Disasters vs Development

Here in the Northeast US it’s been a damn hot summer.   In Boston  last month the average maximum was 85.8 deg F, 3.5 deg higher than the average from 1971 to 2000, and we had several heat records.

We dealt with it mainly by complaining,  our usual response to weather, but also by going to the beach more and turning up the fans and AC.  People were annoyed, but no one died.

Unlike in Russia.

Moscow had about as hot a July as we did, with many days in the high 90s.  People there don’t have AC or maybe even fans.  Many went into the Moscow River to cool off in spite of pollution, and scores have drowned, according to the BBC.

The city has also been covered in a gray pall from surrounding wildfires.  This happened in Boston too on May 30 and 31 – wildfires in Quebec put a smoggy hazy over the city.  In Russia, though, everything is worse.  Here’s a video of some guys who went to help put out a fire in a small village and got caught in an inferno.  They find themselves with fire ahead and fire to either side, and the road blocked behind them:

It’s like something in a terrible dream, but don’t worry – they make it.

It always seems to happen like this – the poorer the country, the worse the effect of a disaster.   The Chilean earthquake of 2/27/2010 killed 510 people, but the Haiti earthquake of 1/12/2010 killed 230,000, even though the Chilean was substantially stronger.   The Haitians were killed when their houses fell on top of them.  Think of that the next time you hear someone complaining about building codes.

The disasters will keep getting worse as the population increases and the carrying capacity of the planet declines, but will keep getting better as people get richer and better able to cope with them.  More help from the richer countries would not go amiss either.

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