Saturday, October 27, 2012
A future disaster
I'm reading about all these meteorologists freaking out and running out of expletives and generally losing their marbles. But they are actually just looking at computer output. So far all we've got is a minimal late season hurricane that did the usual damage to places that are all too used to it. At this point they blow out to sea. But not this time: it's going to blow up into the biggest, baddest storm of all time and plow into the most densely populated region of the United States. We'll have no electricity for weeks, the streets will all be blocked, and the coastlines all under water.
I hope they're wrong but I believe them. It's strange though: on the one hand, they say this situation is completely unprecedented, it's never happened before; yet they are absolutely certain of their computer models. It's as though this has already happened, now we just need to experience it.
Think how strange this is in all of human history. Even twenty years ago I doubt such a definite forecast would be possible. Indeed, they would probably not have been able to forecast that the storm would hit the east coast at all until shortly before it happened. One hundred years ago, no-one would have had the least warning until the thing happened. On the other hand, it wouldn't have mattered so much. There was no electricity out here until the twenties. People would have hunkered down for a day or two and then gotten on with their lives. (Not so fortunate those along the coast, of course.) That the disaster will be so widespread wouldn't have mattered so much either. (You see how I'm getting my tenses all twisted, and there's no way to untwist them in a world where the future is already history.) The geography wasn't so connected, the economy was mostly local and, obviously, nobody thought of driving 30 miles to work every day or 12 miles to the store.
A world where such an event is commonplace -- assuming it does indeed happen -- will be very different from the one I've been living in. But now two years in a row we've had to endure this, and one wonders whether we can continue to bear the expense of rebuilding and endure the losses and disruption. At least the folly of denial will finally be expunged.