5 Lessons to Learn from Cyclone Nargis

I loathe the headlines that Yahoo feeds me before I can check my email even more than I loathe myself for clicking on the entertainment ones. (I’m a victim, here–they lure and entrap me.) But I thought I was reading one wrong today. I guess the numbers are in and the damages for the Myanmar cataclysm have been tallied.

Four billion dollars.

Wait, what? That’s it? Not that I’m a billionaire or anything, or that billionaires are responsible for saving the world with money, but isn’t that a paltry sum in the grand scheme of things? Seems like the League of Billionaires could just write a check for that. But that’s a side issue–for all I know they already have. What strikes me this morning is the difference between this amount and when plain old, not very interesting, already forgotten about hurricanes get tallied up in the southeastern United States.

Without even going to Hurricane Katrina, which is a tangled story of emotions, neglect, and politics that I don’t want to bump against lest I get distracted or attacked or–worse–shown ignorant, I can find horror readily enough comparing Myanmar’s cyclone to Hurricane Andrew, an event I distinctly remember reacting to in one of those infrequent outbursts that revealed just how thin the veneer of civility was that I had been coated in as res life leader at a college self-identified as all-embracing and tolerant. (I mean, who builds million-dollar houses in hurricane zones? And then complains about the damage?)

This is all I want to say:

65 people killed, 26 billion dollars of damage =/= 84,000 people confirmed killed, 54,000 people presumed dead, 4 billion dollars of damages

So what have we learned today?

1. Americans have a lot of stuff.
2. Americans are pretty safe.
3. North American weather prediction is pretty good.
4. North American weather communication is better.
5. Americans fleeing weather have somewhere to go.

I marvel again at the accident of birth that lets me live in America. Remind me of this post when I start complaining about how the earthquake damaged all my stuff and that we lost all our equity. Until then, feel free to chant along.


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