The latest death toll from Dec 24th’s tsunami in Asia is at 150,000 and rising. 400,000 thousand people have become refugees and 94,081 have been confirmed dead in Indonesia alone. (Reuters as of 1/04/05) A tragedy of this magnitude deserves our consideration, especially of two questions: why did so many die, and what can be done to minimize the destruction of such events?
Conventional explanations abound. Environmentalists blame overpopulation, deforestation, and tourist exploitation; Marxists blame the West for the poverty of poor nations; politicians claim that a lack of emergency preparedness, housing regulations, and tax funds are to blame, and that coerced charity is the fix; religionists assure us that man and science are powerless against nature, and if anything, man must now pray and sacrifice his wealth to the suffering because suffering is man’s natural state, appeal to God is the only remedy, and altruism is the moral ideal.
While there is some truth in these answers, they are all fundamentally mistaken about the significance of natural events to man’s condition. They are right in that the tsunami is a powerful natural event that neither government regulations, nor charity, nor prayer, nor even our current technology can make a dent in. They are also right in stating the poverty is the primary factor of the death toll, and that better buildings, warning systems, emergency preparedness systems, and better science can save many lives.