Hurricane Sandy

October 30, 2012

Science can watch, measure anticipate plan, and protect. But Hurricane Sandy reminds us of the limits of human power over nature

The world watches the unfolding path of destruction unleashed by Hurricane Sandy. It seems appropriate that the hurricane arrived on the Western seaboard of the United States in time to disrupt an increasingly fractious campaign to elect the next President there.

Instantaneous updates

Most news sources seem to be communicating the primary information instantaneously. Wikipedia, for example, is as powerful a source of information as the older media. I did not expect it to be so.

Politics briefly on hold

President Obama has said that he was worried for the American people and that “The election can take care of itself for next week”. But whatever he says remains a political statement.

After the deluge

After the deluge the stocktaking. By late Monday [October 31st, 2012] the ‘end of the beginning’ was glimpsed on the Eastern seaboard. Weather maps still showed the red alert danger warnings across New York, New Jersey, and much of New England. The Washington Post turned attention to the future

Storm-ravaged residents of New York and New Jersey began urgent recovery efforts Tuesday after a nighttime pummeling from Hurricane Sandy, which caused widespread flooding, raging fires and broad power outages and left at least 40 people dead from Connecticut to North Carolina.

It’s not politics, but…

The harder President Obama avoided politics, the more political each move seemed. His visits to stricken New Jersey and his rapport with Republican Governor Chris Christie illustrate this point

Not a good week for leaders

February 25, 2011

Earthquake damage to Christchurch Cathedral
The news has been full of leadership stories this week. But they have been not so much about heroic figures, as leaders struggling to deal with crises from Libya to London, from Wall Street to Washington. For personal heroism we have to go to rescuers after the earthquake in Christchurch Canterbury, New Zealand

The start of February 2011 has produced global shocks politically, and in their wake economically. The headlines have been reserved for events in the middle east, when attention shifted from Egypt to neighbouring Libya where Colonel Gadhafi has appeared weakened. Events there appear more like an old-fashioned and bloody insurrection than the new-media supported challenges to regimes in Tunisia and Egypt last month.

What appears to be in common to these events is the weakening or termination of authority of a long-standing ruler, charged with being out of touch with the democratic rights of their people.

Efforts to maintain a ‘strong man’ position have tended to be followed by concessionary offers of reform, which have encouraged further efforts to depose the regimes.

Drugged by al Qaeda

Moammar Gadhafi at present has refused to take such a conciliatory stance. In a telephoned speech [24 Feb 2011] to Libyan state television he put the blame for the uprising sweeping Libya on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, saying that terrorist group had been drugging Libyans and thus inducing them to revolt. Western commentators remain unconvinced.


Shockwaves from the region have troubled other leaders. Prime Minister David Cameron and his Foreign Secretary William Hague have been under pressure for acting too slowly to support repatriation of British citizens. President Obama continues to take political hits as he struggles to avoid accusations of America being too enthusiastic in favour of military intervention. Stock market speculation was evident in light of uncertainties over oil supplies and prices.

And at Apple

One of the sad leadership tales of the week was at Apple. Shareholders are increasing demands for the company to reveal a succession plan for the iconic Steve Jobs, whose medical condition is seen to be a serious threat to the company’s future prospects. Unlike most political leaders, Jobs’ contributions have been visible, immense, and widely acclaimed.

A real crisis

Events even in Libya have had less human consequences than were produced in the earthquake which has devastated the city of Canterbury, New Zealand this week. There, the response has had less to do with top-down leadership than with community response and personal heroism.


Christchurch Cathedral and the effects of the Earthquake [23rd Feb 2011]. Image from australiangeographic.