Subject: Viridian Note 00107: Viridian Disasters

Key concepts: Viridian disasters, cyclones, India

Attention Conservation Notice: The ever-rising toll of unprecedented weather disasters can be quite numbing.

Entries in the Viridian Solar Switchplate Contest: This contest expires November 20, 01999.

(((bruces remarks: The mind boggles at the extent of human suffering from these Bay of Bengal cyclones, which occur with machine-like regularity. However, today's mega-storm reportage has a number of novel aspects, so many that I had to footnote them.)))

Source: Los Angeles Times wire, Associated Press,
Austin American Statesman page A2, November 3, 1999

"Cyclone strands 1 million in eastern India

by Dexter Filkins, Los Angeles Times

"More than 1 million people remained marooned Tuesday in the villages of India's ravaged Eastern Coast, victims of a massive cyclone that tore through this impoverished region (1) and overwhelmed the government's attempts to provide relief. (2)

"Survivors clung to the tops of coconut trees.(3)
Bodies clogged waterways.(4) Herds of cattle lay dead in filthy water.(5) Hungry people stormed food convoys (6), while the army launched a spirited but inadequate campaign to airdrop supplies to villagers (7) crowded on the small islands of solid ground that dot the miles of flooded plains.

"Four days after the cyclone rode in from the Bay of
Bengal with 155 mph winds and 10-foot waves, Indian officials said they had failed to reach the overwhelming majority of the 15,000 villages submerged or surrounded by the floods, high tides and rains. At least 30,000 people were feared trapped inside cyclone shelters, buildings perched on stilts (8) that have so far proved beyond the reach of aid officials.

"Estimates of the number of people killed in the storm
continue to range widely, with most officials predicting that the body count will top 5,000. (...)

"In the Orissa state capital, Bhubaneswar, 'There has
been no electricity for three days. We have no water.(9) We are barely surviving,' said local reporter Debashis Bhattacharyya, reached on one of the few functioning satellite telephones. (10)

"Bijay Mahapatra, a local politician who toured the
devastated port of Paradwip, said he saw hundreds of animal carcasses floating in the street. Dump trucks were called in to haul them away, but he said epidemics had already been reported. (...)

"Tens of thousands of people lined the roads Tuesday
waiting for helicopters and trucks to bring food and water. Some said they had already been forced to drink the water they stood in. (11)"

1. "Impoverished regions" aren't spewing most of the

Greenhouse gases, but because of their meager emergency services, "impoverished regions" get clobbered to an extent that is all out of proportion to their enviromental crimes. You can take it as a general Viridian principle that the world's most nearly natural regions suffer most intensely from unnatural disasters.

2. Overwhelmed human infrastructure is the signature of a

"Wexelblat-style" Viridian Disaster. The collapse of relief infrastructure will become intensely politicized, because there is someone handy to blame there. The underlying problem, global warming, will be shoved to the back of the queue, because it's too large and nebulous for partisan advantage.

3. A nice concrete image here. Viridian disasters are marked by their unheimlich and uncanny elements, which can be promoted to suggest that our climate is becoming not merely hotter, but unhinged.

4. Presumably, animal bodies clogging waterways. It's amazing how few people die in floods, when even hundreds of miles of heavily populated areas are underwater.

5. Death is not the signature of the Greenhouse Effect.

It's not about Apocalypse; it's all about squalor. Filth is the signature of the Greenhouse Effect: damp, septic, reeking, clinging filth, with a nasty smell that will probably linger all the way to the next record- breaking storm.

  1. Perhaps some day the victims will wise up and storm coal mines instead.

  2. The Indian Army is a spirited outfit. The Army may be outmatched by this storm, but they won't give up. They'll just demand more money, more equipment, and more recruits. As disaster rates increase, we can predict increasingly militarization of Indian society. In emerging nations, the Army is traditionally one of the few institutions that can get things done in a hurry. Emerging "emergency nations" will have to lean more and more on martial law.

  3. I'm very interested in the design elements of these Indian "cyclone shelters perched on stilts." One can imagine people all over the world coming to live in these things. If the seas start rising, they're bound to boom in popularity.

  4. No water in the midst of unprecedented floods. Oxymorons like this are underpromoted in disaster coverage.

  5. Nice 90s touch with the satellite telephone. Maybe there's an Iridium market after all.

  6. Sooner or later, we're all forced to drink the water we stand in. Just like we're forced to breathe the atmosphere that we contaminate.

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