Sunday, November 4, 2012

How small we are before nature

I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the news coming out of New York and New Jersey concerning Sandy. Some of the news is good, some of it is not. The good news is that so many people are helping each other, volunteering for the relief help, and so on. The bad news is that there are still many areas without electricity, without heat, without water (no shower or toilet facilities), without phone connection; I know people who cannot return to their homes because of these problems. As a friend of mine on Facebook commented—“how small we are before nature, even in one of the most modern cities in the world”. It’s true. We like to think that we can tackle most of the tough things that life throws at us; most of the time we do. But sometimes we cannot, and not through any fault of our own. It’s worth thinking about. Most homes in New York and New Jersey get their gas and electricity from power companies like Con Edison, Hess and the like. If you lost electrical power for a week, your refrigerator would not work, nor would any other electrical device you might have. This means that any food you had in the refrigerator would eventually spoil; ditto for food in the freezers. Unless you had a backup generator, you would be stuck in a situation that many people find themselves in now in New York City boroughs and in New Jersey. Some of them cannot get out of their homes to buy food because the areas they live in remain flooded, or because they cannot use their cars due to lack of fuel. Even if they could buy food, there would be no way to store it without a functioning refrigerator. The question of course is whether there is food to be bought, since deliveries of foodstuffs have been limited or non-existent in some areas. The same is true for car fuel; it is running low and gas stations are reporting long lines at the pumps. As far as food preparation, people can prepare food using gas stoves, providing that the natural gas supply to the stoves is functioning. In Norway however, we would have a huge problem, since most stoves are electric, not gas. We thus would not be able to store food or prepare it. We would also be without shower and toilet facilities. We would not be able to charge our cell phones, even though the cell phone networks might be working. We would not have regular telephone service; we would not have internet or cable TV connections. This would impact on the amount of information we would be privy to, in terms of critical updates on the situation we were experiencing. We would be cut off, in other words, like many residents of New York and New Jersey are, and probably like many residents in Haiti and Cuba are, since they were the first to get hit by Sandy. It is truly hard to believe that given all our modern technology, that we are in fact at the mercy of nature. It is a fallacy to think that we have any real control over what nature can throw at us—hurricanes, storm surges, earthquakes, tsunamis, or tornadoes. We can prepare as best we can, and hope for the best.

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