The End of the World….at Least for 20101

A recent article in the Washington Post reflects on global events in 2010. According to global reinsurer Swiss Re:

“Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 – the deadliest year in more than a generation . . . caused $222 billion in economic losses in 2010 – more than Hong Kong’s economy.”

The article also reports that “[p]oor construction and development practices conspire to make earthquakes more deadly than they need be. More people live in poverty in vulnerable buildings in crowded cities. That means that when the ground shakes, the river breaches, or the tropical cyclone hits, more people die.” In January, a 7.0 earthquake in Haiti killed 220,000 people, and in February an 8.8 earthquake in Chile caused fewer than 1,000 deaths.

“In the summer, one weather system caused oppressive heat in Russia, while farther south it caused flooding in Pakistan that inundated 62,000 square miles, about the size of Wisconsin. That single heat-and-storm system killed almost 17,000 people, more people than all the worldwide airplane crashes in the past 15 years combined.”

According to Debarati Guha Sapir, director for the World Health Organization’s Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters: “The Earth strikes back in cahoots with bad human decision-making. It’s almost as if the policies, the government policies and development policies, are helping the Earth strike back instead of protecting from it. We’ve created conditions where the slightest thing the Earth does is really going to have a disproportionate impact.”

The balance of the article summarizes the world events in 2010, as well as the resulting costs. A list of day-by-day disasters in 2010 compiled by the AP runs 64 printed pages long, with still 10 days left to go before 2011. [audio:|titles=The End]

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