Rob VerchickMay 19, 2023
The Octopus in the Parking Garage
A Call for Climate Resilience
Columbia University Press 2023
One morning in Miami Beach, an unexpected guest showed up in a luxury condominium complex’s parking garage: an octopus. The image quickly went viral. But the octopus―and the combination of infrastructure quirks and climate impacts that left it stranded―is more than a funny meme. It’s a potent symbol of the disruptions that a changing climate has already brought to our doorsteps and the ways we will have to adjust.
His well-research and multi-faceted book, The Octopus in the Parking Garage: A Call for Climate Resilience (Columbia UP, 2023) is a tour de force that is engaging, informative and a book that is hard to put down. Topics range from the potential loss of the Joshua Tree to the dangers our coral reefs face. Learning from “Lucy,” our three million year old ancestor who can be found in the Hall of Human Origins at the Natural History Museum in Washington, DC, is a lesson Verchick tells us, can open new windows into “a saga of resilience and adaptation.” He also illustrates how intersectionality can help us listen, learn and understand how interconnected networks of oppression are woven into the fabric of global warming and climate change.
Rob Verchick examines how we can manage the risks that we can no longer avoid, laying out our options as we face climate breakdown. Although reducing carbon dioxide emissions is essential, we need to adapt to address the damage we have already caused. Verchick explores what resilience looks like on the ground, from early humans on the savannas to today’s shop owners and city planners. He takes the reader on a journey into the field: paddling through Louisiana’s bayous, hiking in one of the last refuges of Joshua trees in the Mojave Desert, and diving off Key Largo with citizen scientists working to restore coral reefs. The book emphasizes disadvantaged communities, which bear the brunt of environmental risk, arguing that building climate resilience is a necessary step toward justice.
Engaging and accessible for nonexpert concerned citizens, The Octopus in the Parking Garage empowers readers to face the climate crisis and shows what we can do to adapt and thrive.
Robert Verchick just became a 2023-2024 Harvard Radcliffe Fellow and will be working on the impact our current environment has on oceans and coasts this year. He is one of the leading scholars in disaster and climate change law and designed climate-resilience policies in the Obama administration.
Karyne Messina is a licensed psychologist and psychoanalyst at the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis and am on the medical staff of Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. She is the author of Resurgence of Populism: A Psychoanalytic Study of Projective Identification, Blame Shifting and the Corruption of Democracy (Routledge, 2022).