« Pants On the Ground! | Main | How to Drive Rush from Radio »


As I watched the destruction in Haiti from the earthquake, I found myself wondering if we have seen the destruction of the nation of Haiti. Never the most functional of states, I think it's a distinct possibility that we might be seeing the death of an entire nation.

In cases like this, my mind tries to flee the horror by finding historical precedents and analogies. In this case, though, much like 9/11, there really isn't.

The catastrophic devastation in Haiti very well could be beyond the limits of human imagination. I am reminded of the images from Japan and Germany right after World War II, and there are similarities, but even in those nations -- hammered by years of attacks by the world's greatest powers -- the damage was focused on urban, industrial, and political centers.

That's not the case in Haiti. The damage is general to the entire nation. No part was spared.

I find myself wondering what it would take for Man to inflict equal damage, and I simply have no way of calculating it. My gut says that if the United States and every other significant military power in the world (Russia, China, NATO, India, and a few others) spent a few months devoting all their energies into the destruction of Haiti, they might -- might -- equal what Nature did in minutes.

Hell, most of Haiti now looks like large portions of Detroit. But not even almost fifty years of enlightened, progressive, Democratic rule can inflict that kind of generalized devastation.

It's a humbling thought. For all the harm we can inflict on each other, it all pales to what Nature/Fate/God can do in moments.

This is what Tennyson meant when he referred to "Nature, red in tooth and claw."

Nature doesn't love humanity. It doesn't coddle us and protect us and nurture us in hopes that we will love and respect us back.

Nature doesn't hate humanity. It doesn't deliberately try to kill us, to wipe us off the face of the earth.

Nature simply doesn't care about us. Whatever we can do to the Earth, Nature will, in the end, prevail. Even if we managed to wipe out nearly all life on Earth, Nature would just start over.

Hell, the dinosaurs ruled the earth for a couple hundred million years, but when that asteroid wiped out almost all life, Nature just kept on going.

It was Nature's casual indifference that damned near wiped the nation of Haiti off the face of the Earth -- and still might.

While we do all we can for the people of Haiti, we should also be reminded and humbled by the power of Nature. And never, ever forget that Nature isn't either for us or against us.

We simply don't matter to it.

Back to the dinosaurs: one big rock mattered more to Nature than everything we have ever done since we first evolved, and quite possibly more than we ever will do.

In the grand scheme of things, we are so very, very small. And every now and then, Nature gives us a stark reminder of just how small we are.

Author's note: the word "awesome" and the word "awful" have the same root -- "awe." And originally, the two -- now considered almost antonyms -- were very close in meaning.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (15)

" I found myself wondering ... (Below threshold)
retired military:

" I found myself wondering if we have seen the destruction of the nation of Haiti. "

I think a better question to ask is

If we had seen destruction here on the scale as in Haiti who would come to our aid.

According to Pat Robertson,... (Below threshold)

According to Pat Robertson, nature didn't have anything to do with it. What a tool.

I rarely, almost never, watch television vews, but this morning I tuned into BBC just because I had a few minutes to kill. Interestingly, during its coverage of Haiti, they mentioned many countries and agencies coming to the aid of Haiti; Russia, China, Brazil, Spain, Germany, the UN, etc. An impressive list. Not one solitary mention of the American Red Cross, the US, nothing.

one big rock matte... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
one big rock mattered more to Nature than everything we have ever done since we first evolved, and quite possibly more than we ever will do.

Not that the natural world knows, let along cares, it's possible that humankind will successfully defend Earth from some future collision on the scale of Chicxulub. That's assuming environmentalist dogma doesn't prevent even the attempt to divert such a collision. It also assumes the effort is lead by real scientists rather than the dimwits you see on TV shows who apparently don't realize that a sequence of nuclear warheads can handle any type of object from one made of solid iron to one that's just a rubble pile. It's not like nuclear warheads are in short supply.

