AS I WRITE THIS, I’m looking at images from the disastrous floods in the Midwest and in Mozambique. One is in the heartland of the planet’s richest country and the other on the edge of the poorest continent, but from the air they look a lot alike: waters spread across farmland and cityscape, humans huddled in shelters. They look, actually, “biblical,” to use the word that is sometimes employed to describe devastation on an immense scale.
Flood, of course, was God’s weapon of choice early on, when, pissed off at the general humanness of humans, he vowed to cleanse the earth. But he made an exception for the faithful Noah, and perhaps more important he made an exception for everything else on earth: In this early-on iteration of the Endangered Species Act, he made sure that a breeding pair of everything got on board the ark. And then, once the waters receded, he made the covenant with the surviving humans that guaranteed he would never flood the planet again.