Poverty & Natural Disasters

The scenes and news from the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan are heartbreaking.  Though uncountable individuals and organizations across the globe have donated funds and resources for rescue and recovery, there is a sense of impotence when such mass disasters occur.

While rescue efforts proceed despite impaired communication and transportation, surely all too slow for those imperiled by the devastation, it is equally important to examine why we cannot better prepare for such events.  Though natural catastrophes have culled human populations throughout the history of our species, we now have the means to minimize their effects; unfortunately, a combination of cultural and political factors impair the implementation of policies that could have limited this and other disasters.  First and foremost, there are large segments of human society where poverty and overpopulation set the stage for mass calamity; lack of support for birth control and a scandalous imbalance of resource allocation are factors that can and should be reversed.  Secondly, inadequate funds are directed to programs for evacuation, safe refuge and emergency resource storage (especially food and water) greatly increasing  casualties prior to the arrival of aid from other regions and countries.  Finally, there has been little or no effort to limit human habitation of areas that are highly prone to natural disasters.

The prevention of mass suffering and death (to the extent that it is possible) will be expensive and will involve a dramatic change in the attitude of those in a position to initiate such programs.  Yet, when we consider the human and economic costs of these events, directing resources toward mitigating their effects is both a moral imperative and a wise financial investment.