Saturday, January 8, 2011

Natural catastrophes over the last year

A few days ago, Channel 2 of the national French TV system aired an awesome program on natural catastrophes that have taken place all over the planet during the last twelve months. The splendid documentary by David Korn-Brzoza was based upon a simple but brilliant idea. He presented with few comments, month by month, the most spectacular and deadly catastrophes of the year 2010.

In some cases, such as the earthquake in Haïti, we remember above all the huge death toll.

In other cases, such as the Icelandic volcano whose smoke blocked international air traffic, we recall extraordinary images and an exotic geographical name that few people could pronounce.

In one case—the fires in Russia—the catastrophe concerned such a vast territory that nobody knew how to handle it. The same could be said in the case of the explosion of an oil platform off the US coast. If the year had not ended already, the great flooding in Queensland would have surely deserved a spot in this tragic documentary.

In the context of this kind of movie, scriptwriters are wont to get carried away with the poetic theme of the colossal inhuman forces wielded by our planet Earth, in the face of which we remain almost powerless. In the Korn-Brzoza documentary, fortunately, there was no insipid poetry, but rather a constant series of questions concerning the alarming hypothesis that global warming caused by human activities might be largely responsible for much of this suffering and terror. I find it appalling that certain bone-headed observers (often calling themselves "professors" of this or that) persist in rejecting this hypothesis.

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