Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricanes and Humans

The newspaper today is filled with stories about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The photographs online are perhaps the most helpful in trying to really grasp the extent of the damage. I can't add anything to the coverage, but I didn't want to act like it wasn't happening. A few observations come to mind:
  • Hurricanes are natural disturbances, although some scientists feel that human changes to the global climate system may be increasing the number and severity of these storms.
  • The human impacts fall disproportionately on those with the fewest financial resources (including the ability to evacuate, having a place to go, the wherewithall to rebuild).
  • The veneer of civilization is rather thin. Stripped of our support systems (telephones, electricity, water and sewer service, INTERNET ACCESS!!), the more primitive "me and mine" survival instincts surface pretty quickly.
  • Cities are especially vulnerable because they are artificially high human density zones sustained by massive inputs of energy and services from outside. This is one reason why terrorism experts worry about city targets.
  • Hurricane Katrina is a regional natural disaster, but the economic ripple effects will remind us how interdependent we all are. Goods (including agricultural products from the Midwest) that flow in and out of the Port of New Orleans, oil and gas supplies from Gulf Coast rigs and refineries, disruptions to rail and trucking distribution hubs. A good article on this in today's Washington Post .
I guess the best way to help out is to donate to the Red Cross.

1 comment:

Diane said...

The news is almost beyond belief, certainly beyond any scale I'm familiar with in my past. I do feel helpless and cannot access the Red Cross webiste, guess too many people are doing the same thing at the same time. Chris suggested a national Adopt-A-Family program for the next many monhts...we'll take people right away to house them for as long as needed. Sounds sill, but it's better than the 'dome' ideas and accomodates children more easily.