Field of Science

Post-hoc thoughts on Sandy

No question about it, Hurricane Sandy socked the greater NY-NJ metro area good and solid.  There are a couple of real good points to consider.  Notice how fragile our modern infrastructure actually is.  There are still people without electricity, and a robust public transport system was shut down so completely bicycles where the most reliable form of transportation.  Naturally you feel bad for people whose houses were damaged or destroyed, and whose belongings were lost.  Tragic, but it wasn't actually a "natural disaster".  It was a human error in planning, pure human hubris, to allow people to build in low-lying, flood prone areas, on stormy coasts, and such.  You're living on borrowed time.  The same thing happens out here in the midwest.  Rivers flood towns, farms, and houses, and it's a natural disaster.  Well, it's natural OK, but you built your towns and houses on a flood plain.  What did you expect!  As the human population grows, more and more people are going to "get in the way" of natural events, so more and bigger damage to our trappings of civilization are to be expected.  Raise sea level just a meter from global warming, and the number of people potentially affected increases dramatically.  All of our edifices have such a feeling of firmness, solidness, and permanence, yet all are so fragile.  If the electricity stays out for even longer, you end up with high-rise tombs.  Expect more of the same, but it's hard to get creatures with short lives, short memories, and even shorter attention spans to look for long-term solutions.  We praise politicians for their reactions, but really their failure to be proactive was the cause of much of the destruction.   

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