It Could Always Be Worse

After May 18th five more explosive eruptions o...
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The next time the car won’t start and the milk you poured on your cereal is sour and the kids have the flu and the cat is having more kittens in the washroom, just tune into The RSOE Emergency and Disaster Information Services (EDIS) from Budapest, Hungary. Your crises will seem much more cope-able, given the fact that volcanoes, earthquakes, floods and epidemics are much bigger problems than your mismatched socks.

This highly-informative web site provides a Google-Earth-based map of the world with tables listing and categorizing world wide “events’ of natural and man-made disasters–always a good way to gain an “it could always be worse” perspective.

Chose a disaster. Any disaster. Take for instance the fact that there is an Earth-approaching object the size of a football stadium hurtling through space at 21 thousand miles and hour that, on February 16, will miss the planet by only .04 Astronomical Units! Duck and cover! That sounds scary until you find that four hundredths of the distance to the sun is 13 times farther from Earth than the moon. Close call! Read on….

There was a “nuclear incident” on the shore of Lake Michigan over the weekend. No cause for alarm, folks, nothing to see here, be on your way. It was an electrical cable issue, nothing to do with radioactive stuff, they say. Homer Simpson is alive and does not glow in the dark.

Note that a score of 8 is at the top of the list of “volcanic explosivity index” and one of those is the super-volcanic Yellowstone Caldera. Just one eruption of the many in the past few million years produced 2,500 times as much ash as the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. Here’s another good reason for my daughter to bring her family from SD to NC. Listening, girlie?

To learn more about any given event, click the little information “i” to the right of the row, and from the window that opens, click “description” to learn about the hanta virus cases in New Mexico or the higher-than-normal cases of spinal meningitis in New York.

Seriously, this is a great resource. See for instance the category called “mass death of animals.” There are more than 20 entries here, just in 2011. This, as you know, is a topic I am very interested in following, and being as current as possible.

To carry this more firmly beyond the arm-chair browsing realm, these incidents of extremes will be increasingly compounded by climate chaos; the droughts, fires, floods and sea level changes that result will increasingly impact humans; and we have no other Earth to go to.

This comprehensive overview from TomDispatch of the interwoven issues of climate-oil-food and civil society is worth a read and much thought. Increasingly, the emergency and disaster information will include human responses to these “natural” events, including large numbers of displaced people.

I’ll leave it to your political bias and available information to imagine how many future “emergency events” might have been avoided or softened if we had shown the courage, wisdom and determination to stop our addiction to fossil fuels in the 70s when we knew this kind of world was ahead of us if we didn’t.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I do agree that it would have taken a great deal of courage, something humans avoid and instead substitute greed, to lessen our addiction to fossil fuels in the 70’s. Most, however, still fail to recognize that the real issue, the real bad guy in climate change is over population by the human species. We have been discussing this since the 50’s without any real action.

  2. The “p” word is the elephant in the room we refuse to look at or acknowledge. And without addressing that (either by action or inaction it will be dealt with), none of the other issues will be fixed in any lasting way. Gains from conservation, energy efficiency, genetic improvements in food sources, even a reversal of climate change will be quickly overwhelmed by population pressures on a finite biosphere. Again, when it is all sorted out eventually, I don’t think humankind will have been anything but a passive statistic on the global balance sheet. We are not as sapient as we need to be in the face of these global-scale matters of life or death. Knowing this is the next generation’s grim uncertainty, the mutual assured destruction of the times. It is a very difficult reality to accept, and yet…

  3. All that said I went and checked out the EDIS site on mass death of animals. I dunno if that site is very credible. I found nothing about the Goose Creek Chicken Caper.