Saturday, March 12, 2011

Disaster Preparedness

Sympathy, support and prayers go out today to the people of the Japan and the devastation suffered from yesterday's earthquake and Tsunami. 
The true horror of (literally) earth shaking events like these are beyond the imagination.
And yet, despite what will undoubtedly be a high death toll, reality is that it could be so much worse if not for the earthquake preparedness of Japan. This is evidenced by an early earthquake warning system and construction of buildings able to withstand impact of an 8.9 quake.   Apparently, the people of Japan have even been yearly drilled for quake preparedness. 
Japan, in fact, deserves much praise and serves as model for disaster preparedness for other countries of the world.
The focus of this journal is, however, animal and wildlife issues.
While a quake on the other side of the world might not seem relevant to the issues faced in the states regarding our relationship to wildlife and avoidance of bird and airline collisions, there does seem to be relevance and questions to be raised.
For example:  If humans are able to construct tall buildings able to withstand the impact of powerful earthquakes, how is it that we are not able to build planes able to safely withstand collision with a ten pound bird?
The question almost seems laughable and unreal.  And yet, it is an inconvenient truth..
More than once, airliners have crashed or had to emergency land after hitting only one bird.
In the case of flight 1549, the airliner that landed in the Hudson (and has served as excuse for killing thousands of Canada geese), it was only two birds that supposedly "caused the engines to fail."  (Of course the engines were already compromised before heading into the skies that fateful day, but that is a whole other issue.)
We are talking about birds as small as sea gulls or even a flock of starlings able to literally "take down" airliners that weigh many, many tons!  How is that even possible?
It is truly remarkable and awe-inspiring that humans can construct tall buildings able to withstand powerful earthquakes.
By contrast, it is borderline disgraceful that we cannot build a plane able to withstand collision with a bird.
It seems to be a case of having -- or not having the will to do something.
Obviously, we don't have the option of altering the earth's "fault" plates or oceans in order to avoid earthquakes or Tsumanis.
But, we can construct better buildings.
But, nor should we think we have the option of killing billions of birds rather than building better planes.
Additionally, if we have the technology to "early warn" of earthquakes, why aren't airline industries using the available technology (avian radar) to warn of birds passing through air space?
Is it simply easier to shift responsibility to cities to "solve their bird problems" rather than using and developing state of the art radar systems to "early warn" of bird flyovers?
I realize these questions may sound like, "Hey, if we can send a man to the moon, why can't we cure the common cold?" but, in fact, they are not.
"Necessity is the mother of invention," as the saying goes.
We find ways to minimize human death tolls in times of natural disasters because we can't alter weather or the earth's plates.
And so too, should we find ways of minimizing casualties (both human and animal) in times of conflicts with nature.
Our "war" is not with nature itself. 
Rather, our imperative is to seek ways to responsibility cope with the challenges nature throws out to us whether in the forms of storms or earthquakes -- or a flock of seagulls in the sky.  --- PCA

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