Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Tsunami Death Toll a Drop in the Bucket

Without a doubt, 140,000 deaths so far is certainly a tragedy. In the localities affected, the death toll and physical destruction certainly constitute a disaster.

However, on a global scale, this is not even a drop in the bucket. In fact, it's not even unusual.

There are roughly 6,000,000,000 (6 billion) people living on Earth today. To make even a minor (1%) dent in the population, we'd need to have 60,000,000 (60 million) people die.

If we inflate the tsunami numbers to 600,000 dead, that's a mere 1/100th of 1% of the world's population. If we inflate them to 6,000,000, we're still only up to 1/10 of 1% of the population.

In the time since the tsunami, roughly the same number of people have died of AIDS. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are living in abject poverty, starving, and diseased.

Where is the world's compassion for those people? It's sickening to watch the news. Ongoing problems in the world are blithely ignored, but as long as you've got a good sound bite or video clip to go with your tragedy, North Americans will cry on the news and go on and on about compassion and the need for relief funds. It shouldn't be surprising, I suppose. This myopic vision is a defining characteristic of human society.

Burgeoning human population and enthusiastic use of technology without thought of consequences has thrown the Earth's ecosystem as a whole out of balance. In just the past hundred years, humans have accounted for countless extinctions of plant and animal species, changed the Earth's climate, and dramatically increased our own population.

In many ways, natural disasters such as extreme weather (from hurricanes to droughts), earthquakes, and outbreaks of new and old diseases, can be interpreted as Mother Nature trying to restore balance to the Earth.

As a species, we need to wake up and start treating our home with respect. We have to curtail population growth, and live in a sustainable manner. We also need to devise effective solutions to ongoing problems in the world.

Otherwise we're playing chicken with Mother Nature, and we're going to be unprepared when she decides to make a major correction to human population.

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