Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti, Easter Island, and Denial...

First, I will express my public sorrow for the suffering in Haiti. I am powerless to do anything beyond that, and, to date, it appears that despite massive political interventions and international aid, the world community has been powerless, too.

Take a hard look at Haiti. Nope. HARDER. (Haiti has been a humanitarian crisis for centuries. The earth quake only brought it to the front pages.)

What do you see?

Read the history available on the web on Easter Island.

What do you see?

Here is a sad indictment... but before I get to it, I want to disabuse you of thinking that the Dominican Republic, with which Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola is somehow better at handling their allotment of the island's land (in truth, DR's population is half that of Haiti per square mile). They are not. They are just better at the tourist trade.

Take away Oil imports from ANY (or all) Caribbean island, and in time you will have a humanitarian crisis of Biblical proportions. Without Oil they cannot support their populations under ANY circumstance with the possible (but doubtful) exception of Cuba (and Trinidad, but they are not technically in the Caribbean). Within the decade, Oil imports into most of these islands will approach zero.

And there is nothing we can do about it.

What was the difference between New Orleans and Haiti? Not much. A natural disaster visited each city and the only reason the loss of life was not in the 10's of thousands in New Orleans was because of the resources of the U.S. Take away U.S. oil imports, throw in a L.A. earthquake or a South Florida hurricane... and Viola! A humanitarian crisis EVERY BIT as f***ed up as Haiti. "There but for the grace of G-d go I", but eventually it will be us, too.

Living in places with 10 - 30 million people at the intersection of an Act of G-d and Nature's Fury is sure to give you your money's worth at some point in the future.

Nature is a b*tch, and it is impossible to know the mind of G-d.

Take a good, hard look at Haiti...

What do you see?


Anonymous said...

In the Washington Post we are seeing all kinds of grandiose claims that the REBUILDING OF THE ENTIRE NATION OF HAITI will be one of the great mega-projects of the next decade.

The disconnect with reality is fearsome.

Anonymous said...

To rebuild, you first need a build to re.

Gravitar Profundus said...

neither haiti nor new orleans were natural disasters in and of themselves. new orleans drowned because the levees were not built to the standards claimed. when katrina blew thru, it was maybe mid to high cat 2. nothing to fly a kite in, but nothing that should have busted the levees either (and i'll ignore for the moment whether their should ever have been neighborhoods built in the areas that got flooded). southern mississippi,,, now THAT was where katrina was a natural disaster. south dade county in '92 from hurricane andrew, THAT was a natural disaster.

haiti's destruction is largely the result of a horribly managed "government". i put it in quotes because in too many ways, that place hasn't been properly governed probably ever. shaking ground doesn't hurt people unless they are unlucky enough to be standing where the ground opens up or a dislodged boulder rolls on them. buildings collapsing on people because they were built on top of a fault line with no reinforcement kills a lot. granted a quake this size would damage LA and SF pretty badly, but you wouldn't see the death and destruction you see in haiti. and afterwards there are enough modes of access to allow supplies into those areas, but not in haiti.

the only reason this is an act of god is in the sense that perhaps god made men so flawed that they could collectively allow such a dangerous set of circumstances to come together for such an extended period of time that anytime nature breathes or belches in the area, many of the locals need burying.

Dan said...

I remember reading some years ago that the best built structures in Haiti were bridges built by the USMC in the early 30s. Were we to go back and rebuild now it would be beyond ironic.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

I thank you for your comments.

I am very curious to see how folks see Haiti after some hard thought.

Feel free to expound.

Dan said...

A similar intensity quake along the New Madrid fault outside St. Louis would produce much greater devastation. A similar intensity quake along the Meers fault outside Oklahoma City would produce similar devastation. There is a new fault recently discovered in Arkansas, the structures around it are not built to withstand earthquakes… Are they all corrupt?

There certainly is a lot wrong with governance in Haiti, but this is an act of God, and simply beyond what they or anyone else could deal with. I’m not so sure our response will be much better than Katrina to any new disaster for at least a generation. Our current leaders aren’t leaders and indecision is the order of the day.

tweell said...

Overpopulation, deforestation, resource plundering, corruption. I remember picking up Haitian boat people almost thirty years ago, seeing overloaded boats that I wouldn't take fishing on a pond.
The slaves successfully revolted, freed themselves from France (although France managed to suck out a large amount of wealth) and have been mismanaging the place ever since. Now these folks are agitating, complaining that Uncle Sugar isn't coming to their rescue fast enough.

Stephen B. said...

I see Haiti as a bellwether signal of most, if not all of our modern civilization's inability to deal with life anymore.

