The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting its sixth twitter chat on Thursday, 24 March, 2011 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EDT. hashtag: #futrchat. You can find information about the first five here(education, money, work, transportation, big questions.)
- Note: due to Daylight Savings Time in the US, London is 8:00 pm Thursday and Sydney is 7:00 am Friday.
We are excited to announce a new APF posterous site, Profuturists to explore, document, and engage with each other beyond the monthly twitter chats. Please subscribe, monitor it for conversations, meet other futurists and forward thinkers, and add your thoughts.
March topic: The future of disasters
This month, a cascade of disasters hit Japan. An earthquake begat a tsunami begat a nuclear breakdown. Each seemingly was more devastating that the previous. By some strange twist of fate, every major disaster escalates into a perfect intersection of terrible circumstances. The world watches, horrified and helpless. Australia, Brazil, and New Zealand were already 2011 victims, while Haiti and Indonesia remain in fresh in our memories.
What can we expect of disasters in the future? Can we anticipate disasters with any level of useful accuracy? The biggest question is: how can we be most prepared?
In other words, can disasters be tamed?
Are disasters all about cities?
Writing about the effects on cities, I said that disasters are a way of life in the 21st century. The cost of lives and property increases exponentially in densely packed communities. And still, small town destruction like the tornado that nearly obliterated Greensburg, Kansas can also capture worldwide attention.
Disasters go far beyond our concern with large cities. The mountains of rubble in Port-au-Prince or Christ Church become symbols, as does the baby that is miraculously saved. We open our hearts.
While the loss of ancient Troy or Atlantis wreaked terrible chaos for their people, no one witnessed it 24/7 on global media. Today, a disaster’s magnitude stretches far beyond a personal or regional tragedy. We all watch transfixed and suffer together. The twitter pictures and tweets describing one person’s struggles spread the experience like a drop of iodine in water. To ease their pain, we share it. The tragedy engulfs the world.
The empathic experience
Our attention to disasters springs from our humanity, from who we are. We fear being destroyed and feel great empathy for others’ losses.
While the modern era celebrated rationalism, the 21st century embraces meaning and emotions. We are each a whole self, not separate parts of mind and body. According to Jeremy Rifkin, the embodied experience and our participation with each other “is the key to how human beings engage the world, create individual identity,… and define reality and existence.”
Technologies bring us closer together, we can see and hear the events, and we experience them viscerally. 9/11 might have been the first globally-shared trauma; Japan’s earthquake is the most recent. With increasingly frequent disasters of greater magnitude, more infrastructure and possessions to lose and far more people in harm’s way, we collectively join the tragedy, everywhere, all at once.
The conversation about disasters shapes the way that we prepare. Who influences it- the loudest voices, most credible, most powerful? How are resources allocated? What is excellent preparation and response? Or negligent response? Why do some places recover and others collapse? Guy Yeoman, APF futurist, posted some useful references.
The future of disasters
As we see these disasters and their devastation with increasing force and frequency, will we learn? What will be the larger impact of Japan’s quake/flooding/nuclear trifecta? Or Haiti, New Orleans, or Indonesia’s catastrophes? What about the recent floods in Australia and earthquakes in New Zealand?
Can we reduce the severity of events or losses? Can we afford the protections that mitigate damage? How will we decide who or what gets protection and what does not? Will early warning systems improve? Will we abandon some cities, admitting they are not fit for human settlements, feeding the wave of disaster refugees? Will people learn to be smarter or more fearful? Are disasters a new form of overly consuming fear? Are our empathic actions sustainable or will people choose isolationism?
At a personal level, do you live in harm’s way? How well prepared is your city or your family? Do you consider disaster risk when relocating?
Please Join Us – an open tweet chat
You are welcome to join the APF #futrchat and voice your views about the future of disasters. We’ve hosted chats on the future of education, the future of money, the future of work, the future of transportation, and big questions about the future. These chats are fast and intense.
Jennifer Jarratt and I will co-host, asking the formal questions and follow ups. Please ask questions that come to you, add links (if they pertain and are not promotional ads), and teach, inform, persuade, enlighten, or provoke us.
What do you think about the future of disasters?
Join us on Twitter by searching for #futrchat. Please use #futrchat in your tweets, and the Question #, as Q1, Q2, Q3 etc.
As alternative to twitter.com, you can use tweetdeck and search for futrchat (may work faster without the hashtag symbol). Or here are two sites where you join the chat.