Natural Disasters and their Implicatons for Social Change

The magnitude of natural disasters determine the magnitude of the fluctuations in social stasis. In a well developed and relatively wealthy country, well developed disaster response and relief can turn major disasters into relatively minor disruptions in physical loss, leadership capability, and social order. A less developed and organized country can suffer terrible losses from the same natural disaster.

In a nation that has an unequal distribution of wealth, poorly distributed resources for disaster response and relief, and inequities in allocating resources to rebuilding and restoring order, then even a relatively minor natural disaster can result in catastrophic loss of life, ability to sustain life, and return to regular societal affairs. Whole systems of government can undergo massive change or be replaced as a result.

In any disaster, political and religious movements offer the most volatile and unknown factors to the chaotic process of initial response, post disaster recovery, and ongoing affairs of a nation. Charismatic religious leaders can either respond by directing resources and leading distressed populations toward helping those who are worst off, or they can motivate the population to religious riots and hysteria. The same goes for charismatic politicians who can use their influence and power to direct badly needed resources to the disaster area, or who can use their influence and power to advance their political policies and goals.

One hopeful light that shines as soon as the word of a major disaster goes out, is the willingness of nations to offer help to those areas and countries that are suffering natural disaster, even when the disaster zone is in a nation that has been destructive and hostile to other nations.

In a stunning act, Libya and Syria, two countries that are considered mortal enemies at times, contributed a combined total of $105,000,000 to support those who suffered in the Katrina Hurricane disaster. Iran, another nation that is considered hostile to the West, never has a shortage of international aid when the frequent, destructive earthquakes of that region occur. These are examples of suspension of large scale social hostilities in order to respond, with shared values, to human need.

In this since, the technology that allows instant reporting and visual imagery of natural disaster has caused a worldwide social change that in shared values and in unified global responses to natural disaster: It no longer matters where the disaster occurs, all humans who hear of it are concerned, and many whole nations wish to offer help.

As a result, natural disasters anywhere in the world are no longer just a particular nation’s or region’s natural disaster. Any major disasters become the world’s natural disaster.

And that is the most profound social change possible as the result of natural disaster: global social unity in the face of catastrophic events, wherever they occur in the world.