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The issue at hand.

AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA STRUCK the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, an e-mail from the furtive Columbia Christians for Life discerned the image of a fetus in a satellite photo of the storm and concluded that Katrina was part of God's plan to destroy the rive abortion clinics in New Orleans. Then, on August 31, Repent America issued a press release noting that this was the day that Southern Decadence, an annual gay festival, was scheduled to begin in the French Quarter. The statement declared, "Hurricane Katrina has put an end to the annual celebration of sin." Articles in this issue of the Humanist, however, ignore such Sodom and Gomorrah metaphors to make it plain that hurricane disasters are human catastrophes.

After all, modern building methods allow us to construct safer structures and sounder levees. Modern weather tracking renders us capable of predicting and preparing for storms. Modern communication lets us thoroughly warn communities. Modern government, social institutions, and transportation systems permit us to move potential victims out of harm's way. Modern emergency aid systems and medical facilities allow us to rescue and treat the afflicted. And a sophisticated modern infrastructure allows us to efficiently rebuild after nature wreaks its havoc.

Therefore, if grave consequences follow a hurricane--as commentators Michael I. Niman and Michael Parenti describe--if national and local governments don't deliver on what the people have every right to expect from the advantages of modernity, wealth, and enlightened social sensibilities, then it's simply time to change who's in charge and how the system works.

Moreover, if global warming is increasing the severity and frequency of hurricanes, as NASA scientist Stuart Jordan shows in his article, and if that change finds its source in human-caused pollution, then even the nature of the storm itself can be laid at the feet of Homo sapiens.

But beyond looking at causes in these pages, we also look at solutions. Though there were commentators who declared "there are no atheists in hurricanes" Detective Sergeant Steve Schlicht of the Gulfport Police Department proved the opposite, not only surviving Katrina but working with other Humanists to cut through the red tape and bring aid to those most in need. He was assisted by a number of local and national Humanist and freethought organizations. Indeed, national nontheistic groups like the American Humanist Association, Atheist Alliance International, Center for Inquiry, and Hands on Humanity managed between them to directly raise over $100,000 for hurricane relief. Other organizations in the community of reason encouraged their members to donate to one of these or to mainstream secular charities. As a result of all this activity, new Humanist charities are forming.

It is human beings, then, who decide the nature and impact of hurricanes. We live in a scientific age. We can both change the weather and change how it affects us. It all depends on how much responsibility and action we are prepared to muster.
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Author:Edwords, Fred
Publication:The Humanist
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Previous Article:Charter school controversy.
Next Article:Kennedy, Katrina, and the role of government.

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