karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

Nature 1, humanity 0

In science fiction we often write about the future in ways that show humans triumphing over the limitations nature imposes— living virtually forever, cloning animals and people, leaving the planet, traveling to the stars. And indeed, technology today has advanced enough that it's difficult to remember how far we've come. I certainly remember life before cell phones and the Internet, for example, but I'm also very used to advance notice of bad weather.

After Sunday's sudden, violent storm, a day without power pointed out to me how dependent we all are on the benefits of civilization. Turns out we were some of the lucky ones. I don't know anyone who lives in my county who didn't lose power during the storm. Some folks got it back within a few hours. Some (like my family) only had to wait a day. Some folks are still waiting.

But some people lost more than power. The storm killed a total of four people. Killed as in the storm directly caused their deaths, not storm-related things like the ambulance couldn't get there in time after a heart attack. A woman driving a car was crushed by a falling tree. A man on a jet ski was killed by a wave, a man at at picnic was hit by lightning, and (saddest of all), a little boy walking back from a pool with his family was killed by a falling tree branch.

One reason there were so many direct deaths is that there was no real forecast of what to expect. Certainly we had heard there might be a thunderstorm, but in DC the standard forecast all summer long is basically: hazy, hot, and humid, with a chance of afternoon and evening thunderstorms. So on Sunday afternoon you had guys on jet skis, families walking, and a gardening group holding a picnic. When the storm struck, the victims were all out in it, and vulnerable to attack.

Life is fragile, and we are all here for a short time, in the scheme of things. No matter what technological wonders the future holds, I think it's a safe bet that nature will still have the upper hand for a good long while.

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Tags: life, technology

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