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Why Disasters Are Getting Worse

 
 
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Nov, 2009 06:22 pm
i got a pretty bad hang nail today
roger
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Nov, 2009 07:12 pm
@djjd62,
Could you put that in a historical context for us?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Thu 19 Nov, 2009 10:40 pm
@OCCOM BILL,
Well, if that were all that mattered, it would not be a case of him being right, it would be a case of the source being right, and yes, i did read it. The point is just how stupid the entire idea is, though, and the source is not "right." Disasters are only "worse" with regard to the effect on people who have put themselves in harm's way. There is still no reason, however, to assume that the consequences are any worse than those suffered by people who lived in coastal regions at times in the past which have not been recorded. We know that the volcano of which the island of Santorini is a remnant of the caldera exploded with incredible force about 3,500 years ago, but we have absolutely no clue as to the effect it had on coastal populations--although it's a safe bet that the inhabitants of Thera (as the island was then known) were toast.

The article is stupid because it ignores disasters elsewhere and elsewhen. It is stupid because it only addresses the effect on relatively affluent people (even poor people in the United States, for example, are much better off than the impoverished people of what was once known as the third world), and therefore takes an essentially parochial view and inferentially expands it to an unwarranted global significance. The article is stupid because it takes no account of how natural disasters affect life other than human.

The blanket statement that "disasters are getting worse" is unwarraned, unsupported, and derives from a narrow, blinkered point of view.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Nov, 2009 11:14 pm
The period between 1812 and 1817 recorded more major volcanic eruptions than any other comparable period in history. In April, 1815, Mount Tambora on an island to the east of Java erupted explosively, resulting in the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. More than 70,000 people (at least) were killed, of whom 60,000 died of starvation or disease in the wake of the eruption. Tambora was about 14,000 feet high before the eruption--today it has an altitude of just less than 9,000 feet, which will give one an idea of just how much crap was thrown into the atmosphere.

With three years of active vulcanism preceding that eruption having already lowered the mean temperature of the atmosphere, the incredible amount of ejecta produced put so much particulate in the upper atmosphere, that 1816 was known as "the year without summer"--on the other side of the planet. Right across North America and Europe, crops failed and livestock starved to death, producing the greatest famine ever recorded in the northern hemisphere. It didn't matter where people lived, there was no way of escaping the consequences of the event.

Today, at least hundreds of millions, it not actually more than a billion people live in coastal regions, and in much of the world, a great many of them live right on the edge of the sea. That's how many of them get their living. That's why the tsunami in 2004 was such a theretofore unprecedented human disaster. About 300,000 people were killed or were missing, and well over 1,000,000 were left homeless. All the figures are still not in, and the UN estimates that the toll of disease and malnutrition may double the death toll. Disaster relief and reconstruction are still under way.

The people who suffered from the tsunami really had little or no choice about where they lived. All of the talk about tsunami warning systems is rather pathetic, since it is unlikely that most of them could have appropriately responded in any event. But it certainly puts into perspective just how pathetically parochial claims about disasters getting worse in the coastal United States are.
0 Replies
 
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Nov, 2009 07:39 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

Well, if that were all that mattered, it would not be a case of him being right, it would be a case of the source being right, and yes, i did read it. The point is just how stupid the entire idea is, though, and the source is not "right." Disasters are only "worse" with regard to the effect on people who have put themselves in harm's way. There is still no reason, however, to assume that the consequences are any worse than those suffered by people who lived in coastal regions at times in the past which have not been recorded.
Huh? More people suffering consequences=worse. As migration to unsafe areas increases, so too will the scale of disaster.

The idea that the Army Corp of Engineers should have made New Orleans Hurricane proof is a joke. Not a particularly funny joke at that. Even the Dutch's clever North Sea Wall isn't foolproof and they've already planned who get washed out if (when) it fails. For as long as people live at or below sea level, every once in a while, Mother Nature’s going to mow them down like grass.
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Nov, 2009 07:43 pm
@Ionus,
Ionus wrote:

Would you then be so kind as to repost the link because I cant find it.
That's the very first thing Robert posted. Click on the big blue print.

