I wonder if we’ll ever get two seasons back to back with no threatening weather. In the past few years we have had blizzard-like snow and dangerous freezes, windstorms that took the roofs off of houses, and persistent rains that took every local creek and river past the flood stage. These were interspersed with mild winters and mild summers, which seems wicked, like lulling us into a sense of comfort before another calamity strikes.
There is flooding again now in much of Missouri. Every time this happens you see the news footage of people packing up their homes to get to higher ground, or of families sitting in high school gyms wrapped in Red Cross issue blankets. Inevitably someone will ask, why don’t they just move? How many times do they need to be flooded out before they realize they need to get out of the flood plain?
A friend of mine explained this to me a while back in stark terms. Okay, let’s move everyone who resides along a flood plain. That’s pretty much everybody along the Mississippi River system, the Missouri River system, the Tennessee River system, and perhaps dozens of others. But then what about tornadoes? Shouldn’t people in Tornado Alley also move? So let’s clear out everybody in north Texas, most of Oklahoma, portions of Kansas and of Missouri. And hurricanes? Okay, everyone along the east coast, from Florida to New York needs to move inland a hundred miles, and everybody along the Gulf Coast as well. Earthquakes? Let’s move everyone in southern California, and everyone in southeastern Missouri away from major fault lines. Wildfires? Again, we’re clearing out much of southern California and large stretches of other western states. Doesn’t leave much of the continental US, does it?
Yes, this is a kind of reductio ad absurdum, but it is an absurdity easily arrived at. There are many natural disasters, and given the climate change that is not happening, they are getting worse all the time. Everybody can’t move to the upper-central states. For now we are just lucky we have professional first responders, excellent relief agencies, and are resilient enough to recover again and again. Insisting that people affected by natural disasters should move is a blame the victim mentality.
Then again, there is another oft-noticed phenomenon. Whenever there is a flood or hurricane threatening, and evacuation of the area has commenced, you see interviews on the news with some old character who says something like, ‘I done lived here all my life, and ain’t no (flood, hurricane, etc.) done got me yet. I ain’t goin nowhere!’ Then, at the height of the disaster, emergency personnel risk life and limb to sweep in and rescue the idiot. This is the proper time to blame the victim.