Saturday, 14 May 2011

Weber's Bastards vs Natural Disasters

In his book called, Voltaire's Bastards, John Ralston Saul talks about Robert McNamara - the US Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson (1961-1968) - who, having come to the conclusion that an all-out nuclear war was unsurvivable, thus making conventional warheads effectively useless, thought up the idea of making "tactical" nuclear weapons - in effect, dirty bombs - I guess to make a nuclear exchange between the US and the USSR a bit more palatable, at least "limited".

I can't help but think of McNamara (and his ilk) when I see on the news broadcasts about the "controlled" flooding in the US and here in Manitoba. It's not only because of the unbelievable sacrifice people are being asked to make, but mainly because of the whole notion of ignorant bureaucrats far, far away making decisions for people who actually live on the ground without having actually lived in the environment and conditions themselves - hey, this is "just a job".

Aboriginal communities know this all too well where we were plopped down in areas that make no economic or ecological sense, only that we were not seen and not hear.

I don't know of anyone who actually makes a living (engineers and geologists in this case) making such bad decisions as what has come to past without having protested some that to build in an area without some real planning was asking for disaster. I say this for a couple of reasons: 1) economics with political buy-in usually has the final say in "civil" planning; 2) thoughts of mitigation (from the political realm) have only come out in the last couple of weeks though scientists and engineers seem to have known of these possibilities for years and years.

Granted, this flooding is somewhat regular and predictable even though it is still a natural phenomenon. But to say that it is a "natural disaster" is somewhat stretching it. The Egyptians, for eg, seem to have licked the regular flooding of the Nile since time immemorial through intelligent planning actually. Also, I think the responsible Egyptian engineers and planners do actually live in the areas at risk and know how to plan for it.

This is the difference between the old world and the new. Bureaucrats in ivory towers deciding our fates. I bet you that it was also bureaucrats in multinational corporations who decided to place the nuclear power plants in Japan, some, no doubt, who came from Canada. Wormtongues.

Jay

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