Ionus wrote:
As for
Quote:
because more people are living in more expensive developments in less safe areas
This is a rather Amero-centric view of the world isnt it ? The theme of the worst disasters is heavily played upon by the press and hollywood. The other night a 60m wide by 20m high landfall was described as a massive landslide on the news. Massive ? The worst landslide has killed 10's of thousands of people. There is a popular misconception that disasters are getting worse. I was in intent addressing that issue.
Huh? There's nothing "Amerocentric" about it. Globally, populations are growing on or near water.
Ionus
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Nov, 2009 11:04 pm
@OCCOM BILL,
Perhaps you are unaware that Portugal was hit by a tsunami that nearly wiped it out as a country but certainly ended its colonial ambitions. Or that in the past the east coast of England has been hit by tidal surges. You need data to make claims that things are worse, not some reporter getting paid to ignore facts and go straight for emotions.
0 Replies
 
Ionus
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Nov, 2009 11:14 pm
@OCCOM BILL,
Quote:
Click on the big blue print.
Thanks. That was outside my experience to date.
Quote:
There's nothing "Amerocentric" about it. Globally, populations are growing on or near water.
I cant see how this comment of yours negates the points you quoted me as saying. Not that I agree with yours. Saying population is growing near water is like saying they are growing near air. Disasters are not getting worse, it is simply there are more people you care about (Americans) living in disaster prone areas. Populations are growing most rapidly in rural areas of India and China. No Americans experience disasters there, do they ?
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Nov, 2009 11:21 pm
@OCCOM BILL,
None of this has really sunk in with you, has it? Should "migration" to the midwest, to "Tornado Alley" be discouraged? Do you think that those people who suffered from the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 had "migrated" there? This is specifically why i have described this article as pathetically parochial. In fact, there are probably fewer people living immediately on the sea coasts in the United States than there are in many other nations of the world, and certainly fewer than live on the sea coast in the Indonesian archipelago, Indo-China and the Andaman Islands--the areas which suffered most from the tsunami.

Actually, it's rather pathetic that the author of the piece just noticed how dangerous the world we live in truly is, and what that can cost.
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 03:21 pm
@Ionus,
Ionus wrote:

I cant see how this comment of yours negates the points you quoted me as saying. Not that I agree with yours. Saying population is growing near water is like saying they are growing near air. Disasters are not getting worse, it is simply there are more people you care about (Americans) living in disaster prone areas. Populations are growing most rapidly in rural areas of India and China. No Americans experience disasters there, do they ?
Not sure where you and Set got the idea that the author, or I for that matter, are referring only to the United States. I don’t see how your Amerocentric comment fits anything I or the author wrote.
0 Replies
 
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 03:26 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

None of this has really sunk in with you, has it?
On the contrary; I understood it the first time I read it. You on the other hand, don't seem to realize how much you actually agree with what was written.
Setanta wrote:
Should "migration" to the midwest, to "Tornado Alley" be discouraged?
Whatever increase in "Disasters" from Tornados I'd wager would be tough to demonstrate. I suspect the higher quality dwellings of today probably offset any increases in population.
Setanta wrote:
Do you think that those people who suffered from the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 had "migrated" there? This is specifically why i have described this article as pathetically parochial. In fact, there are probably fewer people living immediately on the sea coasts in the United States than there are in many other nations of the world, and certainly fewer than live on the sea coast in the Indonesian archipelago, Indo-China and the Andaman Islands--the areas which suffered most from the tsunami.

Actually, it's rather pathetic that the author of the piece just noticed how dangerous the world we live in truly is, and what that can cost.
Dude... maybe you should try reading it again (or at least once.) Your comments continue to make you look like you don't understand what you read, likely because you're claiming to have read something you have not. Hell, you even used the same example.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 09:57 pm
What i don't agree with is that there is any evidence that disasters are getting worse--either in an historical context or in our contemporary lifetimes--just because relatively affluent people have suddenly discovered that they made some thoughtless choices. Or rather, i suppose i should specify that a journalist discovered how much this thoughtlessness has cost these people. The sources of their misery can't be said to have gotten any worse.

