Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: Lessons learned in the aftermath .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Monday, September 05, 2005

Lessons learned in the aftermath

Well, it appears that the victims of Katrina's aftermath are finally getting the help they need, and that volunteers and relief supplies are getting the organization they need to do the most good. We learned a lot of lessons from this catastrophe, unfortunately at the expense of too many people's lives.

The first of which, is that an evacuation plan needs to be more than just saying "okay, everybody leave". I'm still hearing some people suggesting that the people left behind should have started walking out. Like you'd up and start walking away just before a hurricane.

Second lesson learned is that we need to rethink our risk vs. cost analysis model. Decisions were made to remove funding for levee system improvement, and it's turned out to be much more expensive to not have done so, to an estimated cost of $100 billion or so.

Third, that our National Guard remains at home to do the job they signed up for. They are supposed to be there to respond to emergencies at home, not to fight a war halfway around the world.

And finally, that human beings are still human. Despite different philosophies on social, spiritual and political ideologies, people from virtually every walk of life opened their hearts and wallets to help their fellow man, woman and child. From major corporations who donated millions and/or matched contributions, to public personas that gave huge chunks of cash, to the poorest among us who put more than they could afford into collection plates, it seems everyone was touched by this disaster and gave what they could to help alleviate the suffering of those in need. Even those with nothing took people in or showed up in person to try and help.

As an aside, I'm impressed how churches of all denominations are pitching in to help. Granted, that's what they should be doing, but I've been disheartened lately to hear so much hate speech coming from those who profess to serve God. The trend toward unchristianlike principles in supposedly Christian faiths disturbs me as a trend away from the teachings of Christ. Their response to this disaster restores my belief that God is alive and well and still inspires people to do good works.

As a skeptic, though, I wonder how well these lessons have been learned. Will our government learn that the economic loss from a disaster that could have been prevented, plus the human loss in both lives and livelihood, far outweighs the cost of preventive measures. Our economy will take a long time to fully recover, if it ever does. A few billion spent to prevent just such a disaster would have greatly diminished the impact of Katrina, would have left us with far more to work with to rebuild, and would have saved countless lives.

I also wonder if evacuation planning will change. I would hope so, since it's obvious how to fix it - have transportation available for those without, and plan in advance for a place to take them. Likewise the National Guard issue. Keep them in the state where they belong so that they can do the job they were recruited and trained for.

And finally, I hope that those of spiritual faith will continue to do good works, and not fall back into complacency where they can focus their efforts on trying to mold others into their ideal (which, unfortunately, is difficult for even them to achieve), and launching venomous attacks on those who believe differently than they do.

I'm a skeptic, but I'm also an optimist (I hope this doesn't create some sort of paradox). I believe that this tragedy has brought us closer together, and if we continue to work together, we can bring our country back into line with the ideals on which it was created. Respect, equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


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