20 January 2010

Haiti Digest

Amid the flood of media attention to the Haiti disaster I've noticed three particularly interesting pieces.

First there is this hand-wringing blog post at npr in which the author trots out the standard worries that photos of the disaster are somehow exploitative. There is not much new in the argument, but the comment thread indicates that many people find the worries more or less wholly misplaced. I agree. Do you have any idea what it is like to make your way through streets littered with corpses or pancaked buildings? I don't. The images give us some sense. They help us imagine how horrible conditions really can become.

The second piece is a this blog post by economist Ed Glaeser in which he calls attention to research that identifies a strong relationship between the impact of 'natural' disasters (in terms of mortality) and the prior political-economic circumstances of the relevant countries. He rightly suggests that, in addition to supporting immediate humanitarian intervention, we consider as well how to mitigate the conditions that render 'natural' disasters especially deadly.

Finally, there is this audio interview from the CBC with Rebecca Solnit on panicky elites (including many members of the press) and the assumption that if they are not in control everything must be out of control.
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P.S. (added 1/21/2010): You can find a short essay in which Solnoit covers much the same ground here at Tomdispatch.

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