As long as one refers to what may offset or mitigate disasters, are the victims in our own lifetimes not afforded a much better warning than the hapless victims in Corpus Christi when a hurricane slammed into the coast there, all unheralded, in 1919?

The example of the Boxing Day tsunami is significant precisely because the people there had not migrated there, they've been living on those coasts from time out of mind. They've been subject to the tsunamis, the tropical storms, the volcanic and earthquake events, and all the ramifications which arise for those who live on sea coasts. I don't agree with the author at all. Disasters are not getting worse, nor has the author provided any credible evidence that that is the case. Two and only two things account for this phenomenon, which exists only in the minds of the clueless--a recent increase in population in coastal areas (and we really have no historical data to compare it other eras, other than snapshots like Thera and Tambora); the other being that until quite recently in human history, 99% of such events would have gone unreported, unrecorded and unconsidered.

The author does not provide evidence that disasters are getting worse, only that, in recent decades, more people appear to have been affected by them. And that evidence is from a center for epidemiology--which is to say, a study of an effect within a population. It is not evidence of an absolute deterioration of the conditions which produce storms, or volcanoes, or earthquakes--it's just evidence that in the very brief period of time for which the statistical evidence is available, there has been a recent spike in the numbers of people affected. There is absolutely no evidence produced that disasters are getting worse--only that the effect is apparently more pronounced than in the days when we weren't paying attention.

I provided the example of the unprecedented volcanic activity in the period 1812-17, and specifically of the 1815 Tambora event, with the consequent "year of no summer" in 1816, with the greatest famine known in European history precisely because the article is so ill-considered and lacks perspective. In absolute terms, and even more so in proportional terms, the epidemiological effect of the increased vulcanism of the early 19th century, and the Tambora event in particular was far more significant.

The author has utterly failed to sustain his thesis.
0 Replies
 
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 02:47 am
Set... outside of your slamming of "the author", I agree completely. I believe "the author" does too. (Read it.)
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 05:53 am
@OCCOM BILL,
OCCOM BILL wrote:

Set... outside of your slamming of "the author", I agree completely. I believe "the author" does too. (Read it.)


That's my take, too.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 04:23 pm
@OCCOM BILL,
I have read it, Bill. Your continued assumption that i have not is unwarranted and insulting. Of course, that may be your intent.

The author and i do not agree that disasters are getting worse. The author thinks so, and adduces the evidence of an epidemiological center. I disagree, for the reasons i have stated.

Given events of the scale of the explosion of Thera, or of Tambora, talk of populations "migrating" to dangerous areas is really irrelevant. If there is reason to be concerned, it will because of massive vulcanism--either many events as was the case in 1812-17, or huge individual events like Thera or Tambora. If any thought should be given to measures, it should be given to events which can alter the environment drastically. It is good to have a sufficient supply of emergency goods for a disaster such as Katrina or the Boxing Day tsnami, but it will be more important to have stockpiled food stuffs in massive quantities such as no one is currently looking at.

I consider the article to be falsely alleging that disasters are getting worse (i see no evidence of that, and none that the author has provided), and i see it as an irrelevance in the face of the kind of disaster which may overtake us. Last year, when it was feared that there were insufficient grain and rice to feed the world, an event like Tambora could have killed millions, tens of millions, in the years immediately succeeding, and seriously destabilized the world. And this joker is writing an article to the effect that disasters are getting worse.

He ain't seen nothing yet.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 04:32 pm
I was attempting to avoid hyperbole above--in fact, it there were another event like Tambora, i think that hundreds of millions of people would die, from starvation or the diseases of malnutrition. The world's grain supplies stand on the edge of a knife.
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 08:26 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

I was attempting to avoid hyperbole above--in fact, it there were another event like Tambora, i think that hundreds of millions of people would die, from starvation or the diseases of malnutrition. The world's grain supplies stand on the edge of a knife.
So, by your estimate, an ecological disaster of equal proportion would result in 1,000 times more death. Honestly Set, wouldn't that seem like a worse disaster?

