"I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving."
-- Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA); September 6, 2005
Last night, my son and I watched a documentary on Hurricane Katrina. It was made by a fellow who had the misfortune of getting stuck in the storm, but was lucky enough to survive. The film featured the awesome power of nature, the utter destruction of buildings and properties, and the suffering endured by human beings.
During the film, my son commented that people who dismiss that human suffering by saying, "It's their own fault. They should have left," should watch and see why leaving was not a choice for everyone. Indeed, there was a wide range of reasons that so many people could not simply leave. Today, I did an internet search, so that I could find the exact quote of former senator and self-righteous christian Rick Santorum (at top), who recommended "tougher penalties" for those suffering people.
Nature is a curious thing, and certainly the environment has played a crucial role in the cycle of new life forms and extinctions for far, far longer that modern humans have walked the earth. More, in the relatively brief time we have inhabited this living planet, changes in the environment have influenced how -- and where -- we live. This includes natural disasters that arise quickly, as well as changes that take place at a slower pace and are associated with the fall of some of human history's greatest empires.
The most significant factor in human survival has been our specie's ability to adopt to threatening changes. Human beings, by nature, are flexible, with the ability to adjust to change. That ability to respond to rapid changes, such as Katrina, is reduced by factors directly associated with social stratification -- although that alone does not account for every tragic event in human history.
The other important factor is surviving these events is empathy, the ability to grasp the feelings of others in need, and to respond. This includes helping those who are very different from us, something the prophet Jesus highlighted in his parable of the good Samaritan. There have been numerous times in this country's history when, as individuals, groups, and a nation, we have responded to domestic and global crises in this fashion. It was fifty years ago today, for example, that ex-Beatle George Harrison headed the Concert for Bangladesh.
In the half-century since then, there have been significant changes in the environment. By no coincidence, science shows conclusively that human activities have accelerated these changes. And there is little evidence that we are currently serious as a species to adopt to these changes, when we consider politicians, corporations, or individuals in the United States. To illustrate this, consider the discomfort many experience when a storm knocks out the internet and/or electricity for a couple of hours. Yet we are witnessing an increase in environmental crises around the planet that cause severe, long-term suffering.
Five years ago, Trump was ranting about building a wall. As stupid as the man is, it is important to recognize that he was thinking this would provide long-term protection for "his people." Don't be Donald Trump, for those walls will come tumbling down. Don't call yourself "religious" if, like Rick S., you want to punish others for suffering, rather than being a good Samaritan.
We can't all be one of those musicians who took the stage fifty years ago today, but we can all be one of the audience participants.
There's a storm coming.
We should know, for we helped create it.
The essential question, in my view, is how do we learn empathy? How do we learn to care about others? It seems as though many of us lack this essential element, and this lack hurts our ability to stop the storm.
An excellent and thought-provoking essay, as yours always are.
I recognize that I have lived a life-style that has added to the problem -- I am aware of it every week, when the garbage goes down my long driveway to get picked up and added to yet another landfill. But I try to do better every day.
While I was writing the essay, I found myself thinking back to the last interview I did with Chief Waterman. We did it shortly before 1999 became 2000, and many people were antsy about computer grids, etc. Paul spoke about "divine intervention" meant sharing and looking out for others. Strange how the public was on alert for 2000, but seems far less aware of the truth about climate change.
There are, of course, all types of social novocaine that numb us to the reality of nature. One that stands out is when politicians say we only have thirty or fifty years to make significant changes before devastation comes. Baloney. We passed that point decades ago. It is here, now, and will only gather in force.
both George HW Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev had meetings with Chief Waterman's sister, Clan Mother Audrey Shenandoah. They both wanted to ask her abou environmental issues. She told him there are no mysteries, only common sense. If you pour toxic industrial wastes into a river, for example, you poison those down stream -- both in physical distance and in time.
