Disaster World

Texas is burning, and not like the Clash warned London would.
Months of no rainfall, and high temperatures regularly over 100 degrees have
conspired to turn the state into a tinderbox. It was only a matter of time

Bastrop fire
CC-licensed by Stephen To

Boingboing.net contributor Jasmina Tesanovic visited the wildfires this
past weekend to report on them. There was a line in her article that struck
a chord in me. It was a summation line, and there was a focus on science
that interested me less. But the first part—the first part of the line

Disaster scenes are the new normality: with blurry but efficient
technologies that witness the death of progress, the denial of science.

Disaster scenes ARE the new normal. With blurry but always available
technologies, we see into the worst days, every day.

I remember spending the afternoon of 9/11/01 pasted to the television
screen. What would my reaction be today? Would I get streaming video from
inside the buildings? Would I see more that I couldn’t unsee? Would my
trauma, felt 80 miles away from Ground Zero, color my future? Change how I
see future disasters? Would my perceptions of future risks have been

I like to talk about how we need to engage our publics before an emergency
in the interest of getting them ready. But at the end of the day, some will
be ready and most won’t be. Like always.

I wonder, though, how much thinking have we done for after the emergency.
After the spotlight has moved on and those most closely affected begin
silently rebuilding. What then?

Do we use that disaster to teach our publics how to get ready for next time?
Do we just go back to regularly scheduled programming? Do we reach out to
those affected by the visceral images that come from seemingly everywhere in
a disaster? Do we rethink what we do? Do we tell the public what we found
after rethinking?

The world is an increasingly violent place with cameras everywhere. And we
have no control over what people see. Since what they’ve seen affects what
we do, what can we do to mitigate the trauma that is inflicted and do we
have a responsibility to do that?


One thought on “Disaster World”

  1. When I visited Israel several years ago to study their MCI response systems one of the over riding themes was returning life to normal as quickly as possible. Intersections re-opened within hours. Storefronts were re-occupied. A small, humble memorial was placed soon after and life goes on. My hunch is that as individuals are readieness and ability to return to normal is on a continuum. Some of us can/need to do it quickly. Others can/need a gradual process. And the rest are somewhere in between.

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