I am probably negatively qualifed to talk about Disaster Warning Systems, but people are talking about them. I was looking at a proposal from a jumble of Acronyms (http://dma.jrc.it/GDAS/). It’s part of the European Commisisisi…. ugh, there are like 17 titles to write and I can’t do it. Even the URL I don’t understand, but that may contain their full name and lineage. But this I like, “New technology, called Asguard, for near real-time analysis and alert systems is being developed.” Ass Guard. That is a good acronym.
This is not a criticism of the system, but there is one general thing about NGO and government projects that makes me want to vomit out my nose. These are some of the acronyms mentioned in the, fuck, I don’t even know what to call it. This are some acronyms in ‘this’ report: CRITECH, GDAS, JRC, GLIDE, RSS (I know this one!), CAP, ISFEREA, OCHA, ECHO, UN, SAR, UNITAR/UNOPS, UNOSAT. There are also more names which I do not have the stomach for.
I’m going to call the thing GDAS (God Damn Arrgh Shit) cause that seems to be the most used acronym. GDAS is a system which consists of 1) A Newsreader and 2) Damage Maps and Impact Analysis. “GDAS will provide a platform allowing stakeholders in international disaster response to exchange disaster-related information in a structured and predictable manner, particularily in the response phase of disasters. It is not aimed at informing the potentially endangered population. The GDAS target audience is ‘disaster reduction specialists’, of which 80 attended their conference. Lets say there are more, about 1000.
The GDAS is funded by the European Commission under a ‘thematic’ grant of 4 million Euros. I don’t know what that means, but I think that works out to a cost of about 4000 Euros per client. That is, this delivers 4000 Euros worth of information to each Disaster Reduction Specialist.
I have two specific critiques of this system:
1) Why are you building a ‘European Media Monitor System’ from scratch that offers no tangible benefits over Google News?
2) Who gives a shit?
I guess my question is, do disaster victims get 4000 Euros worth of benefit out of this? They’re not included in the warning system, but is there some benefit that trickles down this economics? After warning these people, flying them out here, putting them in hotels, and driving them around, what exactly does Joe Thirulachelvalingum in Kalmunai get?
I don’t really think great tragedy was that ‘Specialists’ in Brussells were uninformed., I think it was that people in Kalutara had their children dragged out to sea. The ‘Specialists’ can watch BBC and get on a flight. Joe Welarachichi in Kalutara needs to get the fuck out of his house.
Actually, I think the core problem is that the people who die are invisible. If New York gets hit by 10 foot waves the whole world would know in 20 minutes. People in New York have a symbolic existence. They matter. When Banda Aceh got completely obliterated, nobody gave a shit. Those were just invisible people. Even the people who got hit in Sri Lanka were in poor villages and shanties. We don’t have much news from the latest dam breaking Pakistan cause I have never heard of that province and those people don’t exist. The problem isn’t getting information to Europe. The problem is getting information out of the Third World.
If you just had one webcam in Banda Aceh you might have noticed that the whole damn province disappeared. With that information and the seismograph data that’s public on the Web you could tell Kalmunai to watch out. If those poor, wretched people had some basic symbolic existence, lives could have been saved. If there was just one blogger there it could have made a difference.
I could honestly give a shit when the European Commission knows about a Disaster. My question is, how can we make the invisible people visible? How can we get them online so that when they die someone will notice, and care, and warn others? As long as those people are invisible, they effectively don’t exist. Until they die. Then the vultures fly business class, wiping the blood from their mouths with grant proposals.*
*I just like the sentence, though it does injustice to a lot of good people. I don’t care if these people get funded or not. It doesn’t make a difference.