14 January, 2010

Thoughts on Haiti

I've got CNN on right now.  The Big Dog's speaking, and it's strangely calming.  I know why: he's got a firm handle on what needs to be done, and he's just calmly ticking off the list: helicopters, medical teams, search and rescue teams, earth-moving equipment.  Then things switch over to Anderson Cooper in Haiti, with people running and screaming in the background, screaming about water - a flood?  Water being handed out?  It gives a sense of the chaos and fear in the darkness there.

After a time, things settle.  People stop running.  

So: calm and chaos.  Desperation and hope.  That's Haiti, right now.

Earlier, I watched a flyover video shot by the Coast Guard.  You'll notice that some areas seem untouched, while others are completely flattened:

I could tell the geology of some of the zones just from the extent of the damage: toward the end of the video, you'll see an area close to the sea where it seems every building is down.  Unconsolidated sediments or earth fill.  Something that turned to jelly when the ground began to shake.

Even in the areas of Port-au-Prince that look okay, a closer examination would show cracks in the buildings, structural damage so extreme that going inside could be a death sentence.  This city wasn't built to withstand earthquakes.  It barely manages to stand on a good day.

We'll never know how many people may have survived if Haiti had the resources to build solid structures.

Here's my impossible dream: stop fighting and start building.  I can't help but think of the resources put into war, and just how much better use those resources could be put to.  Lifting people out of crushing poverty.  Earthquake-proofing buildings in fault zones.  Bracing communities for other natural disasters.  And even after spending so much money on all that, there'd likely still be extra money left for things like curing diseases and developing alternative forms of energy. 

No, I know it'll never happen.  But that doesn't mean we can't work for it.

No comments: