January 1, 2005
Many seem eager to use the Great Tsunami of 2004 to make a social or political point.
Greenpeace sees it as a sign of how coastal development and global warming are putting more humans at risk. A U.N. official said the tragedy revealed Western nations as "stingy" and suggested they consider raising taxes before retreating from that remark.
The Denver Post views the disaster in Asia as a reason to hike the budgets of the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Our own view is that nature has ravaged human settlements since before recorded history and will continue to do so for as long as the species survives.
But nature's blows can indeed be softened. What is striking about natural disasters of recent decades is how many more lives they tend to take in poor countries than in rich.
It is no accident that a warning system does not exist in the Indian Ocean whereas one does in the Pacific, for example, or that earthquakes' tolls are so much higher in countries with rickety construction than in the industrialized West.
In the long run, the best shield against every natural assault except perhaps a meteor strike may be the sort of economic development that too much of the world, alas, still sadly lacks.