Tsunami and early warning systems

Sent to the Shields Gazette, 19/1/05

Dear Sir,

The head of the UN's cultural and scientific agency has said an Indian Ocean early warning system, similar to one used by countries bordering the Pacific Ocean to warn of tsunamis would cost $30 million. Considering the number of lives this could save, the cost is a pittance, more so when one realises the cost is equivalent to about two and half hours worth of US occupation of Iraq.

Whilst the world’s governments will heed calls for such an early warning system that can warn of natural disaster which we have no control over, they are deaf when it comes to those blaring in our ears, the man-made early warning systems. For instance, did we not also have fair warning of the devastation in Iraq? Did not President Bush telegraph his message to the world, over a year in advance, that Iraq would be invaded with a US military tsunami? Over one hundred thousand have been killed in Iraq since the US led invasion and now we are getting warnings that the US is just about ready to attack Iran.

Early warning systems have been sounding for decades. It was known in the mid 70s there were 400 chronically malnourished on the planet and there was a promise to eradicate hunger within 10 years. That figure now stands at 870 million. We know that today 17,000 children will die from hunger and many more from hunger related disease, and that this figure will be repeated tomorrow and the next day, and a year from now. The world is aware of the Aids epidemic in Africa, of increasing deaths from malaria, of the diseases facing the 2.4 billion with poor sanitary access, and we know that such problems will be with us in years to come.

These are not new problems. They have existed for so long that the statistics seem hackneyed and you feel something of a prat quoting them repeatedly. The point is, these early warning systems are ringing non-stop. Capitalism’s problems are hitting the human race with the force of a dozen tsunamis a day, killing millions.

And the reason governments fail to respond to the countless deaths caused by the very system they tenaciously defend is because it is unprofitable to do so. The victims, in the main, don’t constitute much of a market. For instance, it is more profitable to destroy thousands of tons of food than to give it to the starving. It makes more sense to have vacant buildings remain unoccupied than to allocate them free to the homeless.

The only early warning system that can prevent non-natural human disaster is one that frees production, science and technology from the artificial constraints of profit, using them for the benefit of humanity, allowing all people to have free access to the benefits of civilisation; a system that can allocate resources and the necessities of life where and when needed, as quickly as possible, and not on the prior estimate of cost. Such a system, world socialism, is the only system that can realistically address the myriad problems facing the human race, heading of disaster in advance.

John B

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