Haiti- a Taste of What’s to Come?

I’m writing this on Tuesday evening, January 19th, the day the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Mumia abu-Jamal that a lower court decision vacating his death sentence must be reconsidered by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. While the decision is not a complete disaster, Mumia is one step closer tonight to having his death sentence reinstated. This evening I’ve also learned the results of the special election to fill Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts. That a real turkey, Scott Brown, beat the Democratic Party machine’s chosen candidate, Martha Coakley, demonstrates the bankruptcy of the party that promised sweeping change yet produced almost none.

There is little good news, but on this gloomy evening I wish to address something far worse than either of these distressing events. (I’ll write more about Mumia’s case in a later posting.)

I’ve been watching the horrific disaster in Haiti. There are perhaps 200,000 dead, more than 1,000,000 homeless and up to 3,000,000, one third of Haiti’s entire population, in desperate need.

Perhaps we should take heart because the world is mobilizing to help Haiti. But I see, one week on, how the scale of this catastrophe has demonstrated our civilization’s limited ability to cope with the calamities we may soon face. No one asked Scott Brown, our next Senator, how many miles to the gallon he was getting as he tooled around our state in his colossal extended-cab pickup truck that he featured in his campaign commercials. Of course, he doesn’t care, because he denies that humans have anything to do with global warming. In fact, he’s not even sure global warming is taking place! Watching this unfold, I realize that the Democrats’ bankruptcy may result in another period of Republican ascendancy, and that in turn, spells environmental ruin.

So as the world struggles to cope with 200,000 dead and 1,000,000 homeless, I wonder what horrors await us if we generate an environmental collapse that reduces our planet’s productive capacity by a factor of 10 or even more. I’m not Chicken Little; the handwriting for this is on the wall. What does the Haitian earthquake teach us about the world’s governments' collective ability to cope with two hundred million, as opposed to two hundred thousand, dead? A billion, instead of a million, homeless? It is clear that we can’t handle it.

Haiti must be our canary in the coal mine. It isn’t too late, but we must come to our senses quickly. Otherwise what we are witnessing in Haiti is just a small taste of what is coming.

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