It’s Getting Mighty Hot

Global Warming.jpeg

This is a advertisement around Washington DC alerting people to the dangers of global warming.

“I’m Too Hot”

And 

“9 of the 10 hottest years have occurred since 2000.”

Wait a second, for some (or many) a little extra heat may be considered a good thing especially if you live up north with generally freezing cold and miserably snowy winters.

So don’t just tell us about it getting hotter, but tell us how hot is it actually going to get and what will happen when it does–melting glaciers, rising oceans and catastrophic flooding of cities, weather abnormalities and violent natural disasters, and so on.

We need to move on to the substance of this. 

Just like with the national debt, we keep talking about it going up (and up). 

Well what’s so bad about that if we can just print some more greenbacks and pay for more stuff, maybe it’s a good–or great–investment in our country and future?

Here again, the message that isn’t getting out clearly is what is going to happen when the debt becomes unsustainable and printing or devaluing dollars will not solve the problem and may actually exasperate it by creating run-away inflation, a downgraded or junk credit rating, and higher debt payments possibly tanking our economy and people’s savings.

Yeah, we don’t want to cause a panic. 

But shielding people from vital information on the dangerous paths we are on will only lead to going further down into the abyss of non-action and potential for cascading calamity. 

Let’s face it–it’s unpopular to talk anything doom or gloom–financial crises or natural disasters or especially anything with WMD–but if we aren’t the adults in the political room, who will be? 

For once, I’d love a leader who tells it straight, who helps us face our own worst nightmares, and actually gets us back on track again, rather than keeps the wool pulled over our eyes for another term or two.

Leadership is lost in rosy glasses, vote counting, pundits called upon to obscure the truth from the people, keeping a false calm, and creating wildly inflated legacies.

These motives for now are stronger than the determination to deal with the threats we face, but not forever, and then the pendulum will most abruptly swing in the other direction, precariously late for the ensuing global effects. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Freak Accidents, Illnesses, And Events

Treadmill

Dave Goldberg, the CEO of Survey Monkey (and the husband of Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook), died suddenly in a freakish accident falling off a treadmill and hitting his head. 


Poof…dead at age 47!


Unfortunately, we hear all the time about these type of tragic occurrences to people.


And of course tragedy knows no bounds–so while sh*t happens everyday to people from all walks of life, we tend to pay more attention when it’s someone we know and love or when it’s splashed wildly in the news about fabulously successful people we admire and follow. 


– Entertainer, Michael Jackson (50) dead from drug intoxication after suffering cardiac arrest.


– Actor, Robin Williams (63) dead by hanging suicide. 


– Singer, John Lennon (40) shot in the back by someone he had autographed an album for.


– Martial Artist, Bruce Lee (33) died on a movie set from a cerebral edema.


– Model, Marilyn Monroe (33) dead by drug overdose.


– President, John F. Kennedy (46) dead by assassination.


Whether by a plane crash or car accident, drowning or fire, poison or electrocution, a criminal or animal attackterrorism, war, or natural disaster, a heart attack, stroke, or cancer, through suicide, punishment, or mercy killing…regardless of the probabilities and statistics, many people never make it all the way to “a ripe old age.” 


We feel bad, shake our heads, say a few words of sympathy perhaps, when we hear of these lives cut short.


But like the TV shows, Six Feet Under (HBO) or 1000 Ways To Die (Spike)–there are a near endless number of horrible ways to go–and they can take you at literally any time.


While we can’t stop living and just sit around worrying all the time about all the bad things that can happen, we do need to remember that anything can happen at any time (and these things are not so freakish after all)–no one is beyond the Angel of Death, no one should be arrogant, and we should make the most of every single moment that G-d lovingly grants to us.  😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Military Health)

Mayim Chaim

Mayim Chaim

You can only live about 3 days without water–that’s why protecting our water is so critical.

Emergency Management (May/June 2013) says, “There are numerous ongoing threats to our water supply. Some of them [natural or man made] could be catastrophic.”

– Water poisoning: Already in the 1st century, Roman Emperor Nero poisoned the wells of his enemies. These days you’d need a large supply, like “several dump trucks of cyanide or arsenic to poison a reservoir. Plus the water system is monitored and has purification protections such as chlorine, so it’s not that simple. We can also issue “boil alerts” for people to boil the water before drinking it. Then again, we saw what some radiation did to the Japanese water supplies after Fukushima.

– Blowing it up: The water system infrastructure can be disrupted using explosives, so keeping intruders far away from it is important to keeping it safe.

– Earthquakes/Hurricanes: Much of the water system pipes are old–some built during the Civil War–and these can be destroyed by natural disasters or even a construction crew jackhammer hitting in the wrong place.

