“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
G. K. Chesterton
“We don’t make it through tough times, we are made through tough times.” Tim Jackson
Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” Spencer Johnson
Have the events of 2020 begun to feel a little too familiar to you? Maybe you are staying at home more, eating at restaurants less often, and shopping more intentionally rather than leisurely. Have you stopped daily checking out the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center website/tracker, with hopes that the numbers will subside? Are you beginning to settle in for a new normal?
In this issue of “More than Meets the Eye,” I want to bring us back to reality, not so much concerning the current coronavirus, but rather the reality that this year, 2020, with four months left to go, has brought with it significant other catastrophes. Certainly, with the global death toll being reported at somewhere near 850,000, the Coronavirus is not to be taken lightly. However, we must be mindful of the on-going human struggle. We must not ignore it because of our concern, or even fear of contracting COVID-19. We must not let it cause us to hunker down in our own little worlds, ignoring the truth that many still suffer from hunger, natural catastrophes, unclean water, various diseases, and other human-induced tragedies, such as human trafficking, human exploitation, and violence.
This week I want to remind us of some other events which have taken place in 2020, which if we are not careful might be relegated to the shelf of insignificance, in light of our founded and unfounded fears of the Coronavirus. We run the risk of considering this year, 2020 to be among the worst of years. Believe me, when I say, 2020 doesn’t hold a candle to some years in the past when global calamities seemed almost insufferable.
If we decide to go down that road, we might subconsciously find ourselves admitting that what we actually believe, is that, what is happening to me is worse than what is happening to other people. In no way do I wish to demean the number of deaths and losses that many of us have endured, but I do want to encourage us to place what is happening globally within its proper context, and to help us to understand that there is more than meets the eye regarding all the disasters that are unfolding in this, the 21st century.
Mainstream media has continued to follow the big-stories, those with lots of drama and pain. They do that largely because it is what we as a public want, and will pay to watch or read. What happens when we start chasing those dramatic stories is that we begin to lose our situational awareness concerning the issues that have been taunting us for years, things that have caused untold pain and suffering. This week I want to look again at the “old-normal” and remind us that it has not gone away, even though the mainstream media is pushing it to the bottom of the news heap.
Let’s look at some uniquely 2020 catastrophic events, not in any particular order of impact or destruction, except that they have all happened in this year, 2020.
I will begin by simply listing the numbers of natural disasters that have occurred globally in only the past two weeks, in order to demonstrate that we may be missing a lot of what is going on when it comes to human pain and suffering. You can discover more about each of these disasters in the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) website. https://www.gdacs.org
In just the past few weeks there have been ten earthquakes globally, registering 5.5 or larger on the Richter scale. There have been ten named Tropical Cyclones/Hurricanes. There have been ten significant life-altering floods impacting the lives of millions. (Floods accounted for nearly 60 percent of the total toll during this time.) There have been ten volcano eruptions, displacing hundreds of thousands from their homes, some forever. There are ten on-going droughts globally, denying people food and water for months at a time.
At least 207 natural disasters were recorded globally in the first six months of 2020 — this is above the 21st century average (2000-2019) of 185 disasters. Natural disasters claimed roughly 2,200 lives during the first half of 2020.
What are some of the specific disasters that the world has suffered so far in 2020? Mind you, these are just a few of the significant ones and is in no way an exhaustive list.
The 2019–2020 Australian bushfire season, known as the black summer, began with several serious and uncontrolled fires in June 2019, mainly in the southeast of the country. The fires, which peaked during December and January, have since been contained and extinguished.
More than half of all Australians have been directly affected by the bushfire crisis, including millions whose health has been affected. As of March 9, the fires, unprecedented for Australia in terms of duration and intensity, burned an estimated 18.6 million hectares, destroyed over 5,900 buildings, and killed at least 34 people. However, smoke pollution that blanketed the country’s southeast during the bushfire may have killed more than 400 people, according to the estimate published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
2. Massive Floods in Indonesia
Floods in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta and nearby towns in the early hours of January 1, killed 66 people and forced almost 400,000 to flee their homes. At least 182 neighborhoods had been submerged in the city’s greater area, inundating thousands of homes and buildings, including the presidential palace, and paralyzing transport networks.
Rains caused more rivers to burst their banks in greater Jakarta, sending muddy water up to five feet deep into residential and commercial areas. According to the country’s disaster management agency (BNPB), many of the victims drowned or were buried by landslides. Several died of hypothermia and electric shocks. The death toll is rising as relief efforts continue desperately to uncover the carnage.
The 2020 Delhi riots included multiple waves of bloodshed, property destruction, and rioting that killed 53 people, most of whom were Muslims who were shot, slashed with repeated blows, or set on fire by Hindu mobs in North East Delhi beginning on the night of February 23.
Paramilitary forces— the Rapid Action Force (RPF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)—were deployed amid allegations of inaction and even complicity of Delhi Police personnel in the clashes.
The events were the result of fallout from the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the dangerous rhetoric employed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi’s city elections, and the mob incitement by a BJP leader to violently remove a group of Muslims who were blocking a road in the capital’s north-west to protest against the legislation.
Red-hot lava spewed out of the Taal volcano in the Philippines on January 12 after a sudden eruption of ash and steam forced villagers to flee and also shut down Manila’s international airport, offices, and schools.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage from the Taal volcano’s eruption south of the capital. But clouds of ash blew more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) north, reaching the bustling capital, Manila, and forcing the shutdown of the country’s main airport canceling more than 240 international and domestic flights.
A total of 41 people were killed and more than 1,600 were injured in eastern Turkey after an earthquake rattled the region on January 24. The 6.7 magnitude quake struck near the town of Service, in eastern Elazig province, causing at least 10 buildings to collapse, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said. The earthquake was felt in the neighboring provinces of Diyarbakır, Malatya, and Adıyaman, and the neighboring countries of Armenia, Syria, and Iran.
