Tuesday, January 04, 2005

10 Reasons Why the Great Asian Tsunami of 2004 Was a Wake-up Call for Humanity

The Sumatra Earthquake and subsequent series of tsunami waves in the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 -- resulting in the death of over 200,000 people worldwide in 12 countries -- was a wake-up call for humanity and demonstrates that:

1. There is no God, no gods, no Divine Providence, no Creator of the Universe -- just random chance and random luck and random unluck. Ouch. Life hurts.

2. Human life is a lottery of life and death, and we are like gnats on the fragile, stressed-out skin of the Earth.

3. The Earth is still evolving, shaking, changing, and it's not over by a long shot.

4. All inherited religions, no matter what Rome says, are based on superstitions, myths, legends and human constructs. There is no God, never was. But faith is a nice thing, just the same.

5. Nostradamus is a fraud and could never foresee the future. He was a quack doctor poet from France, for crying out loud!

6. "The Bible Code" (that damned book) is also a fraud and should never have been published. Who can read Hebrew today anyway? That book did not predict the tsunami. No way. Get over it, conspiracy addicts.

7. "The world's first truly global disaster united a single humanity." (Hello Brother! Hello Sister!)

8. Now, more than ever before, the blogosphere rules!

9. The disaster should become a spur to organize a true international humanitarian rapid reaction force for the global community to deal with all future calamities that might befall the human race.

10. The global village was held together by cellphones, Internet blogs and CNN!


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At January 4, 2005 at 2:29 AM, Blogger dan said...

The world's first truly global disaster unites 'single humanity'

Barry James

Agence France Presse News Agency reporter

WebPosted Sunday, 02 Jan 2005

Even with the death toll possibly creeping up to the 200,000 mark, Asia's tsunami crisis is far from being the world's deadliest natural disaster.

But it is the world's first truly global catastrophe, with lives shattered and families sundered in dozens of countries on different continents.

The response to it also has been global in a way rarely seen before, with tens of millions of ordinary citizens reaching into their pockets to send aid.

"A world catastrophe"

France's President Jacques Chirac said the disaster showed that "regardless of distance, we form the same, single humanity" and Pope John Paul II said the tragedy showed to what extent "we are part of a global community." The disaster has become "a world catastrophe" said Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.

The tsunamis were triggered by the most powerful earthquake in four decades, but even during that brief moment in the planet's geological history there have been worse disasters in statistical terms — for example, the 1976 Tangshan earthquake that killed an estimated 600,000 Chinese in 1976, or the cyclone-driven floods that killed about half a million people in Bangladesh in 1970.

Seaquake actually a minor event

Though it caused the earth to wobble on its axis and shifted islands by a few metres, the December 26 seaquake was a minor event compared to the legendary annihilation of the volcano-island of Krakatoa in the same region in 1883. The sound of its destruction was heard in Australia and India, giant waves towered 40 metres above sea level and a vast cloud of ash cooled the world's temperature for several years afterwards.

But populations were smaller back then, however, coastlines were largely unpopulated and the total number of deaths from the eruption was calculated to be no more than about 36 000.

World turning into a global village

To a greater extent than other disasters, more even than the September 11 terrorist attacks, the south Asian wave disaster was a dramatic example of how the world is turning into a global village.

Modern communication was partly responsible, of course. Survivors used their mobile phones to let friends and relatives know they were safe. They recorded the ocean's surge on their video cameras, providing dramatic footage for the TV journalists who crowded onto the scene. Blanket news, television and radio coverage meant that few people anywhere in the world could remain aloof from the tragedy, in contrast to the 1976 China earthquake disaster, which largely remained a state secret.

In turn, people around the world donated money faster than aid could be delivered. In some countries, people were able to send a few euros simply by transmitting a short message via their mobile phones.

Aid pledges top $2-billion

In total, aid pledges for the tsunami victims reached around $2-billion on Saturday, according to Jan Egeland, the UN undersecretary general for emergency relief.

In Britain alone, ordinary people dug deep into their pockets to send a phenomenal £60-million, far exceeding the £50-million pledged by the British government.

"We have lost much, but gained in strength by the knowledge of solidarity shown by the world," said Sri Lankan President Chanrika Kumaratunga. "The world has responded massively in our hour of tragedy."

Forests, swamps replaced by hotels

The tsunami tragedy was partly a result of modern progress, that saw natural defences such as forests and mangrove swamps replaced by ocean-front hotels and bungalows, and fishing villages giving way to well populated resorts.

Economic imperative brought flights full of sun-seeking vacationers winging in from as far away as Saint Petersburg even as rescue workers struggled to gather up and bury the dead.

