Putting the life back in science fiction


It can’t happen here, and
March 6, 2016, 2:43 am
Filed under: climate change, disasters | Tags: , ,

Just a brief note.  This afternoon, I was listening to the radio, and the show Reveal had a program called “Might Ike: A monster storm in the making.”  It’s investigative reporting worth listening to, if you want to get away from California disasters a bit.

What got me in listening to it was the commonality of American–human(?)–experience.  So few people think about disasters, whether they’re storms, earthquakes, fires, or whatever.  It’s not just us, either.  I’m still reading Robert Kelley’s Battling the Inland Sea: Floods, Public Policy, and the Sacramento Valley, and 140 years ago, they acted the same way.  Even after they got flooded out, they thought it wouldn’t happen again.  When it happened again, they thought it would be an easy fix.  When that fix didn’t work…well, you get the idea, and you can see where California’s modern dam and canal system came from.  Even though, back in the 1860s the Republican Party was the one that wanted to improve society with Progress and state-level programs, while the Democrats were the hands-off, suspicious of government types (180 degrees reversed from today, since the Democrats were the southern rebels), the attitudes were startlingly familiar to what we see today.  We really haven’t come very far in the last century.

Since I’m a very provincial American, I don’t know if this brand of ignoring disasters is an artifact of American culture or a wider problem. Dare I hope it’s an American disease?  The parallels with climate change are depressingly obvious.  If developers in Houston can pack people into areas that will flood 10-20′, even knowing that another big hurricane is inevitable, (let alone build boomtowns in places that are already flooding, like Tampa), it’s hard to be optimistic that enough people will wake up on climate change until it’s way too late to do anything to ameliorate it.

But as always, I’m a pessimist.  Whether you’re a pessimist or not, it’s a good hour of radio, and you can listen to it at the link.  Let me know what you think about it.

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3 Comments so far
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“Dare I hope it’s an American disease?”

Nope. Just check out Britain’s response to rising sea level, changing weather patterns and flooding.

Australia seems to have been largely in denial.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drought_in_Australia

I’m going to suggest that part of the problem, especially in Anglo countries, is the financial model of “maximizing shareholder value” which deliberately excludes other stakeholders. Tractable financial calculations substitute for the general welfare all the way up into the political system. A supreme current example is Flint’s water supply problem.

What might once have been a useful tool, has become a cancer in the way we run our country. The usual climate denial FUD is just a smokescreen to maintain the status quo.

Comment by Alex Tolley

One of my side interests is trying to figure out how many times people will rebuild after a disaster from gleaning anecdotes from news stories. So far, I think it is 2.5 times. After the first flood or fire, they swear to rebuild. After the second flood or fire, some say they’ll rebuild, some say they’re leaving. By the third time their house has been destroyed, I don’t see quotes saying they’ll rebuild.

Comment by onthepublicrecord

I imagine it sort of depends on the disaster; Chernobyl only took one to end it, and even Detroit has practically died from a single long-lasting disaster. Still, I bet that your closer to the truth on the average for disaster resilience.

Comment by Whachamacallit




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