Column: Calm seas not ahead

By Jenette Sturges

The oceans are attempting to swallow humanity. Call it a conspiracy theory, but look at the facts.

New Orleans, Southeast Asia, Guatemala, even Spain experienced its first tropical storm ever when Vince struck earlier this month. The storms appear to be trying to swallow the poor, overcrowded coastal areas and their inhabitants as though the sea is sick of people living anywhere near it.

It’s a fact of life that natural disasters happen. There’s no stopping an earthquake from causing the damage seen in Pakistan or from tornados flattening towns like Utica, Ill.

But it seems like tropical storms in particular are growing in intensity and number. This is due entirely to the warming trend of the gulf, which is extending all the way across the Atlantic – hence the Spanish storm. Warm water means storms.

Whether the rise in surface temperature has to do with global warming or simply a decade-long cycle is still debatable, but there’s one thing we know for certain about violent weather: when natural disasters strike, they hit below the poverty line.

While I’d rather not get into the discussion concerning whether or not Bush hates black people, it is accurate to say that natural disasters are particularly unfriendly to poor people. Few poor minority residents of New Orleans have found it easy to reassemble their lives, particularly after the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster. Also, it is safe to assume that the infrastructure of Southeast Asia has yet to recover. The entire nation of Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, has few trees left to hold together its soil from the constant bombardment of tropical storms.

Moreover, when a tragedy strikes a country like India, with a billion people halfway around the world, we tend not to take notice even if ten thousand people were lost because it’s across the world, and seemingly of little concern to us. But this lax attitude toward others is more tragic than we think, particularly if the suspicion of a link between global warming and natural disasters is valid.

We raise money by canning the Quad, and hold drives for food, clothes and anything else we think might help the victims of natural disasters – oftentimes creating an insurmountable logistics problem, meaning good works ultimately go to waste. But there is something that we ought to be doing to solve the crisis of this year’s violent weather: prevention.

While preventing hurricanes may seem like an impossible task, researching the phenomena, in particular the warming trend in the Gulf which scientist know to be causing the explosion of cyclone activity, could prove important if accelerated global warming is the cause of these violent storms. Allotting more funding toward climate research could conceivably establish more evidence for human causes of violent weather and help form strategies for preventing further human impact on storms.

So even if you haven’t had a single spare dollar to donate to Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Wilma, the Tsunami, the Pakistani earthquake, or the Guatemalan mudslides, you can still help past and potential victims. All you need to spend is 37 cents and the time it takes to write a letter to your representatives to ask for more severe weather research funding (If you want to save the paper and the stamp, email them).

And one more thing: stop moving to the beach. Americans are swarming to their coasts in Hemingway-esque fashion as though the wet pond humanity emerged from millions of years ago is calling us back – possibly admitting to a horrible mistake on the part of evolution.

A USA News report recently released declared that more people are moving to coastal areas than ever, reporting that coastal counties up and down the eastern seaboard are experiencing growth at rates averaging 1, 300 new residents daily.

If we want fewer casualties and costs in property damage, it’s simple. We need to stop making ourselves beach-combing targets for an angry Mother Nature.

Jenette Sturges is a junior in LAS. Her column appears every Tuesday. She can be reached at [email protected]