natural disaster | WAMC

natural disaster

a house under construction
WAMC

    Today marks the 10-year anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters in western Massachusetts history.

Book cover for "Doom" by Niall Ferguson
Penguin Press

Disasters are by their very nature hard to predict. Pandemics, earthquakes, wildfires, financial crises, and wars are not normally distributed; there is no cycle of history to help us anticipate the next catastrophe. But when disaster strikes, we ought to be better prepared than the Romans were when Vesuvius erupted, or medieval Italians when the Black Death struck. We have science on our side, after all.

Yet in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the responses of a number of developed countries, including the United States, were badly bungled. Why? In "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe," New York Times best-selling author Niall Ferguson sets the great crises of 2020 in broad historical perspective and explores why, in the face of a catastrophe, some societies fall apart and others hold together, while a few emerge stronger.

Richard Friedberg Macondo, 2014 aluminum, 132 x 132 x 198 in.
provided / mwpai.org

Monumental sculptures representing natural disasters caused by human activity create a forceful presence in the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute exhibit "Terrible Beauty," a showcase for Richard Friedberg’s impressive body of work created during the past decade.

Friedberg has been compelled by such horrific events as the BP Deepwater Horizon wellhead blowout at Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico and the Fukushima nuclear accident and tsunami.

These specific events, in Friedberg’s hands and imagination, are transformed into works reminiscent of terrible explosions, tidal waves, and smoke. The sculptures, made with aluminum mesh screening, a material that proves appropriately malleable for his subject.

To tell us about the exhibit on display through May 30th, we welcome Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art - Mary Murray.

In his long career as an acclaimed journalist covering the “hot” moments of the Cold War and its aftermath, bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan often found himself crossing paths with Bob Gersony, a consultant for the U.S. State Department whose quiet dedication and consequential work made a deep impression on Kaplan.

Gersony, a high school dropout later awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, conducted on-the-ground research for the U.S. government in virtually every war and natural-disaster zone in the world. Gersony’s behind-the scenes fact-finding, which included interviews with hundreds of refugees and displaced persons from each war zone and natural-disaster area, often challenged the assumptions and received wisdom of the powers that be, on both the left and the right. In nearly every case, his advice and recommendations made American policy at once smarter and more humane.

Our Falling into Place series spotlights the important work of -and fosters collaboration between- not-for-profit organizations in our communities; allowing us all to fall into place.

Falling Into Place is supported by The Seymour Fox Memorial Foundation, Providing a helping hand to turn inspiration into accomplishment. See more possibilities … see more promise… see more progress.

This morning we'll learn about OpenWorld Relief, an organization that helps communities that have been affected by natural disasters. 

Benjamin Watsky is Executive Director of OpenWorld Relief, Co-founder at The Agora Method, and an Air National Guard Pilot. 

The 13th Annual Berkshire International Film Festival will showcase 80 of the latest independent feature, documentary, short and family films from 28 countries from May 31 to June 3 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and from June 1 to 3 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The festival features screenings and various special events including three “Tea Talks”. One of this year’s Tea Talks features Berkshire based Academy Award winning filmmaker, Cynthia Wade, and a screening of her new documentary, “Grit.”

"Grit" is co-directed and co-produced by Wade and Sasha Friedlander and follows the lives of Indonesian citizens in East Jakarta displaced from their villages when an underground mudflow, struck by a natural gas drill, bubbles up and buries their homes and everything they own beneath 60 feet of mud.

Cynthia Wade joins us.

  Natural disasters don't matter for the reasons we think they do. They generally don't kill a huge number of people. Most years more people kill themselves than are killed by Nature's tantrums. And using standard measures like Gross Domestic Product (GDP) it is difficult to show that disasters significantly interrupt the economy.

It's what happens after the disasters that really matters-when the media has lost interest and the last volunteer has handed out a final blanket, and people are left to repair their lives. What happens is a stark expression of how unjustly unequal our world has become. The elite make out well-whether they belong to an open market capitalist democracy or a closed authoritarian socialist state.

In The Disaster Profiteers, John Mutter argues that when no one is looking, disasters become a means by which the elite prosper at the expense of the poor.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Two deaths in upstate New York are being attributed to the storm.

State police say a 23-year-old man died when the tractor he was using to plow his driveway overturned in Columbia County Friday evening. And a 74-year-old man died when a car slid and hit him as he walked on a Poughkeepsie road.

The National Weather Service reported snowfall totals of 10-12 inches in the mid-Hudson Valley and Adirondacks; 8 inches at Buffalo; 12 inches at Rochester; 6.5 inches in suburban Albany; and 9 inches in Syracuse.

Courtesy NOAA

One year after Tropical Storm Irene, repair crews remain busy in Greene County New York, where the reconstruction is expected to cost as much as $15 million on roads, bridges and culverts. For an update, WAMC’s Brian Shields spoke with Gary Harvey, the superintendent of the Greene County Highway Department.

Schoharie County in New York took perhaps the hardest hit from Tropical Storm Irene compared to any other upstate county. One year later, the recovery continues, but it could take another four years before all the damage has been repaired. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is one federal agency involved in the recovery, but it is local and state officials who have been on the front lines for the past year. For an update on Schoharie County, WAMC’s Brian Shields spoke to the chairman of the county board of supervisors, Howard Vroman.

Bill Flaherty - National Grid

Aug 28, 2012

At one point after Tropical Storm Irene moved through upstate New York one year ago, national grid reported 156,000  customers without power. For a look back, and a look at what has changed since the storm, WAMC’s Brian Shields talked today with Bill Flaherty, a regional executive with National Grid, who recalls the preparation before the storm hit.

Several of the western Massachusetts communities that were in the path of almost unimaginable destruction one year ago today will hold remembrance events.  It will be an opportunity to reflect on the one year anniversary of the worst tornado to hit the state in a half-century and also to look toward what many hope will be a brighter future.    WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

  With the start of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season  23 days away,  hundreds of people attended a hurricane preparedness conference Wednesday in Massachusetts.. The first of its kind event was hosted by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.   WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.