September 1, 2005 by lonbud
Blame It On Cain
It’s been a rather impressive millennium on the natural disaster front, wouldn’t you say?
Major earthquakes in Gujarat, India (2001) and Iran (2003) killed over 40,000 people, and in December 2004, the strongest earthquake anywhere in the world in over 40 years, a 9.0 temblor beneath the Indian Ocean, spawned massive tidal waves that devastated coastal areas of Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, and Sumatra, killing nearly 300,000 people.
Presumably, many animals and other living things perished in these things as well, but let’s try and stay focused on the human factor, since we are the only species on the planet to entertain the notion we might:
a) have any thing to do with natural disasters;
b) be able to do anything about them.
Wildfires have long plagued the American West: 2003 saw California’s worst in a decade torch nearly 2000 homes and destroy billions of dollars of real property, while other heat-related aberrations left over 20,000 dead in Italy, France, and Portugal, in the worst heat-wave and wildfires to strike Southern Europe in a generation.
The annual parade of hurricanes through the Caribbean Sea, South Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico has seen seven of the ten most disastrous hurricanes in history present during the past five years, with four of them bitch-slapping Florida and the Gulf Coast last year alone.
Hurricane Katrina brings this week a new measure of the distance between things, and whether one believes it’s an expression of “intelligent design,” or of “some vast conspiracy,” the effect of “global warming” wrought by man, or even of something we have nothing to do with, and can do nothing about –it’s worth noting a few things:
Little of what mankind does on earth will have much of an effect, in the end. The powers, forces, and changes of NATURE will trump our brilliance, and planning, and effort every time. Our relentless pursuit of progress and profit may indeed have the effect of rendering the earth’s natural forces more ferocious and destructive; or perhaps those skeptical of science are correct, and man’s designs are inconsequential. Either way, Mother Earth will have the final say.
That certainty, should it have been debatable for any reason prior to this past Monday and Tuesday, ought now be clear in the face of what has become of New Orleans and nearby parts of the Gulf Coast. Can anyone doubt the Earth will reclaim Louisiana’s swamps and wetlands in her own time and manner? For good reason do the cultures of people with the longest histories on our planet feature knowledge, ritual, and celebration of living in harmony with the forces and elements of Nature.
As a relatively short-lived people ourselves, we Americans would do well to seek a greater measure of that kind of harmony, and soon, if we wish to keep spreading our way of life all over the globe.
It is also worth noting that the Bush administration, with typical wrongheadedness, malfeasance, and poor timing, recently gutted the budget for the New Orleans District of the Army Corps of Engineers, almost certainly making what would have been a bad situation in any event, even worse.
One may also rightly consider the possibility that, had not the vast majority of our National Guard been deployed on a fool’s errand in Iraq, the chaos, and looting, and mayhem that have plagued New Orleans in Katrina’s wake might have been less.