My brother often has lunch with the environmental scientists at the university where he works. They have been saying for years that we are way past the tipping point. They point to the southwest, and even to Oregon, where they are. The climate is changing, and that has consequences that we, as a people, are ill prepared for.
But I can find nothing on the net about it. I even got ripped off by a Hari Krishna before the concert. I still have the album somewhere, I think.
I still have the LP, as well as CD and the DVD of the concert.Great show -- the only way it could have been better would have been if John and/or Paul had shown up. I think that music is an important resource for getting people to both think and act.
The music was wonderful. As young people, we may have been a tad naibe about how entrenched the "system" was. But I think that John Lennon was correct when he later said that era was a premonition of what is to come.
A timely OP but we'll hear the same cruel response from the same people
We will absolutely hear that same cruel response from those same people -- until, that is, they need help.
166 million people - in a country the size of Iowa, and mostly at just-above sea level.
Most will have to relocate to India before the century's out, at this rate.
Likewise, there are countries in Europe that have just experienced damaging floods. I recently read what a politician from Denmark was saying, and he seemed more on the ball than most politicians here. Many of the most populated areas in this country are cities on or near the coast. At the same time, other regions are experiencing droughts, and have dwindling water supplies.
They don't have adequate resources to provide a GOOD refuge, with adequate food, sanitation, medical care and facilities for the refugees to begin some kind of economic activity, etc.
Bangladesh doesn't even have that for much of its own population, they are so poor.
But they opened their border to the Rohingya, anyway. A poor refugee camp is better than the murderous regime determined to exterminate the Rohingya in Myanmar.
Now those same refugee camps are further threatened by flooding and climate damage.
But the Bangladeshi, from their own experience of need and desperation, reached out and tried to help anyway.
And what are we doing?
It's one of the great humanitarian disasters of our generation.
And we are basically leaving it up to those who suffered one of the great humanitarian disasters of the previous generation.
Will we ever learn?
Thank you for this. It is important, and exactly the type of thing that should define this country's foreign aid. I am admittedly not well versed in this, as it isn't reported on enough in the media, though it is certainly my responsibility to do more research. The events in so many nations around the globe -- including Myammar -- seem so out of control.
Will we ever learn? I have my doubts. I do not think that we will inhabit the earth as long as Homo erectus or even Neanderthals did. That seems less likely every day.
... is the imperative to be pro-active, not just re-active.
The flooding of New Orleans was caused by the misguided channeling the Mississippi River and the inevitability of a major hurricane, exacerbated by man-made climate change.
Human suffering in Bangladesh was ongoing long before it became an international cause for relief efforts. Should something have been done sooner?
We do not lack the technology or intelligence to anticipate these disasters and to implement proactive remedies.
We lack sufficient human empathy, education, organization, and collective purpose. Also the wisdom to act in a timely manner for our own enlightened self interest.
Anyone who truly wants to "make America great again" will help to bring about the necessary change to build a better world for future generations -- and if they truly believe we are a Christian nation, that applies not only to their children but everyone's.
being pro-active, rather than re-active.
While I was writing the OP, my mind went back to when I was in a sociology class discussing Bangladesh. The majority of the class thought this country should be doing more. But, of course, there were a couple of people saying that it wasn't our problem, or any of our business. Being either unable or unwilling to control myself, I said I agreed with one of them, and said "if these people would just get jobs, they wouldn't need help." The teacher laughed so hard that the other fellow was sorely offended, and refused to ever speak with me again.
In traditional Iroquois culture, one is to consider the impact of their actions upon those seven generations in the future. I like that.
Had a jar so I gave them a couple dollars and always hoped the funds got there...
There was a bureaucratic hold on the funds for a while, but they eventually got there.
I always loved the music from the concert. I'll probably watch the DVD of it tonight. It's funny to think that fifty years have passed so quickly.
That your reply makes my day. And yep a half century can seem transitory. I can only help at the fringes which I try to do.