Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Hurricane and Life in an International World

Hurricane Ike hit Friday the 12th with impressive force, making it's presence felt even in Ohio. It knocked out the power for over two million people and I personally am still without power. However, the cool front that spared a good portion of Galveston from looking like Boliver was also quite nice for the first week without power. The temperatures were low 80s in the highs and low 60s in the lows, quite comfortable. That being said, I've done quite a bit of reading these past days as school and work were both closed on Thursday afternoon until this past Monday the 22nd. Neat eh?

I was able to do a lot of handwritten work, but my assignments, I have to admit, have fallen behind because of my lack of electricity. I've almost caught up, however, and am happy as a clam that my work has power (even if our library was flooded).
When the storm hit I had a quarter tank of gas. I didn't get another chance to fill up until wednesday and only just, as I avoided the lines by going when it was still dark. That was also the first day we had ice.
No worries though, we never lost water and we have natural gas stoves and water heaters. Hot showers, hot food.
People who can't live without power crack me up, by the way. To see them twitch and fidget and not be able to be anything like content without the TV or the AC or the PC or what have you on is both entertaining and disheartening at once.
Sure, I was txting on my cell phone often, I could use the power to do my assignments, but meh, for the most part: I read.

I did quite a bit of that reading for my IR class (and what turns out, will inadvertently be the focus of my poli sci degree). Lots of reading, lots of note taking, lots of me musing about this paper that was due last Tuesday and is now due Thursday.

When asked to label myself either realist or liberal I find myself cringing. Why? Both have horrendous blind spots and neither seem to get human nature quite right. Both are rooted in their view of the individual but neither seem to get the full picture. Both claim that states act rationally yet neither seem to be able to account for the contradictory behavior that can be found in their theories.

For example, a realist would claim that self interested states are aggressive in nature because they have to be in order to maintain security. Therefore you come to the security dilemma where in order to be secure you must arm yourself against your rival or neighbor, but then in order to be secure your rival must arm themselves, so then you must arm yourself even more to be secure, and so on and so forth until it becomes an all out arms race.
It happens, to be sure, it's happened before, it will likely happen again.
Here's the thing--why is that the only road to security?

A liberal perspective would claim that the security dilemma can be avoided by cooperation, by economic openness, and by mitigated institutions. Collective security would prevent state A from attacking state B because of their friends C-Z and social norms that would shame any such aggression.
Problem with collective security is that if state A decides to attack anyway, you'd better hope that B-Z aren't totally disarmed and have an incentive to support a resistance.

What's the solution?
Prove that violence is irrational, that violent conflict is not in the nation's interest.
Problem: It can be. Often.

How can we overcome that? Well increased economic interdependence can possibly lower the incentive to go to war, to be aggressive. If country A has investments in countries C-Z, in the form of direct dollars, multi national cooperations, and so on, and they attack country B, then countries C-Z can punish country A economically and be effective. That is, if all those countries with investments within country A decide they can afford it.
The whole damn thing is rife with problems

And thus--I'm very reluctant to label myself, despite being asked to in general.

Aside from the two mainstream theories there are several 'radical' or alternative theories such as constructivism (which I find just as flawed but interesting none the less) and of course dependency and world systems theories. None of those I find particularly appealing.

I'm afraid she might get a nonanswer from me on this front.

ps I have a stomach ache.

Listening to: Enya - From Where I Am
via FoxyTunes

Friday, September 12, 2008

Natural Disasters--From a Geologist's View

A golden rule of science: Science isn't malicious.
There is no intent or agendas among rocks, there are simply processes that forces compel them to undergo.

Likewise, neither does weather.

Hurricanes, earthquakes, wild fires, floods, rock falls, volcanic eruptions, sink holes, mud flows, tornadoes, tsunami, climate change, etc. are all natural and largely unpredictable phenomena. We've gotten better about predicting or forecasting them, but we've largely been stuck simply /detecting/ them.
As for stopping them or preventing them? Not so much!
We can mitigate, and I believe we should, we should bolt rocks when we make horrendously sharp vertical road cuts, we should net loose unconsolidated stone on hillsides next to homes, we should plant low lying grasses and ground cover on hills of mud to stabilize them, we should work on early warning programs for volcanoes, tsunami, storms, and floods, we should study wild fires and try to find the proper balance between 'conservation' and overgrowth that ensures a fire won't be local but catastrophic.