– Electrical outage: If you shut down the electricity, you shut down the water pumps…and even with generators taking over for a while, your up against the clock, if you don’t get the juice flowing again soon.

– Cyber Attack: Our water systems, like other industrial control systems are vulnerable to cyber attack. A hacker that gets control of the systems could overheat it, overtreat it, flood it, or otherwise break it and shut it down.

Keeping our water infrastructure secure, the water supply safe and potable, the transport pipes intact, the electricity working, and the systems under control–are not little matters–they are the difference between life and death for millions.

As in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, when the ship gets blown off course into unchartered waters and the crew is thirsty for water and desperate to survive, the poet states, “Water, Water. Everywhere. And All The Boards Did Shrink; Water, Water, Everywhere. Nor Any Drop To Drink.”

In Hebrew, there is a short saying that sums up this topic, “Mayim Chaim”–water is life. 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Zombie Homeland Security Training 101

Unbelievable. The Halo Counter-terrorism Summit (Oct 29-Nov. 2, 2012) is hosting a mock Zombie Invasion as part of its emergency response training for about a 1,000 special ops, military, police, medical, firefighter, and other homeland security professionals. 

The Zombie Apocalypse training exercise is occurring mid-summit on October 31, Halloween–so it is quite timely for other ghoulish activities that day. 

There are two sessions–#1 at 4:30 PM and #2 at 7:00 PM.

Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have posted the CDC’s Zombie Preparedness guidance–saying that “if you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.”

I guess this is very good news with Hurricane Sandy or “Frakenstorm” bearing down on the East Coast this evening.  Zombies, you ain’t got nothing on Frakenstorm! 

In Yahoo News, Brad Barker, the President of Halo Corp., explained why Zombies are good for training, especially in asymmetric warfare: “No one knows what zombies will do in our scenario, but quite frankly no one knows what a terrorist will do.”

Barker also jested that “No doubt when a zombie apocalypse occurs, it’s going to be a federal incident, so we’re making it happen.”

Frankly, I love to see this type of creativity brought to national and homeland security and believe that this makes it less likely that we’ll be perpetually fighting yesterday’s war, instead of tomorrow’s. 

The key is that we think out of the box in terms of what will the adversary do next–from cyberwar to weapons of mass destruction, we can’t afford to be blindsighted. 

So do I think that aliens or zombies are coming for us some day–let’s just say, never say never. 😉

Existential Threats–Real or Imagined

Should we worry about something that hasn’t happened to us yet?

Wired Magazine (Sept. 2012) has an interesting article called Apocalypse Not.

Its thesis is that “people freak out over end-of-the world scenarios” and they should know better because despite all the fear and predictions of catastrophe, nothing ever really happens.
It categorizes the doomsday cataclysms into 4 types:
1) Chemicals–these come form things like pesticides (like DDT), smoking, and CFCs, and result in air pollution, acid rain, ozone depletion, and climate change.
2) Disease–recent fears of pandemics were associated with bird flu, swine flu, SARS, AIDS, ebola, and mad cow disease.
3) People–we can cause our own hell through population explosion and famine and although it didn’t mention this, I would assume the brutality and wars that can wipe entire races out.
4) Resources–Peak oil theory, metals and minerals, and other resource constraints have been causes of consternation leading us to look for alternative energy sources and even recently consider mining minerals on asteroids.
The article goes so far as to poke fun at those who are concerned about these things even stating that “The one thing we’ll never run out of is imbeciles.”
Wired does acknowledge that while “over the past half-century, none of our threatened eco-pocalypses have played out as predicted. Some came partly true; some were averted by action; [and still] some were wholly chimerical.”
What the author, Matt Ridley, has missed here in his logic are a few main things:
Smaller things add to big things–While each individual issue may not have reached the catastrophic tipping point been yet, these issues can certainly progress and even more so, in the aggregate, pose dangerous situations that we may be unable to contain. So you can choose to live with blinders on for today, but the consequences of our choices are inescapable and may only be around the next bend.
Recognizing the future–just because things like death and final judgement haven’t happened to us yet, doesn’t mean that they aren’t in store for us in the future. This sort of reminds me of this Jewish joke that no one leaves this world alive.
Destructive powers are multiplying–many destructive forces were traditionally local events, but are now becoming existential threats to whole civilizations. For example, how many people globally can we kill with weaponized pathogens and how many times over now are we able to destroy the world with our thermonuclear stockpile.
Learn from the past–Apocalypses and terrible events have already befallen humankind, whether the bubonic plague in the middle ages, the destruction of the ice age, the flood in biblical times, and even more recently the Holocaust and the World Wars in the 20th century.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad things that can happen to people–individuals or many people–and if we are not conscious of the things we are doing, their potential impacts, and generally act smart and ethical, then bad things can and will most-definitely happen.
Wired ends by saying that things like policy, technology, and innovation can solve the day. However, while these can surely help and we must always try our best to have a positive impact, some things are also out of our control–they are in G-d hands.
Finally, while not every event is an existential threat, some surely can be–and whether it’s the impact of an asteroid, the death toll from the next horrible plague, natural disaster, cyberwar, or weapon of mass destruction, or even possibly when aliens finally come knocking at your door, it would be awfully stupid to think that bad things can’t happen.
(Source Photo: here with attribution to tanakawho)

The Heat Is On But Something Is Off

Mall

The Huffington Post (28 June 2012) ran an article this weekend called “Land of the Free, Home of the Unprepared.”

