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The Year of Living Dangerously
Jamais Cascio, 23 Dec 05

2005 -- the hottest or second-hottest year since we started keeping records in the 1880s -- saw quite a remarkable collection of massive natural disasters. Some, like the South Asian tsunami (at the very end of 2004, but count it anyway) and the Pakistan earthquake in October, had no human triggers, and even the massive hurricanes can't be definitively blamed on global warming. But a provocative (and unsigned) Agence France-Presse piece argues that what we consider the "disaster" isn't the event but the result -- and those results are very much our fault:

From the Mississippi delta to the mountains of Kashmir and the beaches of the Andaman Sea, governments failed in almost every case to respect the basic laws of sustainable development.

In a nutshell, these rules are: don't house people in places that are at risk to disasters -- but if you do, respect natural defenses; keep the population growth to sensible limits; build wisely and ensure high safety standards in construction; and set up effective alert and response networks in the event disaster does strike.

This article tells a very WorldChanging story -- the need for sustainable development, response networks, and greater attention to the environment -- in a very non-WorldChanging way. What it says is that we've screwed things up, but we know what to do to make things better, if we're willing to try. It's an important essay, if you can read past the blame and dismissal.

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