GLOBAL JOURNALIST: Mother Nature's disasters always get our attention

Friday, April 23, 2010 | 11:10 a.m. CDT; updated 8:47 a.m. CDT, Friday, May 14, 2010

Stuart Loory, Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies, Missouri School of Journalism: There is one war going on that we only pay attention to when disaster strikes, and that is the war between humans and nature. Nature strikes by doing, and excuse me for saying this, what comes naturally. Tectonic plates clash deep underground and produce an earthquake or a tsunami. Heavy rains produce floods, prolonged little or no rain produces drought, violent volcanoes erupt and spew ashes in clouds that spread in the skies over much of the world. All of this is a threat to humans as the earthquakes in Haiti and China this year or last week’s eruption in Iceland have shown. China is in a national day of mourning today (Thursday) for the 2,000 victims of the earthquake two weeks ago high on the Tibetan plateau. Haiti is still suffering grievously from the earthquake in early January that killed 230,000 people and left a million homeless. Travelers in Europe and throughout the world lost vacations, did not do business, could not get home even to have babies because clouds of ash in the atmosphere made air travel unsafe. All this raises the question of how well we humans deal with natural disasters or how good is the effort to avoid them. Let’s start in Brussels. In addition to all of the human dislocation because of the air traffic that was canceled, there is a possibility that airlines lost $2 billion. There was impact on farmers in Africa, growers in the Caribbean and manufacturers throughout the world because they could not get deliveries of the goods they needed. Did the European Union overreact to this big ash cloud in canceling all these flights?