs, stories, images, systems, and so on, our culture has to change to avert collapse including the deaths of a large part of our population, like billions of people, which will affect you and people you care about, do the parallels with this collapse and death of a large fraction of the population suggest that your resistance to acting with everything you’ve got may be slowing things more than you think?
  • I don’t say act individually and then stop. Act and then use what you learn to lead others.
  • Their building problem is like our environment problem. The science is clear. We lack leadership. Leaders act, not point fingers. Only by acting themselves can they lead others.
    • “in a September 2019 resignation letter. “This pattern has repeated itself over and over, ego battles, undermining the roles of fellow board members, circulation of gossip and mistruths. I am not presenting a very pretty picture of the functioning of our board and many before us, but it describes a board that works very hard but cannot for the reasons above accomplish the goals we set out to accomplish.””

Sign up for my weekly newsletter