Katrina, Katrina, Katrina. It’s all we hear about these days. First it was the brutal accounts of the damage done, and now the news is flooded with development stories about the rebuilding of New Orleans.
Take it in people, because until we’re able to view the big picture, we’ll need as many reminders as we can telling us something big is happening – bigger than Katrina itself. When it comes down to it, Katrina is just a small puzzle piece in the grand scheme of things.
The signs should appear terrifyingly obvious to those paying attention. Our planet is falling apart! Mother Nature is tired, abused and furious.
Let us recount the evidence. First it was the tsunami that rocked South Asia in Dec. 2004, leaving more than 275,000 people dead. Then there was Hurricane Katrina, followed by Hurricane Rita, whose death tolls surpassed 1,200. Most recently was the 7.6-magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks that killed as much as 79,000 people on the Pakistani-Indian border. That’s more than 355,000 dead in less than a year due to natural disasters.
This can’t be a simple coincidence. What are the chances of three colossal natural disasters happening within a year? Sure, they might have been completely circumstantial. But as random as they are, it doesn’t mean they weren’t provoked. Environmentalists have sermonized the effects of global warming for years; meanwhile, Earth grows more populated, causing our resources to deplete.
Of course, global warming is just one hypothesized cause of some recent natural disasters, as there are probably a plethora of small details that cumulate into a larger problem. Carbon dioxide, for instance, is one of the hypothesized leading causes for the rise in Earth’s temperature. The leakage of CO2 is coming from a combination of your aunt’s sports-utility vehicle, your brother’s beat-up car and your boss’ pick-up truck.
But some disasters, such as many landslides, are not spawned by nature but by our own activities. Nevertheless, tsunamis and hurricanes are exactly the kind of catastrophes we should expect considering the way we live and where we choose to build. Geologists say subsidence, the descending movement of land that is caused by oil and natural gas extraction, weakens the Earth’s crust.
These are just the basics of a complex problem. It hardly begins to explain the number of acts we unconsciously do to harm the Earth. But the point is, 10 years ago, it was easy to write off the suggestion that human behavior would lead to disasters. Now, we’ve had several hundred thousand people die in less than a year from catastrophic geologic events. Doesn’t that worry us?
Natural disasters are threatening because they are unpredictable, making them more destructive than crises we can prepare for, such as disease or warfare. We can do little to control these situations because nature’s power will always prevail over technological development.
What we do have on our side is the power of prevention. While we may not be able to stop a hurricane in its tracks, we can avoid eliciting potential triggers of natural disasters – perhaps through government regulating policies, such as mandatory recycling in every home.
If we don’t make changes soon, we won’t be able to imagine the potential catastrophes Mother Nature may produce in the next decade. Maybe then, when we imagine our children losing everything to the whims of a natural disaster, we’ll be more inclined to care.
Eva Liao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.