The coastal resorts of Thailand and Sri Lanka have become heavily dependent on the long-range charter traffic from northern Europe, where the pictures of Asian resort beaches in travel agency catalogues seem irresistible on a gloomy winter day.

Thousands of Swedes still missing

That explains why it was as much a day of mourning in Sweden on Saturday as in the countries directly in the path of the tsunamis.

With 60 Swedes confirmed dead, and 3500 others still missing, the catastrophe was "probably the worst of our time and will impact everyday Swedish life for a long time to come," said Prime Minister Goeran Persson.

The question now is whether the tragedy will act as a spur to increase cooperation in the region so that information about earthquakes and tsunamis can be quickly collected and disseminated. Had such technology been in place, affected regions could have had hours of warning that a tsunami was on the way.

Although the aid response has been quick, Chirac said the disaster should become the spur to organise a "true humanitarian rapid reaction force."

UN organising donor conference

The UN, which is organising a donor conference in Geneva 11, says the disaster will require a huge global response over a long period. Clearly, one concern was that economic dislocation caused by the tragedy could turn to political extremism in a volatile region. But Sri Lanka's Kumaratunga stressed that the disaster could also be an opportunity for healing in her divided nation.

"We have been equally destroyed in the east, west, north and south," she said. "When nature has treated us equally, why can't we treat each other similarly?"

At January 4, 2005 at 2:44 AM, Blogger dan said...


Could the tsunami disaster be a turning point for the world?

As the international aid effort grows and George Bush launches a fresh appeal, we ask politicians and commentators if 2005 might see a new determination to tackle global poverty

04 January 2005

This words appeared in the INDEPENDENT newspaper in the UK.

TIM STEVENS, Bishop of Leicester

I am hopeful, but we must see a real commitment to changing the economic relationships between the West and the poorer countries. As well as charitable giving, we need to tackle these fundamental issues.


On an individual level, it is not just about what we are prepared to give, but what we are prepared to give up. Having left Afghanistan and Iraq in their wake, can our leaders be trusted to fight a war on poverty?

KANYA KING, Founder, Mobo awards

No longer can we exist in isolation when we see lives and livelihoods being destroyed. All of us need to be pro-active to change things, but we have shown that public opinion and the media can influence government.

STEPHEN TINDALE, Executive director, Greenpeace

It seems churlish to say it, but while it's relatively easy for most of us to give £50, it would be much harder for us to make the changes in our modern lifestyles that are needed if we are to move to a fairer world.

DR GHAYASUDDIN SIDDIQUI, Leader of Muslim Parliament

Compassion, care and concern for mankind joins each of us - whatever our faith or ethnicity. The tragedy has shown there is a formula on which all mankind can be united to help each other. Mankind has moved forward.


It was the same after 11 September. Everyone said it was a great opportunity to try to understand the world but it was used by the US as a reason to go on a rampaging adventure in Afghanistan and Iraq.

MO MOWLAM, Former cabinet minister

I think most people will simply forget. Some charities say people will even forget how much they pledged to give. I wish it would change our attitudes to other people in other countries, but I'm afraid that it won't.

SIR JONATHON PORRITT, Environmentalist

The response reveals a deep sense of empathy that could be of lasting value. If it is just a philanthropic flash, then we have seen those before, but if people gain a sense of their interdependence, we will be better off.


Western capitalism demands that people must be impoverished. I cannot think that anything will change this year, because we are the ones who have made the world the way it is. I don't believe in altruism.

LORD HURD OF WESTWELL, Former foreign secretary

The danger is that resources which might have gone to Africa will go to this instead. While huge publicity continues to be given to the tsunami, human beings are killing each other in Iraq, and places like Darfur.

SIR MAX HASTINGS, Journalist and historian

We have to bear in mind that we have been here before. There have been tragedies before, and many fine things have been said, a lot of them by the US. We just have to hope that in this case they will follow through.

J. G. BALLARD, Novelist

It would be one of the biggest breakthroughs mankind has ever experienced if we pooled our wealth in order to look after the poorer people of the world. Sadly, I don't think it will happen.

SUE MACGREGOR, Broadcaster

I hope politicians will take note of the public reaction. But it is difficult to tell whether it will do anything to change the way politicians see things, when our own Prime Minister chose not to break his holiday.

TONY BENN, Former cabinet minister

It may make people realise that the UN needs to be well-equipped and funded. If people diverted money from weapons and war, we have the technology and money to be able to help - if we decide to do that.

SIR RICHARD BRANSON, Virgin Entrepreneur

I think that politicians must realise that people do care about these issues and want them to do more. If 2005 could become the year when people make a real effort, then it could make a real difference.

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