This at a time, when the United States East Coast is battling a heat wave with temperatures over 100 degrees for days running.

Emergencies have been declared in many states, including Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, as well as in Washington, D.C.

On top of that, an early weekend storm with hurricane-force winds took out the power for millions!

Utilities described the damage to the power grid as “catastrophic” with restoration taking up to a week for some.

People were seeking refuge from the heat with no power at home for airconditioning, refrigeration, or telecommunications.

Everywhere–at Starbucks (the garbage was piled high), Barnes and Nobles, the Mall, people were sprawled out in chairs and even on the floors, and were powering up their devices wherever they could find an outlet.

Moreover, there were long lines at gas stations and supermarkets, where power was working for some.

Many street lights were out at intersections and many other stores were either closed or only taking cash.

While catastrophes do happen including natural disasters, the frequency, duration, and impact in the Washington, D.C. area–the Capital of the United States–is ridiculously high.

I could not help thinking that if something more serious struck–whether terrorism, pandemic flu, a serious earthquake, or whatever, 11 years after 9/11, we seem really ill prepared.

We need to get our game on, not only when the heat is up, but for disaster preparedness in general.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Boy Loses Arm, Girl Loses Memory

Aftershock3

I had the opportunity to watch an absolutely brilliant movie called Aftershock (2010) about the 1976 Tangshan earthquake (7.8 on the Richter scale) that leveled the city and killed more than 240,000 people in China.

The movie is beautifully filmed and the events recreated with tremendous clarity–I could feel as if I was there and I literally cried for the these poor people.

In the film a women is saved in the quake by her husband who dies trying to go back into the falling building to save their children–twins, a boy and a girl, age 6–who themselves end up buried under the rubble.

The mother begs others to save (both) her children, but a rescuer tells her that when they try to move the concrete slab that’s pinning them down–this way or that–it will mean that one of her children will die.

She cannot choose, but at the risk of losing both children, she finally says “save my son.”

The girl hears her beneath the rubble–and tears are running down her face with the emotional devastation of not being chosen by her own mother for life.

The mother carries what she believes is her daughter’s dead body and lays it next to the husband–she weeps and begs forgiveness.

The story continues with rebirth and renewal…the boy survives but loses his arm in the quake and the girl also lives but loses her memory (first from post-traumatic stress–she can’t even talk–then apparently from the anger at her mother’s choice).

Each child faces a daunting future with their disabilities–the boy physically and the girl emotionally, but each fights to overcome and ultimately succeed.

The boy who is feared can never do anything with only one arm–ends up with a  successful business, family, home, car, and caring for his heart-broken mother.

The girl who is raised by army foster parents struggles to forgive her mother–“it’s not that I don’t remember, it’s that I can’t forget”–and after 32 years finally goes back and heals with her.

The mother never remarries–she stays married in her mind to the man who loved her so much and sacrificed his life for hers.  And she stays in Tangshan–never moving, waiting somehow for her daughter to return–from the (un)dead–but she is emotionally haunted all the years waiting and morning–“You don’t know what losing something means until you’ve lost it.”

The brother and sister finally find each other as part of the Tangshan Rescue Team–they each go back to save others buried in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that killed almost another 70,000.

Some amazing themes from the movie:

– “You’re family is always your family,” even despite wrongs that we do to each other, we are challenged to somehow find forgiveness and to love and extend ourselves for those who have given so much to us.

– “Some people are living, others only suffer.” After the earthquake, as with any such disaster, the living question why they survived and other didn’t. Similarly, we frequently ask ourselves, why some people seem to have it “so good,” while others don’t. But as we learn, each of us has our own mission and challenges to fulfill.

– Disabilities or disadvantages–physical or emotional–may leave others or ourselves thinking that we couldn’t or wouldn’t succeed, but over time and with persistence we can overcome a missing arms or a broken heart, if we continue to have faith and do the right things.

I loved this movie–and the progression from the horrific destruction of the earthquake to the restoration and renewal of life over many years of struggle was a lesson in both humility of what we mortals are in the face of a trembling ground beneath us or the sometimes horrible choices we have to make, and the fortitude we must show in overcoming these.

(Source Photo: here)