Friday, 15 January 2010

Disaster Proofing Our World

As we see the devastation in Haiti unfold around us, what is your reaction? Deep sadness? Frustration? Or a burning desire to do something about it?

For me, the great sadness drives the need to change things to improve this situation in the future. We might not be able to stop disasters, but we can sure as hell make things better.

Building with natural disasters in mind is probably the area we currently put the most effort into, but it still falls far short of the mark. It is improving, but at a heel dragging rate.

Rethinking construction from a person perspective would drive the focus in a new direction and enable us to explore more disaster enduring solutions.

The Person Perspective

Until we reach the possibly unreachable goal of disaster-proofing our world, or we stumble on another technique for survival such as mind-uploading or sealed virtual reality, there will always be a need to improve post-event rescue efforts. The unforgivable incompetency shown in the dealing of Katrina, the Tsunami and the current crisis is the perfect illustration of this.

Science and technology are increasingly creating new robotics, imaging techniques, and medical equipment. All we can hope is that this can be improved faster. We can go some way to improving education and encourage more people to enter more valuable fields such as engineering and science, instead of chasing dollars on a trading room floor, or trying to become a pop star when they have no interest in music, in the pursuit of money and fame.

With a growth in more practical sciences and technology created by a society with the desire to apply knowledge in more useful and benevolent ways, there would be a drive to improve technology in ways that save lives.

With this new focus, more scientific effort will be put into understanding, predicting and preventing disaster, as well as more efficient measures to save more people when it does happen.

More Emphasis on Life

The key is to put more emphasis on life – on survival. We see natural disasters often, and more often than not, are so desensitised that we ignore them. If they’re big enough (what is big enough? 1000 deaths? 10,000 deaths?) to make an emotional impact on us, we might send a cheque and get on with our lives. But whatever happens, we always still accept these deaths as inevitable.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

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