Sunday, March 06, 2005

Panel at New York Academy of Sciences

About 25 science writers and others turned up for the panel at the New York Academy of Sciences - this is an austere, old four storey building located on the West side of Central Park in its "Museum Row" - it was good to meet with Laura Newman who put together the panel. She let me know that she searched a lot to find people with first hand experience of the Tsunami and she learned of me through Jeff Hecht of the New Scientist who had read my blog.

Dr. Siddharth Shah and Prof. Randall Marshall, both physicians were the rest of the panel. Siddharth was already in India at the presented some of his experiences with traumatized relief workers in Tamil Nadu. He is now offering counseling services to journalists in New York. Randall Marshall has been working with New York World Trade Center disaster victims and also others who were affected by it - he cited extensively from that literature and hopes to undertake a case study in a non-Western context in Sri Lanka. For the work in New York, their team was funded to $2 million by New York Times. For the present work, they are looking for funding for an initial visit from Foundations.

My presentation lasted for 45 minutes and I argued that the scale of the disaster was largely due to people's vulnerability and rather than due to the biophysical hazard it and that there was insufficient attention paid to vulnerability. This vulnerability could have been dramatically reduced if existing laws and policies had been followed and if the lessons learned from past disasters had been heeded. The marginalization of people, the stresses due to war and conflict and environmental degradation also contributed to severe death toll. Ultimately, it seems to be the case that the perverse lack of democratic accountability of rulers to its people so that it takes care of safeguards to reduce risk of such a basic need as freedom for disasters as the underlying cause for this disaster. I pointed out the neglect of local science, technology and services and the marginalization of local scientists and technologists as being a prime cause for the failure of disaster mitigation systems.

My plea to the writers was the need to cover scientific issues surrounding vulnerability, the need to pay attention to science and technology in poor countries and support of local capacity in Science and Technology.

"Understanding the Tsunami: What’s the Science That Led to It, What Do We Need to Do In Its Aftermath? "
at the New York Academy of Sciences .

Time: 6.30-9 pm on Monday, March 14th, 2005
Venue: New York Academy of Sciences2 East 63 Street
between Madison and 5th AvenuesNew York, NY 10021.
Tel: 212.838.0230

By SubwayView Subway Map Closest stops: N, R, W trains to Fifth Avenue; F train to 63rd Street; 4, 5, 6 trains to 59th Street.

This panel has been organized by the Science Writers in New York (SWINY).

Please RSVP to Laura Newman at (limited phone calls 212-664-0017, please) by March 7th. Please have a check for $20 made out to "SWINY" (this includes Indian hors d'oeuvres and drinks) and it is payable at the door. A subsidzed rate of $10 is afforded to students. Your RSVP stands for your agreement to pay, whether you attend or not.