Sunday, September 04, 2005

What Are These People Reading?

You can't escape the news of Hurricane Katrina even here. We are listening to coverage on the BBC, EuroNews, even (saints forgive us) CNN sometimes. The images and stories are appalling and everyone sends prayers from the heart for the poor people who have been wiped out. My email lists are equestrians of various flavours from all over the US and much of the concern has been how to mobilise resources to send aid.

At the same time, there has been a great deal of valid criticism of various aspects of government in the US that contributed to the magnitude of disaster. Many people are questioning why, if such reasonable publications as Scientific American and National Geographic have run articles detailing the capacity for the destruction of New Orleans in a storm such as this as early as 2001, the budget for the maintenance of the levee's was cut over the past few years and the wetlands around the south coast are allowed to degrade. Other people are asking why FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Authority) is being run by a person whose last job was the management of IAHA, an Arabian Horse registry and horse shows (and who left this position under a very dark cloud). You have to wonder about the quality of decision-making in the US these days. If the US has all these resources to spare in terms of the military efforts in Iraq, why did it take them almost a week to get people on the ground in their own country? I mean, after all, the storm was coming for some time and men and equipment could have been (but weren't) moved into strategic areas for later movement into needy areas. The failure of government bodies at all levels in a country that loves to trumpet how they are the model for democracy in the world leaves those of us who are as yet unblessed by such brilliance immensely grateful.

We have our own impending doom in Egypt in the form of the Aswan Dam. Built in the 70's before serious environmental impact statements and the like, it provides Egypt with electrical power, stable water sources, but at the same time has changed the weather in Upper Egypt, displaced an entire nation (the Nubians) and is built over a layer of limestone and a fault that could conceivably slip causing the dam to release the contents of Lake Nasser, the largest manmade lake in the world, into the Nile Valley. A Scientific American article from 1997 (can be found on the website if you search) details the scenario, which includes a thorough scrubbing of the entire Nile Valley. I take some hope from the fact that that they estimate about 6 days for the flow to reach Cairo, by which time I could hopefully get my family and livestock to higher ground in the desert, but the risk is there nevertheless. And then there will be the aftermath to deal with....

Are there plans in place to deal with such a catastrophe here? I doubt very, very much. Judging by the Minister of Agriculture's pronouncement over the locust swarm that passed through here a year or so ago, when he declared them to be harmless (Huh! Ask the people of Niger and Mali how harmless), the level of information being used by our government is pretty much on a par with the Americans. Congratulations, boys, you are as good as the US in this department...scary thought indeed. I guess that God will continue to to help those who help themselves, so get out there and read people. Know what's going on around you, what you need to deal with in the real or hypothetical future and take good care of yourselves.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

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J said...

New reader here, found your blog on Here in Korea. I've read a lot of your archives and love how you describe Egypt. Keep up the good work.

J
Germany Doesn't Suck

Stephanie said...

Maryanne,

I have been an avid reader of your blog for sometime. As a fellow horsewoman, I appreciate your devotion to your animals. You have a special flair for writing and I truly enjoy it. Thank you for taking the time to share your life with us. I feel fortunate to know you, even if it is only through your blog. Good luck with
the building of your new home!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

Crystal said...

Hurricane Katrina got major play here in the States and the nation was shocked and shamed. The first 2 days were a natural disaster, but the next 5 were a man-made disaster. I don't have a car, and I would be unable to evacuate too if ordered to leave Chicago, so there should have been alternative means of getting people out of the city. Of course, had the leevees not broke the flooding wouldn't have been near as bad, but budget cuts are rampant, to fund the war in Iraq. It's such a messy situation and the country is so divided.