September 11, 2017

Measuring Loss in Terms of Human Suffering, Not Dollars

In the aftermath of hurricanes, typhoons, wildfires and other disasters, the damage is assessed and tallied and reported. It usually goes something like this:

" It is possible that economic damage from Harvey will exceed the inflation-adjusted $160bn cost of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Noaa experts told the Guardian."

That's from an article titled "Hurricane Harvey is a billion-dollar disaster - America's 10th in 2017". It's a good article, pointing out how in an age of climate-boosted "natural" disasters, we need to increase, not slash, funding of NOAA and other agencies that do forecasting, so we can prepare for these disasters. It points out, rightly, that we need to re-think FEMA, the Federal Emergecy Management Agency. In short, it's all about who needs to pay for what.

Which misses a large part of what is lost in a hurricane.

To a family, losing your house is a major disaster; the dollar value of the house is a big part of that, but the main thing is that you lost the roof over your head and you need another place to keep your family safe and dry and, hopefully, reasonably comfortable.

Losing your job, because the company you worked for is either on hiatus, or moving elsewhere, hurts. Losing treasured photos and memorabilia in a flood hurts in a different way. Losing your food and water supply, albeit temporarily, is deeply disturbing. Losing your friends and neighbours because they decide to move out of state is tough.

The pile of losses can be devastating - and most of it is not to do with money.

September 7, 2017

Extreme weather and the migration of drivers' licences

The iconic photos of the aftermath of hurricane Harvey show people wading through muddy waters - and cars submerged in muddy waters. Lots and lots of cars, this being not only America, but Houston, where the necessity for a car is second only to the necessity for drinking water.

Photo by Djielle

Nearly a million cars may have been ruined by Harvey, and rental car companies and dealers are scrambling to restock vehicles in the Houston area as the waters recede.

Which gave me this idea.

There was a massive exodus from New Orleans when hurricane Katrina hit it in August 2005. Only a third of evacuees returned to the homes they were living in before the hurricane. A large fraction never came back to the city at all.

What happened to those people, and where are they, a year after the hurricane, five years, ten?