A Healthy Dose of Global Crisis

I am no fan of fear-mongering and I get particularly annoyed when people exploit disasters to their advantage. But I do think that the recent flu epidemic offers an important reminder of the possibility of global disasters and the importance of preventing and preparing for them.

Although we seem to have averted a full blown epidemic this time, the code 5 WHO rating shows just how close we came and just how possible it was to find ourselves in this previously overlooked situation. Although specialists have for years shown the real probability of such an epidemic occurring, this possibility only became real for the average person over the past few weeks. And for many people, the reality of the situation was highly impressionable.

This previously overlooked or ignored possibility is similar to that of catastrophic climate change in which a third “Ice Age” occurs. Despite the climate change models that show this possibility to be likely without mitigation action and probable in even optimistic scenarios, this possibility appears to most to be a distant even impossible scenario. As a result, there is little motivation to make the investments necessary to avoid such a consequence.

It is easy to dismiss these low probability and high impact events. People infamously assume that low probability means no probability, but since we live in a world where these types of events do occur, our propensity to ignore all these threats prepares us for a world that simply does not exist

If we can take anything positive away from the recent epidemic, it should be that we need to take very disastrous possibilities more seriously and engage in conversations about preparing for them. In the case of climate change, preventing the possibility of an Ice Age requires urgent action. Since we have been reminded that these sorts of very scary occurrences are a real possibility, maybe we should begin now to do something about them.