Assuming there's a successful diversion, can environmentalist then use endangered species to stop development? After all, without human development that species and many more would be extinct.

most of Haiti now ... (Below threshold)
most of Haiti now looks like large portions of Detroit.
Oh really? When was the last time you were in Detroit, Jay? Most of the pictures I've seen of Haiti pre-quake, look worse than the bad parts of Detroit I've driven through.
I find myself wond... (Below threshold)
I find myself wondering what it would take for Man to inflict equal damage,
Hiroshima and Nagasaki provide a pretty good model for how bad man could do, though short of a Nuclear holocaust, it would be hard to match mother nature for nastiness.
At the risk of offending ev... (Below threshold)

At the risk of offending everyone I will explain why I think Pat Robertson has a point. I have been to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The poverty is not to be believed. I have seen it firsthand. I have gone to Hispanola with stuffed suitcases and come home with empty suitcases. Haiti is a word translated to Hades. In English it means Hell. While the population is mostly Roman Catholic there are those on the island that practice Black magic and voodoo. These are facts. What is disputed is the tale of those ancestors in the 1780's that were living under very tyrannical French rule. There are many who claim that they made a bargain with the devil to end the French rule. True or false I don't know. Is God testing the people of Haiti, Hades or Hell? I do not know. But, I will tell you that it is impolite to discuss these things in a politically correct world.

I don't think so, Marie. I... (Below threshold)

I don't think so, Marie. I did a web search, and multiple sources agree that Haiti is derived from "ayiti," a word from the local pre-contact Amerind language which means "mountainous land." Which is a pretty good short description for the western half of the island of Hispaniola.

Here's something else to think about: the earthquake epicenter was on land, 15 miles WSW of Port-au-Prince. That places it near the base of the long southwestern peninsula of Haiti. I have seen nothing at all about conditions there. Only about Port-au-Prince. What happened out in those hinterlands?

1) As I know from my own ar... (Below threshold)
Edward Sisson Author Profile Page:

1) As I know from my own architecture degree from MIT, and from my nephew who is earning a masters in civil engineering, modern understanding of how to design and build so as to withstand earthquakes would likely have prevented many of the building failures, and thus saved lives both in the immediate quake, and now during the period when refugees are stranded outdoors without functioning water & sewage systems.
The problem is that without an adequate and reliable legal system that protects property rights, no-one will invest the capital either in the design effort, or the construction effort, to build those safer buildings. Tom Bethell and Hernando de Soto have written very informative and effective books concerning the fundamental importance of reliable property-rights legal systems in promoting the construction of buildings and infrastructure (power, water, sewage) that protects and nourishes human life.
This is why I have long felt that those who are truly idealistic about the goal of protecting and nourishing human life must be strongly committed to effective, reliable property rights. It is how the human race actually works.

2) As to tbe BBC omitting any reporting of American aid efforts (see oyster's comment above), the European elite has an interest in avoiding doing or saying anything that tends to increase and enhance American prestige around the world, because they feel that America already has too much power around the world -- as compared to their own power -- and to enhance America's prestige would only increase even further America's power. CNN, having adopted a global perspective for its business model, rather than an America-centered vision, reflects a similar attitude.
Added to this, I suspect, is some resentment over the dis-respect delivered by the Obama administration to Britain and other European nations.

3) As regards the ability of the human race to deliver destruction on a scale comparable to nature, there is no comparison at all. The human race is fundamentally constructive, not destructive. Journalism tends to focus on destruction because it rivets the eye to see it, whereas the building or re-building of a city does not. After all, newspapers in the years 1946-1950 were not filled with dramatic front-page stories of the rebuilding of Europe and Japan, in comparison with the front-page stories of destruction and war that filled the papers 1942-1945. If Haiti in 2010-2015 establishes a reliable system of property rights that leads to the capital investment for a proper re-building according to earthquake-resistant principles, you will be hard-pressed to find news reports on that, anywhere -- yet it will be a development far more important to generations of people in Haiti, than the tragedy we are seeing today.

