Apocalypse…Now?

Those hoping that 2011 would be a more settled year, following the tumultuous few years following the global financial crisis and the near collapse of Western markets, will have been severely disappointed.  Only a few months into the year, and there remains continuing uncertainty in Western money markets, civil unrest in Europe, as well as revolution sweeping across the Middle East.  Similarly, the rest of the world has been able to do little more than look on, helpless bystanders as Japan has endured its most powerful earthquake on record, followed then by a tsunami, and now possible meltdown at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant.

In such unstable times, one may start to wonder what would happen in such worst case scenarios.  What procedures are in place, if any, when catastrophe strikes?  Moreover, who decides which procedures should be taken?

Some light has been shed on such unknowns by William Glaberson in a recent article for The New York Times.  In February 2011 a seemingly innocuous official legal document, was published in New York by the State Court System and the State Bar Association, with the rather prosaic title, the ‘New York State Public Health Legal Manual’.  Yet, as Glaberson’s article highlights, the banal title belies the radical material written within.   This legal manual has been designed as a guide for legal and health professionals in the event of a large-scale emergency, such as a terrorist attack, epidemic or mass contamination.

The intention behind the creation of such a document, as the chief of operations for the state court system, Ronald P. Younkins, has explained, is to give judges and lawyers Continue reading “Apocalypse…Now?”

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Altruism – a ‘timed’ trait?

In a recent article in the New York Times, a study published in the PNAS was discussed, that looked closely at altruistic behavior in the face of a catastrophe. The events in question were the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and of the Lusitania in 1915. The former sank in the course of three hours while the latter only needed 18 minutes. The outcome of the study was that on the Titanic, more women and children were saved while on the Lusitania more men were saved. So, on the Titanic the ‘women and children first’ was heeded. The conclusion seems to be, that altruistic behavior has something to do with time. Nietzsche claimed Continue reading “Altruism – a ‘timed’ trait?”

Virtual Conference Report: Day Four (22 Oct, 2009)

800px-COP14_11by Paula Bowles

The conference today has taken on a distinctly environmental feel. First up was Mark Macklin’s (University of Wales, Aberystwyth) keynote address entitled ‘Floodplain Catastrophes and Climate Change: Lessons from the Rise and Fall of Riverine Societies.’ In his paper, Macklin observes that ‘[w]e are not the first society to face the threat of environmental catastrophe,’ although he stresses that the current threat has unique features.

Susan Morrison (Texas State University – San Marcos) has taken a highly interdisciplinary approach to her paper ‘Waste Studies ‐ A New Paradigm for Literary Analysis, Something is Rotten in the Denmark of Beowulf and Hamlet’. By combining the disciplines of literature and waste studies, Morrison offers a reminder ‘that the origins of the Anglophone literary canon are sedimented in waste’.

Tim Cooper (University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus) continued this theme of waste with his paper ‘Recycling Modernity: Towards an Environmental History of Waste.’ By taking as a starting point the belief that ‘waste was one of the characteristic products of modernity’ Cooper is able to consider why this subject is so fascinating to historians and other social scientists.

Before we head into the fifth day of the conference, just a quick reminder to visit the virtual book exhibit. As a delegate, you are invited to take 20% off the price of any Wiley Book.