Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists


What natural disasters tell us about societies

Thursday 17 March 2011

The natural disasters we've seen recently around the world have shown us much about the communities in which they've occurred. The images emerging from Japan, New Zealand and Australia as they've faced earthquakes, tsumanis, floods and fires stands on stark contrast to the mainstream media stories that suggests people of the world are not willing to work together. Some of the widely reported natural events in the past few years include Hurricane Katrina; fires across Victoria, floods across Queensland and Victoria; the earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan all of which have shown much about those societies. A few years ago an earthquake in Turkey right on the border with Greece highlighted the willingness of so called 'combatants' to come together to assist others. With more localised large scale incidents we get to see in essence, the true selves of the societies impacted by the event.

There is a saying that says 'we learn much about ourselves in times of crisis'.  The images on TV of Japanese people waiting patiently in line to enter a supermarket for upto seven hours says much about the Japanese people's resilience and their understanding that this is an event that demands an understanding of the widespread impact.  The images of people from across the world flying into Christchurch to assist (along with local students digging mud out of strangers homes); people in Australia driving or flying hundreds of kilometers just to get in and lend a hand shows conclusively societies with a collective focus.

What seems to emerge from these images is an assessment of resilience within the community.  It appears to me that societies with a stronger focus on 'us' and a lesser focus on 'me' seem far more able to deal with the widespread devastation of a natural disaster and it could be reasonably anticipated that they'll also bounce back quicker albeit allowing for a long range need for rebuilding.

It might seem a pity that we need to experience a sudden natural disaster to reveal our true selves.  I'm thankful that for the large part in many societies, our true selves seem to be more often about 'us' and less about 'me'.  My thoughts are very much with those facing and still dealing with these recent events

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