Humanitarian providers of the future need to develop a far broader perspective on the complex array of issues involved in order to ensure that their good work actually does some good -- or at the very least does no harm.
When it comes to solving problems, elected officials are inclined to support solutions that allow people to keep behaving as they always have, but with less damage. That's how it has been with America's response to weather-related disasters. It's a response that won't work anymore.
There is no question that sustainable recovery from disasters -- particularly moving out of harm's way -- can be a slow, frustrating, arduous process. More enlightened federal funding policies and programs would make it easier and more common.
My father grew up in Atlantic City and owned a house in a neighboring town until just a few years ago. Looking at footage of splintered chunks of the city's famous boardwalk floating down city streets, I saw disaster.
Looking back at such experiences we often realize they weren't nearly as bad as they seemed. In fact, sometimes they even turned out to have a lot of benefits, yet at the time they seemed like disasters.
In describing the most pressing dangers to the human species, Fred Guterl spends considerable time talking about climate change, though he believes that viruses pose probably the most direct threat to humans.
The reason for my optimism is a convergence between scientific research about what people really do in disasters, namely engaging in highly sophisticated collaborative behavior, and the advent of sophisticated mobile devices and social media that can encourage such behavior.
The usual emphasis on panic in disasters implies that, in a crisis, we're all sheep wheeling around idiotically and selfishly trampling those around us. But those who study the subject confirm that most of us behave beautifully.