Here's what we shouldn't do--

Attempt to change the course of rives--an entity that by it's very nature will seek the path of least resistance, and that resistance varies over time

Blame climate change on people AND make any attempt to reverse it. Cut your pollutants sure, but stop focusing on CO2 and start taking a look at methane (something rice patties produce in over abundance! take that you veggie slayers)

Build on barrier islands (especially) or beaches--it's just dumb. Like rivers, beaches and barriers islands move and changed based on the PHYSICS OF THE OCEAN/SEA/LAKE.
When you build on a barrier island or beach you are building on SAND. Remember that story from the Bible? Anyone? Anyone at all? Come on I'm not even Christian and I know that one! Build on ROCK people. And when a hurricane comes and you leave your house on the beach don't be surprised if you come back and find that suddenly you are the proud owner of not beach front property, but ocean property.

This brings me to my largest beef this weekend: Galveston.

Now, disclaimer: I don't want to see anyone get hurt. I don't want people to lose their sentimental possessions, but part of me does want them to realize that they shouldn't be living on a sandbar, a sandbar that is largely (now) man made.

What do I mean? You know the seawall? It's there to hold the island together because it IS just one big pile of sand. They come and dump new sand at huge expense to the taxpayers and then within a WEEK (or in this case a weekend) it will be gone. Yesterday they dumped enough sand to make the 15ft seawall (normally about 10 feet of it is exposed) to leave only a couple feet exposed--all along the seawall. The tonnage of sand used is mind boggling, and it will all be gone come Monday.

After Ike passes over, people will go to their homes and collect on their insurance money. Then they will REBUILD right back on the same site and the next time a storm comes, they will do the same and play ignorant about it.

Barrier islands are neat to visit, they're some cool geology and oceanography taking place, but they're not places to /live/. They're called BARRIERS because they're supposed to protect the mainland from the brunt of storms (specifically storm surge). It's in the name! What about living on a barrier island sounds like a good proposition?

But if there is anything I've learned, it's that people will continue to do whatever it is they do as long as they feel that there will be someone to pull them out whether it's their insurance company or their government.
Unfortunately, when people get so complacent, they will make mistakes and lose their lives. See Katrina.
I love New Orleans, I think it's an amazing city, but I also realize that people are living in a bowl that was engineered by a haphazard conglomeration of trying to 'stabilize' the Mississippi and trying, ironically to keep the city above sea level (the irony stems from the fact that the Mississippi historically would provide the materials to replenish the land and build it up. when they build the levees they effectively halted any restoring material from flowing in. But every time you build a building or add weight or have a rain storm you either wash away sediment or you compact it and thus it subsides--lowering the level of the city even further). The tragedy of Katrina was the loss of life that never should have happened (at least not on the scale that it did, some people you just can't force to move). Proper planning, better maintenance, better care could all have reduced the number of people who died.
However--the property damage, people can blame all they want on the army corps of engineers but they need to look at themselves as well and realize where they were living. I applaud the people who made their exodus when Katrina came or at least when they moved back, built on higher ground. I applaud the people who learned a lesson from the storm.
I think it was a MISTAKE to try and rebuild portions of the city. I think it encourages a very very bad behavior.

One day it will be a lesson that Galveston will have to endure (perhaps this weekend, you never know) and decide if it's really worth it to rebuild on a pile of unstable, shifting (rightfully so) sand.

The most important lesson in geology: When people get hurt by the Earth, chances are they did something to put themselves in harms way.

Solution? Minimize your risk, don't up your insurance.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Who Am I?

I've had three different tests taken in regards to me, one by myself, two by people who I consider as knowing me pretty well. These are my three results:

ENFP The Inspirer
Enthusiastic, idealistic, and creative. Able to do almost anything that interests them. Great people skills. Need to live life in accordance with their inner values. Excited by new ideas, but bored with details. Open-minded and flexible, with a broad range of interests and abilities.

ISFP The Peacemaker
Quiet, serious, sensitive and kind. Do not like conflict, and not likely to do things which may generate conflict. Loyal and faithful. Extremely well-developed senses, and aesthetic appreciation for beauty. Not interested in leading or controlling others. Flexible and open-minded. Likely to be original and creative. Enjoy the present moment.

The Duty Fulfiller
Serious and quiet, interested in security and peaceful living. Extremely thorough, responsible, and dependable. Well-developed powers of concentration. Usually interested in supporting and promoting traditions and establishments. Well-organized and hard working, they work steadily towards identified goals. They can usually accomplish any task once they have set their mind to it.

So who am i?