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Global Humanity In The Face Of Disaster

Many of the issues we cover on this weekly email are caused by people, self-inflicted, man-made disasters. Yesterday, Turkey and Syria were devastated by a natural disaster entirely outside their control. 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes, felt across 4 countries, along with numerous powerful aftershocks have killed over 4,300 people and downed thousands of buildings. The global response has been swift and heartening, with many countries across the globe pledging support for the stricken nations of Turkey and Syria, however, the situation is still dire, with frigid winter temperatures, and in Syria’s case, the ravages of war hindering rescue and recovery efforts. If you have the resources to spare, there are many reputable non-profits trying to help in rescue and recovery efforts including: UNICEF, Turkish Red Crescent, Humanity & Inclusion, Doctors without Borders, Syrian American Medical Society, CARE International, and more. Be sure look out for scammers, because tragedy brings out both the best and worst in humanity. The sheer devastation wrought by these events makes it clear, however, that individual organizations can only act in a triage manner, responding to catastrophe. To prevent mass deaths from natural disasters requires long term government planning, and infrastructure investment with commensurate building codes, zoning and regulations. Inadequately built structures aren’t just an issue in less wealthy nations, either. A recent study found that up to a quarter of buildings in San Francisco were vulnerable to collapse in a 7.0 or greater earthquake. Turkey and Syria’s tragedy is a wake-up call for our own vulnerabilities as well. America recently received a grade of C- from the Army Corps of Engineers for much of our infrastructure, with many categories scoring lower, and while earthquakes aren’t exacerbated by the climate crisis, many other natural disasters are. Ultimately, how a government prepares for these predictably unpredictable disasters, from earthquakes, to wildfires, to hurricanes, and how it responds in the aftermath are the true test of a government’s efficacy providing for the security and general welfare of its people. The problem of course, is that such preparations and regulations cost money. Powerful capital interests from housing development to car manufacturing and beyond have long demonstrated an unwillingness to voluntarily invest in safety measures on behalf of people. It’s only when forced by law and rigorous oversight that features like seatbelts, building codes and pollution standards get implemented. With our current political system strangled by monied interests, there’s little incentive business interest to invest in disaster preparedness. Instead, they expect to be made whole financially by our tax dollars after catastrophe strikes, while regular citizens are left holding the proverbial bag. To change our government’s disaster response from reactive to proactive will take massive political and economic power wielded on behalf of the American people. So join us each Tuesday, in growing solidarity with people across America and around the world as we work to make sure that each of us, no matter our personal circumstances or origin, has all the help and support we need when disaster strikes.

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