Meanwhile, major Hurricanes are a hell of a lot more common, and when coastal "ground zero's" see storms with storm surges similar in size to storms a 100 years ago, the resulting death and destruction can be 100 times "worse." The fella who wrote that story agrees with you that there's little to no evidence the storms themselves are any worse, but the toll of the destruction most certainly is.

In the meantime, I'd wager the next "Super-Disaster" of epic proportion will come from the Isle of La Palma when Cumbre Vieja finally goes off and drops a mass of rock the size of Everest into the ocean... creating a Tsunami of a scale not recorded by people... yet.


Ionus
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 09:27 pm
@OCCOM BILL,
Quote:
the toll of the destruction most certainly is.
By straight figures, yes, but by a percentage, no.
Quote:
the Isle of La Palma
Maybe not. One researcher believes it only ever drops a little bit at a time, never having a large drop all at once. A crack is the perfect stress relief, it just depends on how much it weakens the structure as to whether it is desirable or not. His argument is that the cracks have reduced the possibility of a major slide and all it has ever done in the past is small slides, from the undersea record anyway.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 10:28 pm
Bill, you keep telling me that if i'd read the article, i'd see that the author and i agree--we don't. He states, and i'm quoting directly: "If it seems like disasters are getting more common, it's because they are." It is this unwarranted position to which i take exception. He quotes the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, saying that flood and storm disasters have increased 7.4% every year, in recent decades. I had two points in response. His data, although he is not acknowledging it, is for storms and flooding in the northern tier of the western hemisphere, and his data is for "the last few decades." There isn't really any data on this for any longer than the last few decades. My second objection is that while he tips a nod to events such as the Boxing Day tsunami, his emphasis is on urban areas, and specifically on the policies of the United States. Certainly he has a good point about the legislation which Congress passed in the Reagan administration which subsidizes insurance for those who build in coastal areas which would otherwise be red-lined by insurance companies--but this is precisely why i'm saying that the piece is pathetically parochial. The Boxing Day tsunami affected people from the coast of South Africa to the island of Sumatra--the latter obstacle acting as a huge, naturally occurring seawall which protected the rest of the thousands of islands which make up the region south of the Philippines and north of Australia. Those people are not there because they migrated there, unless you are taking a very long view, which goes back thousands and thousands of years to the advent of homo sapiens sapiens in the region. Since the arrival of man in the area, they have clustered on the sea coasts. On many of those islands, they have no choice--there is no part of the islands which are on the sea coast. The same is true for the Andaman Islands.

So, i objected in the first place to a broad, sweeping generalization about the scope of disasters which in essence, is actually centered on the effect of legislation which allowed the build-up of population in coastal regions of the United States. So, when the author states that "If it seems like disasters are getting more common,it's because they are," he will subsequently contradict himself, and he is also setting up for a discussion of how 1980s legislation created an untenable situation in the coast regions of the United States. That's why i objected at the outset. The statement is not valid in an historical context, and it is not valid in a global context.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 10:36 pm
@OCCOM BILL,
By the way, O'Bill, when you write:

"Meanwhile, major Hurricanes are a hell of a lot more common . . ."

It makes it look as though you didn't read the article. Even in the short run, according to the author of the article, things were much worse 80 years ago.

As for which volcanic event will next produce an event the effects of which will make hurricane damage seem trivial, i suspect there are horrors waiting out there of which we are not even aware. I don't think anyone can say, other than that the most horrible event will be one which puts massive amounts of particulate, or lethal greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The Permian extinctions of 250 million years ago and more, may well have been caused by basaltic lava eruptions in Siberia, which would have put both huge amounts of sulphates into the atmosphere, as well as huge amounts of ash. That's not the sort of thing which one is likely to notice until it happens--no mountains, no calderas, no "smoking gun."
 

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