Friday, November 15, 2013

Vulnerability to Nature

Our Vulnerability to the Elements
Brooke Warner
PHS 100A- Environmental Studies
Dr. Terrell
Warner Pacific College
 November 13, 2013

Our Vulnerability to the Elements
            Humans have so much power.  We have the power to create and destroy.  We can make choices in our lives; where we want to go, who we want to be.  The opportunities are nearly limitless.  There are only a few things in this world that we have absolutely no control over.  No matter of technology we create can cage the power and destruction that is a natural hazard.  Only God has control over these elements, and we can only try to predict and prepare for the power of the weather and the environment. 
            Natural disasters have taken their toll on our environment since the beginning of time.  As far back as when God commanded Noah to build the arc, because he was going to flood the Earth.  How we as a society can learn from these vulnerabilities is the key to advancing the knowledge of our environment (Slingo. 2012).  Natural hazards are deadly, but they do not necessarily have to be something we fear so long as we understand their power.
            Hurricanes are one of the great forces of nature that can destroy miles of a populated environment in a matter of minutes.  Beginning as a tropical disturbance in warm ocean waters with surface temperatures of at least 80 degrees, a hurricane is fed by the energy from the warm sea.  Once the storm reaches speeds of 38 miles an hour, it becomes known as a tropical depression (Withgott & Brennan. 2011).   A tropical depression becomes a tropical storm, and is given a name, when its sustained wind speeds top 39 miles an hour. When a storm’s sustained wind speeds reach 74 miles an hour it becomes a hurricane.  Hurricanes can be up to 600 miles across at speeds up to 200 miles per hour.  They are a massive storm that can last for weeks wreaking havoc on everything it touches.   We have the technology to predict when a storm is developing, and the ability to know approximately when it will reach land (National Geographic.  2013).
            My personal experience with hurricanes was over eight years ago in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Prior to Katrina, I spent a lot of my time in the “Big Easy.”  I was a flight attendant for America West Airlines, and my residency often changed due to where I was based.  I spent close to a year in New Orleans, and witnessed firsthand the power of these storms.  The fear that overwhelms you and the quick reactions and decisions that are required for safety and survival.
            While home over a long weekend, the news alerted the area of a tropical storm that was building in the Gulf of Mexico.  Meteorologists and Storm experts feared that this storm would develop into a full blown hurricane within a matter of hours and advised all local residents to evacuate their homes to a safer location.  Fearing for my life I gathered the items that I knew were the things I could not live without.  Family photos and heirlooms that could not be replaced, leaving behind my home and belongings, I began the drive up to Arkansas.   Fortunately the storm did not do the damage that was anticipated and only minor tree fallings and cosmetic damage were reported to homes and businesses.  Shortly after the storm I was relocated to Phoenix, Arizona.  A few months later, in August of 2005, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, doing un-repairable damage, which is still evident today.
            The evidence of these massive storms shows just how vulnerable our society is to the power of nature.  Understanding the effects we have on our environment, as well as the effects it has on us, is crucial to the protection against these hazards. 


Hurricanes, Engines of Destruction. (2013).  National Geographic.  Retrieved From:
Slingo, J.  (2012).  Society's Growing Vulnerability to Natural Hazards.  Environmental Science Institute.  University of Texas at Austin.  Retrieved From:
Withgott, J., & Brennan, S. (2011). Environment: The Science Behind The Stories. San
Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Can We Predict The Future?

No. Time and time again when ever pundits try to predict the future they get it wrong. The longer the prediction the "wronger" it gets! This weekend in Environmental Studies class we looked at the beginning of the movie Soylent Green, made in the 1970's and plotted in the 2020's. New York in 2020 had 40 million people and all vegetation had disappear from the surface of the earth. As the class made comments about the way that the beginning of the picture was presented one underlying idea was in everybody's mind: the technology was in no way we see today and for sure nothing like we will see in a few years in 2020. Thinking that in the 70's there was nothing like we have today related to mobil electronics and communications it is difficult to imagine how they could have predicted what we have now. So if we can't predict the future how can we plan?

Planning has to be done based on the relationship between what we want and what we can accomplish. Based on principles and values of a society that allow investments that lead to a better future. Think of the time where people in the USA were optimistic and had a tendency to "think big" both in the public and private sector. Governments got involved in huge infrastructural projects like dams, highways/roads, levies, ports, and other related to communication including the space program. Private enterprise got into the military industry, aviation, and in general production of goods and supplies.

And then there was the mixed effort where cities like Portland OR were able to bring together the public and private sectors to set the parameters that would allow growth of the city while guaranteeing livability for its citizens. Nohad Toulan who passed away a few days ago due to a unfortunate car accident in South America is an example of leadership, you can read more about him here:

This is an interesting video: