I recall reading years ago about the potential destructiveness of a tsunami. Naturally, the speculative scenarios were somewhat sensationalized: 1,000 foot waves washing over the east coast of the good old USA…that sort of thing.

Now we have the reality. A 30 foot wave washes over Sri Lanka, India, and other “3rd world” nations. 2,000 estimated dead…5,000…20,000…60,000…120,000. And thousands more no doubt yet to be found. Big sigh of relief: only a handful of North Americans dead! Thank the Lord! Better send some charity over there…how about $30 million?

I look at this series of events and questions arise in my mind.

  • Why is it when North Americans die, the estimate of death is usually higher than reality? When the trade centers fell, 10,000 people were estimated to be killed…the reality was less than 3,000. Yet third world nations seem to always report numbers woefully below the reality
  • How can we feel good about the fact that we are sending a few tens of millions over to the “poor” people in India and Sri Lanka? 120,000 foreigners die, we toss over $50 million or so. When 3,000 Americans died, the U.S. spent $100 *billion* on getting some kind of revenge…not against the people who committed the crime, but against a leader who maybe helped the people who committed the crime. To put that in perspective: per person, the implication here is that an Indian flood victim is worth about $400, whereas an American victim of terrorism is worth $33,000,000. Seems a bit out of whack to me.
  • The awesome destructive force of nature puts our pathetic squabbles to shame. I believe that the 8.9 richter scale earthquake that started the tsunami expended energy equivalent to well over 60,000 one megaton hydrogen bombs…probably closer to 100,000. That’s an energy release equivalent 100,000,000,000 tons of TNT
  • Just before Christmas, a near earth orbit object was identified as meriting “significant attention” (4 on the Torino scale…about a 2% chance of hitting based on data available at the time)…MN4 is 300 metres in diameter: if it hit it would release energy equivalent to about an 8.6 on the Richter scale. 23 years away from potential impact, that sort of thing is a threat we might actually be able to do something about…if we could quit fighting amongst ourselves. And I don’t mean “all become good Americans”… The threat of the object (MN4) hitting has been reduced to “normal” or 1, by the way- observations provided better data to reduce the threat

What’s my point? I’m not saying I have one…not every discussion needs to have a point. I’m more interested in thinking and using logic then in standing on a soapbox and shouting. I think if I have a point its this: we are quick to spend time and money to get revenge or cause more death, but far less prone to just help each other out. This makes me think we have some room for improving our society.

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