Skip to comments.Elements of Surprise
Posted on 01/08/2005 7:21:16 PM PST by Torie
Elements of Surprise by Gregg Easterbrook
Nature does not know best," the ecologist Rene Dubos--best known for coining the expression "think globally, act locally"--once wrote. Dubos's worry was that the environmental movement was beginning to depict the natural condition as Edenic and benign, when in fact nature is a mass murderer. The Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy ought to be seen as a reminder that the Earth can be a very dangerous place to live.
. ... Productivity and planning might reduce the harm done by natural disasters--anti-earthquake building engineering, for example. ... there is no foreseeable technology that could prevent earthquakes, hurricanes, or similar deadly expressions of natural energy.
Now consider that natural disasters of recent centuries have been mild by the standards of history. In fact, it may be that one reason human civilization has prospered during what academics now call the "common era" is that natural disasters have been relatively few, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and other horrible events notwithstanding. Most likely it is sheer chance that catastrophic natural harm has been rare in the common era, and though humanity's good luck may last, our good luck could easily change to bad. More important, many natural disasters of the past have been far worse than anything that has occurred since writing was invented. That may be another reason civilization is here--mega-disasters have not happened "recently," in geologic terms. That may not last, either.
An asteroid defense would be a step, at least, toward diminishing the risk we wake up to a natural event inexpressibly worse than the Indian Ocean tsunami. Nature has the means to wipe us out. The tsunami is not just a humanitarian horror; it is a reminder that we should protect ourselves when we can.
Most of the natural disasters of horrific scope (massive volcanic eruptions that freeze the planet etc.) we can do nothing about, practically. Asteroid avoidance is one that we can. We are spending next to nothing on that.
Another is a flip of the magnetic field, and the field has weakened 10% in the last few decades. Don't be around when that happens, or when a supernova happens in our neighborhood. At least don't be outside. The killer rays will get you.
It's obvious to me that Nature is evil. I mean, aren't most deaths attributed to "natural causes" so, you see, right there, Nature causes most deaths. Case closed.
Just because one doesn't read about something in the newspaper doesn't mean we aren't spending money on it. I am no longer privy to the information, but we had a workable defense system in the early eighties, so I imagine that by now it is much better. "Star Wars" as the press dubbed it, exists and was created more for such a purpose (and related purposes that I cannot go in to)than to defend against ICBMs.
Worse than that, without Nature's evil hand, there'd be not births. No air to breathe, water, food...
It's time for a global W.O.N.