I read an article yesterday located at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9207996/. Some things in it prompt a bit of rambling. (Are you really surprised?)
By one critical measure, the impact on populations, statistics show the planet to be increasingly unsafe. More than 2.5 billion people were affected by floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters between 1994 and 2003, a 60 percent increase over the previous two 10-year periods, U.N. officials reported at a conference on disaster prevention in January. ... Not more happening, just more being affected
... In the 1970s, only 11 percent of earthquakes affected human settlements, researchers at Belgium’s University of Louvain report. That soared to 31 percent in 1993-2003, including a quake in 2003 that killed 26,000 people in Iran, whose population has doubled since the ’70s.
The expanding U.S. population “has migrated to hazard-prone areas — to Florida, the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, particularly barrier islands, to California,” noted retired U.S. government seismologist Robert M. Hamilton, a disaster-prevention specialist. “Several decades ago we didn’t have wall-to-wall houses down the coast as we do now.”
The way America builds too often invites disasters, experts say — by draining Florida swampland and bulldozing California hillsides, for example, disrupting natural runoff and magnifying flood hazards.
I've thought a lot about this concept lately. People keep saying that the hurricanes are getting worse and more prevalent. I've even said so. At the same time, a number of things come to mind.
- We have not in the past had the tools and ability to measure ocean temperatures and other climatologic features which may or may not influence the development of these storms.
- Our population centers are relocating closer to the beaches, and therefore more people are affected when storms do occur.
- Because of this population relocation and other factors, a weaker storm may inflict more damage than a stronger one in a given year. How do we categorize worsening weather conditions?
These are all important things that I try to keep in mind as I sort through my thoughts while reading discussions about hurricanes. I have a general dislike of statistics--I feel that they are often used to communicate things in whatever way the communicator wants them communicated (seeing the glass half empty or half full). Releasing pure numbers may not help people understand the magnitude of a problem; but on the other hand discussing them in terms that are too emotional can cause overreaction and misunderstanding.
I have often struggled with questions about "environmentalism." I believe that God created a world for us with resources in perfect balance that we were free to use; but it was a world made to support abundant life and not a world where we would be left wanting more and more and more in a mindset that would lead to the abuse of resources in ways that would cause imbalance and destruction of the environment that sustained our lives. That is precisely what is happening today: we are pulling resources out of the oceans and coastlands that help keep them rich and healthy; and we are often doing it not because we NEED those resources but because we WANT a technologically advanced lifestyle. Many people live less advanced lifestyles quite happily. There is a big difference between using technological advancement to improve lives, such as in providing better health care, and in using it for our own benefit, which many Americans do. If that sounds like a judgmental statement, then I guess I am a judgmental person and I will have to stand in my own judgment as well because I'm guilty of it too. Our abuse of resources is bleeding our planet dry of life-sustaining elements, bringing disaster right to our doorstep--and we pray and ask God to protect us while continuing to live carelessly!
Is the answer a complete abandonment of the use of modern technology? There are groups of people who believe so. Perhaps for some people it is. I can't speak for everyone. I have thought long and hard about this. I know that for myself it can't be. There are things technology does to make it possible for me to communicate with people things that are important, things that I believe God intends for me to communicate. But I can moderate my usage of technology, make some sacrifices in the interest of being responsible and frugal and respectful of other people who live in the world with me. God is Lord over all things, including our destroyed and unbalanced world. He is a God of restoration and healing. I cannot ask for His blessing and then scoff at Him; but when I repent and use wisdom and honor Him, He is quite ready to bless and restore and heal.
I've been reading some things lately that talk about how we live in community and some Scripture passages are about how the community has related to God and not necessarily about how an individual person relates to God. Yet we read them in terms of ourselves as individuals. Maybe we need a new frame of reference, especially regarding the issue of how we treat the planet and approach hurricane preparedness.
The more advanced the nations, the bigger the blow may be. Terry Jeggle, a U.N. disaster-reduction planner, cites the New Orleans levee system — dependent on pumps that run on electricity produced by fuel that must be transported in. One failure will lead to another along that chain.
... The prospect of more vulnerable populations on a more turbulent Earth has U.N. officials and other advocates pressuring governments to plan and prepare. They cite examples of poorer nations that in ways do a better job than the rich:
- No one was reported killed when Ivan struck Cuba in 2004, its worst hurricane in 50 years and a storm that, after weakening, killed 25 people in the United States. Cuba’s warning-evacuation system is minutely planned, even down to neighborhood workers keeping updated charts on which residents need help during evacuations.
- Along Bangladesh’s cyclone coast, 33,000 well-organized volunteers stand ready to shepherd neighbors to raised concrete shelters at the approach of one of the Bay of Bengal’s vicious storms.
- In 2002, Jamaica conducted a full-scale evacuation rehearsal in a low-lying suburb of coastal Kingston, and fine-tuned plans afterward. When Ivan’s 20-foot surge destroyed hundreds of homes two years later, only eight people died. Ordinary Jamaicans also are taught search-and-rescue methods and towns at risk have trained flood-alert teams.
Like many around the world, Barbara Carby, Jamaica’s disaster coordinator, watched in disbelief as catastrophe unfolded on the U.S. Gulf Coast. “We always have resource constraints,” she said. “That’s not a problem the U.S. has. But because they have the resources, they may not pay enough attention to preparedness and awareness, and to educating the public how to help themselves.”
This makes me very sad. I don't know, of course, how true these statistics are--I seem to remember reports of deaths following these storms; but on the other hand I do know that these countries are awfully resilient for being so storm-prone. It does strike me that in my experience a person with less to give is more likely to give the little he/she has away and look out for another person's well-being while a person who has a lot is most likely to be concerned with securing his/her own belongings. In fact, this is something that comes straight out of the Bible: where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. There was once a poor widow who gave her last couple of coins as an offering. It seems the rest of the congregation was counting out what they thought they could afford to give...