More and more of our world is built around complex economies and systems that are increasingly vulnerable because of their complexity, dependency on narrow, yet long supply lines, and extreme over-specialization of labor. Combine all this with world governments that are skimming ever more profits off of the shrinking pool of workers that are actually making and doing things of value, while governments are simultaneously setting up systems to reward low or completely unproductive, parasitic people, then jack up the price and lower the availability of cheap energy that at least partially covers up the shortcomings of this vast system, and I see more, massive social failures such as this in the future.

I am not comfortable saying this for several reasons. First, I am not much of a world traveler and maybe my opinion of economic and social situations around the rest of the world is overly pessimistic, but based on what I see around me, working as I do in residential treatment, where less and less of my coworkers can cook a competent meal, change a flat tire, fix the heat by resetting an thermostat a student has tampered with, refill a toilet paper dispenser, let alone do anything such as provide food and water for themselves and their family for a week or so while the community recovers from a storm or other natural disaster. When I see legions of people that cannot do anything beyond fix their Internet connection in their office cubicle, while legions of poor people on Hispaniola stand around demanding food or water because they and their government could not stockpile even a few days' supplies. When I see all of this, then think of the resource depletion that the world community is facing - then I think of the additional example of New Orleans and Katrina, I think our overall situation is FAR more f'ed up than I once thought and all the US Government's printing press dollars they could possibly churn out won't begin to buy our way out of this (of course), though the pols at the top might continue to pretend that more government programs will actually help. (!)

May Heaven help us, because surely most of us cannot help ourselves anymore, rich or poor, first, second or third world locations be dammed.

As a long time Catholic, I *want* to be understanding and compassionate, but try as I may to help the helpless, even just around me.....Oh, do I ever realize that we HAVE a problem.

bureaucrat said...

The atheist in me finds no fault from God, as I question his existence. This whole planet is covered with plates that have been rubbing against each other and causing earthquakes for eons. If you are lucky enough to pick a place to live that is stable, you prosper (like in the U.S.) If you are stuck in Pakistan, your life will be a lesser one.

Haiti has nothing for sale. I was surprised to find out there is only 10 million people there. I was further surprised to find out they even HAD 2 & 3 story buildings. The U.S. and other countries will provide help to a point. But without anything to drive their economy, Haiti will devolve backward.

In Chicago, we've been replacing the public housing (a la Haiti) with new low-rise complexes, and I supposed peoples' lives are a little better. But this government bailout mentality that funded those low-rises and is funding the rescue of Haiti and the rest of the world is built on a $12.3 trillion Federal deficit which is going to increase a trillion a year for the next 10 years at least. This cannot go on.

The only real question is .. can we transition governments and economies to something else fast enough, or are a lot of unfunded needs going to hurt a lot of people. Cheap energy covered up a LOT of problems.

bureaucrat said...

Pardon me .. a $12.3 trillion DEBT.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Thanks Stephan B, keep them coming.

tweell said...

There's a whole bunch of money that's been raised for Haiti relief. The figure I saw was a billion dollars or so. If 20% actually makes it to Haiti, I'll be surprised. UN relief funds are generally 10% efficient, 90% going towards themselves. Bet on some of these Haiti relief funds providing less than that, if anything. There are some organizations that are very efficient at providing aid, the great majority being religious groups (including Muslims, charity is something they're rather good at).
The US military does pretty well at emergency relief, even with the inevitable waste of an organization designed for war, but their main contribution will be imposing order (not a small thing, that).

Publius said...

From the correspondence between Voltair and Rousseau on the Lisbon earthquake of 1755(Rousseau speaking here):

I do not see how one can search for the source of moral evil anywhere but in man.... Moreover ... the majority of our physical misfortunes are also our work. Without leaving your Lisbon subject, concede, for example, that it was hardly nature that there brought together twenty-thousand houses of six or seven stories. If the residents of this large city had been more evenly dispersed and less densely housed, the losses would have been fewer or perhaps none at all. Everyone would have fled at the first shock. But many obstinately remained . . . to expose themselves to additional earth tremors because what they would have had to leave behind was worth more than what they could carry away. How many unfortunates perished in this disaster through the desire to fetch their clothing, papers, or money? . . .

There are often events that afflict us . . . that lose a lot of their horror when we examine them closely. I learned in Zadig, and nature daily confirms my lesson, that a rapid death is not always a true misfortune, and that it can sometimes be considered a relative blessing. Of the many persons crushed under Lisbon's ruins, some without doubt escaped greater misfortunes, and . . . it is not certain that a single one of these unfortunates suffered more than if, in the normal course of events, he had awaited [a more normal] death to overtake him after long agonies. Was death [in the ruins] a sadder end than that of a dying person overburdened with useless treatments, whose notary and heirs do not allow him a respite, whom the doctors kill in his own bed at their leisure, and whom the barbarous priests artfully try to make relish death? For me, I see everywhere that the misfortunes nature imposes upon us are less cruel than those which we add to them....