Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Little Perspective

Frightening and tragic news keeps coming from Japan, including the latest reports of potential nuclear catastrophe, with presumed partial meltdowns at two reactors.   

In addition to extending heartfelt sympathy to the people of Japan, I guess I mostly want to echo Juan Cole:  "Every once in a while, amidst our petty wars and squabbles with each other, Nature reminds us that the real threat to humankind comes from her, not from other human beings. Climate change is human-driven, but its danger is in unleashing uncontrollable natural forces of immense power. We are still defenseless against a meteor strike of the sort that helped polish off the dinosaurs. And, we lack good defenses against tsunamis. Unless we can put aside our divisions and work effectively together on these natural threats, humans remain in extreme danger as a species."

But, I also can't help being a little petty.  I feel it is necessary to point out, as Think Progress notes, that the budget cuts House Republicans passed (which were rejected by the Senate) would have cut funding to NOAA, the agency responsible for monitoring, providing early warnings for and responding to tsunamis, hurricanes and other natural disasters.  Not to be dissuaded, yesterday, the House Appropriations Chair introduced a new continuing resolution to fund the government for the next three weeks which included more than $100 million in cuts to NOAA, as well as substantial cuts to the U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors earthquakes, and the National Forest Service, which fights forest fires.


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