politics

causes of “natural” disasters like the Irish Potato Famine.

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There are posts going around right now in honors of St. Patrick’s day pointing out that the real story of the Irish potato famine is rarely taught. Children are taught the cause of the famine was a potato blight, and not anything about the political and economic situation that left so many people starving while the country exported “landlords exported 17 million pounds sterling worth of grain, cattle, pigs, flour, eggs, and poultry” (see https://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/03/16-1)

I read the articles and I think about the problems that are coming with global climate change. More severe weather problems from droughts to floods and everything inbetween is going to cause chaos for so many people. Will we look at them and say the climate change is the cause of their suffering? Or will we, while acknowledging the need to take action on climate change, also acknowledge that an inequality of resources makes all situations worse?

Many people and nations are willing to throw money towards a cause after a disaster. Will we acknowledge instead that if we offered money before the disaster we might prevent its occurrance? Will we acknowledge that protecting mangrove forests helps protect people from storms? Or that allowing countries to put their money into their own infrastructure instead of having to pay back foreign debts taken out by governments years ago would allow them to build more flood resistant communities? We should recognize that the lack of funding for the good projects that would ease the stress of climate change isn’t a true lack of wealth within the world but a concentration of it and take action – like the Robin Hood Tax – to help redistribute some. We should be aware of the dangers of allowing farmland to be concentrated in the hands of a few – dangers both for humans and all other creatures that share our planet.

Yes, there’s a million great causes out there and yes, everyone has limited time and energy to put towards fighting for the things they believe in. But if everyone took action on what they can, we would be a lot better off. At the very least, people should be willing to admit that “natural” disasters are shaped by the unnatural conditions we create (including our inequality of wealth and power). We can make changes. We must make changes.

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