One cannot help but feel humbled before the violence of nature. The tiniest of twitches within the crust of our planet and thousands, tens of thousands or even millions die with barely time enough for a prayer.
All of us must face the question: “How should a planetary civilization of free people deal with events on this scale?” What do we as libertarians have as an answer to human misery on this level?
I know some will shrug their shoulders and say “people chose to live there”, “it should be handled by an insurance pool” because it is the “responsibility of everyone there to be fully insured” … as if people could get or afford it in areas like this which only recently have clawed their way far enough up the hierarchy of values to even know such things exist. I am not suggesting an answer. I have none. I am at a loss.
It was easier a few decades ago. Horrendous natural disasters happened in far away places to strange and alien people. They had nothing to do with us, no connection to our daily lives. Now we see real people in real time;
people who no longer seem the least bit alien; who may be related to the wife of friend’s son or the next door neighbor or friends of many years standing at a favoured resort. Given the massive amount of business and vacation travel in today’s world, it might well be one’s own sibling, parent, spouse or child laying dead on that no longer faraway beach.
It is difficult verging on the impossible to feel distant from the horror we see on television. I will not be surprised if the final toll tops 250,000: a quarter million souls. As horrifying as this number may be, it is by no means the worst nature can dish out.
Some day Yellowstone Park will go up. The entire park is, after all, a caldera that blows sky high every now and again. When next it happens, much of the American West will die. Denver and other cities will not look like human disaster areas. They will lie invisible hundreds of feet somewhere beneath thousands upon thousands of square miles of volcanic ash. Denver will become the Mile Under City.
There is a deadly fault near St Louis. A century and a half ago New Madrid was the site of perhaps the largest earthquake recorded in US history. It mostly shook trees, scared vast clouds of Passenger Pigeons into flight and annoyed the bears. No one knows when it will slip again. It is not difficult to imagine hundreds of thousands of Americans dead in an unprepared Midwest.
Then there is the disaster to rule them all. Short of the once in a hundred million year Dinosaur killer, the worst I am aware of is the Canary Islands landslide scenario. Some believe every once in ten millenia or so half a mountain slides off into the sea there. An Isle of Mann dropped into the Pond. Some scientists think there are signs of shifting already (others do not), and that perhaps we are closer to the next catastrophe than the previous. If such did occur, the resulting mega-tsunami would wipe out the Carribean islands and lay waste to the entire East Coast of the United States for tens of miles inland.
There are not many truly safe places on this living planet of ours. The next disaster might be bigger… and closer to home. Give whatever help you can as you might one day find yourself relying on the kindness of strangers.
The UK Earth Quake Appeal is reachable at 0870-606-0900. You can also give online.