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For my last blog post I am going to focus on some of my closing thoughts about the course as well as the Malaysia Flight 370. All that we have read about disasters has really shaped my opinion of what a disaster is. I used to think strongly that disasters must have a strong element of surprise or unexpectedness, but over the course, but especially in yesterday’s discussion I no longer think that is true. I thought that Betsy’s point in class yesterday about the Ogallala aquifer depletion was excellent, we know what we are doing, and we know what it is leading too, but it will probably still be framed as a disaster when we finally deplete it. This moves me to what I think the definition of disaster is, the exposure a flaws in our systems that strongly disrupts or destroys the system on a large scale.
This brings me to the Malaysia Flight 370. While it certainly was unexpected, what really made the case intriguing wasn’t the probable death of 200+ people, but the fact that in this day and age we can lose planes. While plane crashes often result in deaths, and are unexpected, they aren’t usually considered disasters. I think this is because they don’t disrupt the system or show a major flaw in it. Planes keep flying, and policies on the aggregate don’t change. With the Malaysia flight there has been a multinational many week long search for the plane, and widespread discussion on how to prevent losing planes.
Finally, I am going to walk back a bit on my point from a few days ago about narrative history and the dangers of moralizing. I think Wells made a great point that Cronon was not arguing that historians should moralize history, but present the history in a way for the reader to make their own moral judgements. But I still do stand by that sometimes “boring non-emotional history” is both useful and interesting. I’m glad that I raised some discussion and enjoyed having this class with everyone!