Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene, New York City, and Altruism as Enlightened Self-Interest

What with weather satellites, ground-based radar, pretty-good communications, and increasingly sophisticated forecasting software, folks in places like America's east coast aren't likely to get surprised by a hurricane. Not if they're paying attention.

That's good, because Hurricane Irene is headed their way.

New York City is being evacuated - the low-lying parts, anyway. Odds are pretty good that skyscrapers built during the last several decades will get a stress test. If Irene hits, they'll get hit with high winds, hail, and low-flying pieces of other buildings.

Folks living along the rest of the coast are getting ready, too.

Disaster Preparedness #1 - Don't Act Stupid

I've seen quite a few 'how to prepare for a hurricane' lists, most of them going over pretty much the same common-sense points. An item I don't often notice is 'be somewhere else.'

Those lists tend to focus on short-term planning, like:
  • Take anything that's loose inside
  • board up the windows
  • Get a portable cooler
    • And lots of ice
  • Be ready to throw out food that didn't stay refrigerated
I'm no 'expert,' by the way: so consider this the usual disclaimer about doing your own research and not acting stupid.

Disaster Preparedness #2 - Build Smart

I'll suggest a longer-term strategy, based on the way we build in rural Minnesota and the Dakotas. Folks building near the coast could consider designing buildings so they'll stay safe during 150 mile-an-hour winds, water coming 25 or so feet above normal high tide, plus 30-foot waves. During a Richter 5.0 quake. Remember the 5.8 quake in Virginia earlier this week?

We don't have weather like that here in Minnesota: no ocean to have tides, for starters. We do, though, have blizzards: and learned that it's prudent to build sheds, barns, and houses so they'll survive one.

Disaster Preparedness #3 - Get Ready to Help

Even with the best preparation: If Irene hits places like New York City, some folks will need help after it's done. So will folks elsewhere, like North Caronlina:
"North Carolina Catholics prepare for Hurricane Irene's wake"
Kevin J. Jones, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (August 26, 2011)

"Catholics in North Carolina are preparing to respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

" 'There is a great deal of praying going on right now,' Frank Morock, communications director of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, told CNA on the afternoon of Aug. 26.

"People are praying that the storm 'picks up speed so it moves out of the state quickly then out to sea away from the eastern metropolises.'..."
Gear up for emergency relief, pray that city folks won't have to deal with heavy weather? Sounds like a plan to me.

Disaster Preparedness #4 - Pray

I've said this before, too: I think prayer is important. I also think being 'practical' is important.

I don't see that as an 'either-or.' More like a 'both-and.'

One thing prayer isn't, or shouldn't be, in my opinion, is telling God what you want to get: treating the Almighty like a generous, and none-too-bright, rich uncle. I haven't run into the 'prosperity gospel' recently, for which I'm grateful: but something like it will probably pop up again. And that's another topic.

Here's a start on what the Catholic Church says about prayer:

Helping Those in Need: What's In It For Me?

Major relief agencies in America, like CRS, Catholic Relief Services, often focus on helping folks in other countries. I think part of that is because most folks in this country are so comparatively affluent, that we can take care of local and regional relief - locally and regionally. I've been over this before:
As for why someone should help folks who need it, I see two really good reasons:
  • It's the right thing to do
  • The alternative has unpleasant consequences
As I've said before: when you consider the alternatives, "altruism" seems more like "enlightened self-interest."

Related posts:
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2 comments:

Brigid said...

City folk definitely should take a few pointers from those of us who live where it snows sideways. ^_^

Brian Gill said...

Brigid,

Indeed!

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.