By Jason Menard
Watching Hurricane Katrina tear its way through the American south-east, following closely on the heels of Dennis and Emily, and echoing the deadly 2004 Hurricane season, one could wonder if humanity’s arrogance is truly blinding us to reality.
We live in a world that we’ve increasingly been able to control. And what we don’t control, in large part, we understand. We’ve reduced the great mysteries of the world to their base elements and we push the boundaries of human exploration and potential each and every day.
But has the gift of knowledge robbed us of our essential common sense? Does this feeling of control and power that we feel towards Earth blind us to the fact that in a battle between man and nature, nature will always win out.
Our overconfidence regarding our place in the world borders on arrogance. For thousands of years, man survived by respecting nature and learning to settle in areas that offered protection from the elements. Now, some of us actively defy nature and choose to reside in regions despite the elements.
People are still flocking to certain parts of Florida, Louisiana, and the Carolinas — parts of the United States where it’s not a matter of if a hurricane will hit, but it’s only a question of when. Common sense dictates that if an area is frequently subject to violent weather, then perhaps one should find alternative locations for settlement. However, common sense isn’t all that common – especially when it comes to snagging that prime beachfront lot.
Of course, when the beachfront is blown up and through your house on a fairly regular basis, is it still worth it?
In watching the television coverage or reading news reports during hurricane season, we’re bombarded with images of unspeakable lose, devastating tragedy, and the awe-inspiring spectacle of nature at its most dramatic. And, inevitably, we’re presented with the fact that a certain number of people, despite the dire warnings of meteorologists and the pleadings of local and federal officials, stubbornly refuse to leave their homes and decide to risk their lives – and those of their families – in a battle against Mother Nature.
Areas that are still rebuilding from last year’s devastation are bracing for more damage this year. It’s a seemingly never-ending struggle against time and circumstance, but are the risks truly worth the rewards?
The answer would seem to be no, especially when we factor in the loss of human life. Hurricanes aren’t like lightning strikes – they’re predictable, regional, and, ultimately, avoidable. Other regions of the continent are subject to certain natural phenomenon on a regular basis: the northwest is a haven for forest fires, the northeast finds itself in winter’s icy grip each year, and the southwest is on shaky ground – literally, with significant fault lines along the coast. For the most part, the risks of living in these areas fall under the category of acceptable.
We can’t protect ourselves from everything, but we should be at the point where we can do a risk analysis and find that the benefits outweigh the potential for disaster. But even the most optimistic of us could find that living in a neck of the woods that hurricanes frequent would be a little on the unfathomable side.
This isn’t a question of living in an area despite the presence of a few tough-looking customers hanging out on the street corner at night. This isn’t a matter of making a stand by sticking it out and improving the neighbourhood. Mother Nature leads a pretty bad-ass gang, and it’s hard to make the neighbourhood a better place to live when it’s been strewn across six counties. By now humanity should have learned when and where to pick its battles.
Our ancestors knew better than to live right in the path of nature’s fury. So why is it that we’ve chosen to forget those lessons? Progress, evolution, and technology have given us the knowledge and capability to understand the consequences of our actions. Unfortunately, the passage of time has also brought with it the arrogance to believe that we are removed from the natural order and, in fact sit above it — instead of just playing a part.
We need not all live in fear of the elements, head to high ground, and live in hermetically sealed bubbles. The fact of the matter is that we don’t need to remove ourselves from nature – we just have to respect it.
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