How do we make sense of the horrible death and destruction visited upon South and Southeast Asia (and indeed, even Africa)? Some may see the hand of a capricious God. Others may ponder the impotence of humankind against the forces of nature. For me, the real lesson is the persistence of underdevelopment in the world, and its profound affect on life opportunities.
If a similar-sized earthquake and tsunami had occurred near the U.S. coast, the death toll would have been only a tiny fraction of that in Asia. Death, injury, and illness from the current earthquate and tsunamis in Asia have been multiplied by a host of developmental factors, ranging from lack of warning systems, insufficient communication infrastructure, fragile housing structures, inadequate health care systems, and lack of modern water supply and distribution systems.
I hope that everyone reading this message who is able will reach deep into their pockets to make donations to disaster relief groups. Beyond that, though, I hope we — and by we I refer both to the readers of this blog and the broader we of the human race — can commit ourselves more fully to understanding and reducing international poverty, social exclusion, and underdevelopment in 2005 and beyond.
May 2005 be a better year for the world, and may all of you reading this find peace and joy in the new year.