About 1,607 people were hospitalized, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management President (AFAD) said.
Another powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck in the Caribbean on January 28, prompting brief tsunami warnings and office evacuations as far away as Florida.
The quake hit between Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cuba at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. It is the largest earthquake in the Caribbean since 1946. Some offices were temporarily evacuated in Miami and parts of Jamaica.
6. Locusts swarm in East Africa
Hundreds of billions of locusts swarmed through parts of East Africa and South Asia in the worst infestation for a quarter of a century, threatening the food supply of tens of millions. The Food and Agricultural Organization said that the locusts could affect the food security of 25 million people.
City-sized swarms of the dreaded pests wrought havoc as they descend on crops and pasturelands, devouring everything in a matter of hours. The scale of the locust outbreak, which affected seven East African countries, was like nothing in recent memory.
7. Gas plant explosion in Lagos, Nigeria
An explosion at a gas processing plant on March 15 killed at least 15 people and destroyed about 50 buildings after a fire broke out in a suburb of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said the explosion was triggered after a truck hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant near the corporation’s pipeline in the Abule Ado area of Lagos state.
The impact of the explosion led to the collapse of nearby houses, damaged NNPC’s pipeline, and caused the corporation to halt pumping operations on the Atlas Cove-Mosimi pipeline, the state-owned oil company said in a statement.
8. Massive Beirut explosion
A massive explosion shattered Beirut on August 4, 2020, compounding the ongoing political and economic crises that have gripped Lebanon throughout the past year.
The blast emanated from Beirut’s port, where 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate was being stored. At least 190 people were killed, over 6,000 injured, and hundreds of thousands were displaced. Whole neighborhoods were shattered, with estimates of more than $5 billion worth of damage. The explosion reignited anti-government protests, leading to the resignation of short-lived Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government.
Disrupt: to throw into disorder, to interrupt the normal order of things.
Are disruptions becoming more frequent or are they getting worse in intensity naturally — or is the global communications system just better than before? Perhaps it doesn’t really matter.
What does matter is how we respond to disruptions. Are we getting better at responding appropriately or have we become complacent? Let’s look at the situation with a clear head.
- According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, Since 2000, over 1 million people worldwide have died from natural disasters, with the cost of damage estimated at over $1.7 trillion.
- Concerning Earthquakes– Earthquakes in populated places are far more noticed than the many that occur in remote regions, so when, by chance, a run of earthquakes hit population centers, it appears that the number of events has increased. Also, there are more people at risk. Population increases mean that there are more people than ever before in earthquake-prone regions. So, although the number of earthquakes has consistently remained the same, the impact of each earthquake increases.
- Concerning Volcanoes- The apparent increase in activity reflects increases in populations living near volcanoes to observe eruptions and improvements in communication technologies to report those eruptions.
- When asked about a terrorist attack killing 100,000 or more people before 2050, half of an international panel of experts rated the likelihood very high, while the other half deemed it impossible. Terrorism remains a grossly misunderstood phenomenon.
I am going to stop there with these observations. The problem is, that there is absolutely no consensus as to a solution to these disruptions. What seems clear to me is that global leadership has decided to minimize the risk, rather than to implement bold measures to overcome them. Many of us are coming to a place where we are willing to accept a certain amount of loss and disruption as long as it remains below a certain threshold. That threshold needs to be articulated.
So what is the proper response in a day of emerging disruptions, tragedies, and catastrophes? How can I be responsible in a day when there is so much destruction, disorder, and chaos? One of the first things which comes to my mind is from a passage in the Bible, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (from Luke 12:48). We are responsible for caring for what has been given to us, and for those to whom little has been given.
Disaster risk management is a part of everyone’s life. The only difference is how willing one is, to engage in sound practices of preparation. There are two actions that we will all take, preparedness and response. How well you accomplish the first task will determine your capacity to do the latter.
In the aftermath of a disaster, the general population, in public as well as in private institutions, tend to rely on first-response entities: the fire department, the civil defense league, and/or emergency assistance offices. There are several actions that can be taken however before a disaster occurs to improve coordination and immediate response. These actions can help communities become better prepared, especially when they have to face such situations more and more frequently.
Preparedness and response are two important components of disaster risk management which aim to build cities and to prepare its inhabitants to take into account the disaster risks. We all must be prepared, and we all are responsible for our governments, the public and private sectors, our communities, our families, and most of all, ourselves.
Variables you should consider in a preparedness and response (P&R) plan.
- Be informed. What are the threats that exist for you in your region? -Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, terrorist attacks…?
- Make a plan. Develop a P&R plan which is consistent with the threats that are faced by your community and yourself.
- Design a kit. Research and gather the essential supplies to put into your family’s survival kit. Add a little extra for others who will undoubtedly not be prepared.
I will save the specifics for such a plan and kit for another time. -An easy online search can provide you with all the information you need to begin today, to build your family’s preparedness and response plan.
Here is a very intriguing video on how foreign governments are investing heavily in higher education in the USA. You will see that there is more than meets the eye.
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: [email protected]
Death toll from floods in Bangladesh rises to 217… https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/death-toll-from-floods-in-bangladesh-rises-to-217/1942956
Sichuan hit by China’s biggest flood in 70 years, Three Gorges downstream… https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3989041
Sudan: Dozens dead, thousands of homes destroyed by floods… https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/sudan-dozens-dead-thousands-homes-destroyed-floods-200816095143076.html
10 Natural Disasters That Have Already Happened In Just 5 Months Of 2020…
Environmental disasters across world in June 2020… https://www.aa.com.tr/en/environment/environmental-disasters-across-world-in-june-2020/1895500