Gotta be tough for people w... (Below threshold)

Gotta be tough for people who have grown up dealing with what are basically a series of minor inconvienences to see a whole society, disfunctional as it may be, destroyed in minutes. The people who survive will survive because the rest of the world comes to their aid. The Hatians better thank their stars the airport remains usable.

Question....why is the othe... (Below threshold)

Question....why is the other half of that island, dominican republic, doing so much better and has for a long time?
My son has a friend that was born in Russia, grew up here but has a lot of contact with russians in russia. I asked him about Chechnya and the surrounding area.....why was it so bad and what could be done about it. He said that it served a purpose for the powers of the region....drugs, arms smuggling, human slave trade, etc....all go on there because it is lawless and a failed-state area. I wonder if the same applies to Haiti? And when you see the two countries, side by side on a small island......one thriving the other a hell hole, you wonder.

The greatest death toll wou... (Below threshold)

The greatest death toll would be found in Port au Prince because it is the most densly populated area in Haiti. Also the city has more of the concrete structures that have collapsed. In the outlying area most of the population lives in more primative housing, shanty structures that are not likely to cause death from an earthquake but would be more vulnerable to winds and mudslides.

to J, re #10: as far as I c... (Below threshold)

to J, re #10: as far as I can tell, it's because the Dominican Republic has more natural resources, a more educated populace, and much better luck as regards government. Haiti's government is even more of a pit than the country's economy is.

The catastrophic devasta... (Below threshold)

The catastrophic devastation in Haiti very well could be beyond the limits of human imagination.

I doubt it. It looks like pretty much every other major earthquake in a populated area, so far. It's not even close to that tsunami a few years ago.

J - I had heard that the re... (Below threshold)
Big Mo:

J - I had heard that the reason why Haiti was devastated while the other half of the island escaped is because 1) the earthquake was shallow, and occurred quite close to Port-au-Prince, 2) the ground there is soft, and 3) the infrastructure of Haiti is terrible compared with Dominican Republic.

Here's an interesting podcast with a USGS expert.

In his post, #2, Oyster tel... (Below threshold)

In his post, #2, Oyster tells of watching the news on the bbc and from it not being given a single clue that while some euro-weanies were posing over there for photo-ops, the United States of America is already neck deep in the cleanup.

I'm in Australia and since the quake, in between FoxNews sessions, have been watching local-Australian, New Zealand, once-great-British and various other of the Euro-peon Neo-Soviet's satellite states' "news" broadcasts.

Same conclusion (also noted from the Far Abroad after the December 26 2004 tsunami): The MASSIVE and OVERWHELMING United States of America aid and assistance contributions to and in Haiti have not rated a single mention on any of the so-called "civilized" world's broadcasts. Bloody ingrates!






Follow Wizbang

Follow Wizbang on FacebookFollow Wizbang on TwitterSubscribe to Wizbang feedWizbang Mobile


Send e-mail tips to us:

[email protected]

Fresh Links


Section Editor: Maggie Whitton

Editors: Jay Tea, Lorie Byrd, Kim Priestap, DJ Drummond, Michael Laprarie, Baron Von Ottomatic, Shawn Mallow, Rick, Dan Karipides, Michael Avitablile, Charlie Quidnunc, Steve Schippert

Emeritus: Paul, Mary Katherine Ham, Jim Addison, Alexander K. McClure, Cassy Fiano, Bill Jempty, John Stansbury, Rob Port

In Memorium: HughS

All original content copyright © 2003-2010 by Wizbang®, LLC. All rights reserved. Wizbang® is a registered service mark.

Powered by Movable Type Pro 4.361

Hosting by ServInt

Ratings on this site are powered by the Ajax Ratings Pro plugin for Movable Type.

Search on this site is powered by the FastSearch plugin for Movable Type.

Blogrolls on this site are powered by the MT-Blogroll.

Temporary site design is based on Cutline and Cutline for MT. Graphics by Apothegm Designs.

Author Login

Terms Of Service

DCMA Compliance Notice

Privacy Policy