Professors evaluate tsunami’s aftermath

Monday, February 21, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:52 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Disasters, like the killer tsunami on Dec. 26, have a negative long-term effect on the world, an associate professor of economics said in a forum Thursday.

“One of the things I think you see in the newspapers is a statement that natural disasters can make us better off, and in the long run can be a good thing. I want to convince you that that’s absurd,” said MU’s Kenneth R. Troske.

Troske was one of three professors who participated in a “Chancellor’s Global Issues Forum.” The forum addressed the effects of the earthquake and tsunami, and was moderated by Chancellor Brady Deaton in Ellis Library Auditorium.

Faster growth may occur as a result of a disaster, Troske said, but individuals are generally worse off.

However, disasters do leave certain people better off, he said. For example, in Thailand, the country that suffered the most capital damage in terms of value, hotel owners whose buildings survived will be able to charge more in the future, Troske said.

He also said the cost and benefits of preventing disasters should be considered.

“One of the things we should be taking away from these disasters is thoughts about how to prevent them in the future,” he said.

A. Cooper Drury, assistant professor of political science, talked about the aid process in the United States and the political turmoil and instability that followed the events. Media coverage has tremendous impact on the political factor, Drury said.

“If you look, on average one article in The New York Times, which is a measure used for typical media coverage, is worth $600,000 in aid,” Drury said.

Mike Nolan, professor of rural sociology, talked about famine and the spread of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. The region has an increasing hunger problem, he said.

“There are other huge ‘tsunamis’ out there that cry out for our attention every bit as much as that natural disaster,” Nolan said.

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