Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Orders of Magnitude

Digging out from the largest (deepest) single snowstorm our area has ever seen a few weeks ago, the Blizzard of 2016, I immediately thought, "Hey, here's new fodder for the Blog."  After all, we'd had major impacts in terms of the economy, numerous casualties had been reported, and the whole region came to a grinding halt for the 36 hours of snow.

But, as I've noted here before, our county and our state learned a great deal from the most recent major snow (the Double Blizzard of 2010, pictured above from my front porch). Unlike that "double whammy" of a storm, this time roads were cleared more quickly, we never lost power, and we were back out shopping and conducting business (almost) as normal after a couple of days.  Preparation and planning paid off, as did my snow blower (also purchased by my wife shortly after the last big snow).

As serious an impact this recent winter storm had on the Northeast United States, however, it had nowhere near the impact--in terms of disrupting people's lives--as so many other weather events around the world.  The following graphic is sobering.  It came to me via a study published in the World Economic Forum:

"In the last 20 years, weather-related disasters have claimed 606,000 lives and left 4.1 billion people injured, homeless or in need of emergency assistance.  Asia experienced the worst effects of the weather, with China and India ranking first and second respectively for the highest absolute number of people affected. In these two countries, more than 3 billion have lost homes and livelihoods in the past 20 years, amounting to 75% of the global total.

"Outside Asia, there are two African nations in the top 10: Kenya and Ethiopia. Brazil is the only South American country to feature, with 51 million people affected by floods, landslides and other natural disasters.  When the data is standardized to reflect the percentage of the population whose lives have been touched by weather events, the top 10 changes substantially. Six African countries feature, with only three from Asia, including China.  Only one European country features in the standardized top 10 list. Moldova was ranked sixth, mainly due to a storm in 2000 whose impact was felt by 2.6 million people from a total population of 3.6 million."
[Source: Linked web page above.]

Clearly, in terms of overall impact, these countries experience catastrophic events at "orders of magnitude" higher levels of pain and suffering than we do.  Even worse, many of these countries don't have the same level of public/ governmental response capabilities, nor the financial strength to recover as quickly or as well as we do in the United States.  If nothing else, digging my car out of the snow after a blizzard and then retreating to a warm house reminds me that it might be time to look beyond myself to see what can be done to help others for whom a disastrous weather event will literally change their lives and perhaps the long-term viability of their entire community or country.