The sense of awe and wonder many of us in the northern hemisphere experienced during August’s solar eclipse, which I wrote about in last month’s column, has since given way this month to shock and horror as the natural world demonstrated its awesome power in other ways.
Heavy monsoon rains inundated parts of India and south Asia, leading to building collapses and people killed.
Hurricane Harvey slammed into Houston, dropping nearly 52 inches (about 132 cm) — an estimated 33 trillion gallons (about 125 trillion liters) — of rain along the Gulf Coast.
Florida was battered shortly thereafter by Hurricane Irma, and as I write this column Hurricane Maria has pummeled Puerto Rico as it wends its way through the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, two earthquakes rocked Mexico, resulting in loss of life and property.
From southern Asia to Florida, from the Caribbean to the Gulf Coast, as an international organization, AAPG has members in all of these locations — members who have been directly and personally affected by these tragic events.
As President Charles Sternbach wrote to AAPG members in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Houston and the Gulf Coast are home to nearly a quarter of our members.
We know of members who have lost everything, who have been rescued by boat as floodwaters filled their homes, and others who are sheltering family and friends whose homes and possessions were destroyed. Some of our members are working remotely since their offices are not yet reopened.
lt is difficult to fathom the level of disruption that our colleagues have and are experiencing.
In response to these events, AAPG’s Executive Committee has taken two specific actions.
First, it has formed an ad hoc committee to connect AAPG members in Houston and along the Gulf Coast who are in need of assistance or who are able and willing to assist others in recovering from Hurricane Harvey. Our goal is to support the communications and connections to allow members to help members.
The second is that AAPG is launching a crowd-funding campaign, matching dollar-for-dollar all donor contributions up to $25,000. The funds we raise during this campaign will be donated to one or more charities seeking to support Houston and other affected communities in their rebuilding efforts. More details on this campaign will follow by email. If you want to participate, please login to the AAPG website and ensure your contact details are updated.
Recovery and rebuilding is a process that will take years, not days or months. Resolving and healing the emotional effects of this disaster will similarly take time.
But the folks that I’ve talked to in Houston have shown resolve and resilience in the face of misfortune that will stand them in good stead during the recovery process.
It’s not just inspirational for those of us not directly affected. It’s also instructional.
My family and I live in a part of the United States known for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Several years ago, after a particularly devastating set of tornados hit Moore, Okla., just south of Oklahoma City, my wife and I went to help her work colleague whose house had been devastated. As we salvaged possessions not destroyed by wind or rain, I came face-to-face with my own vulnerability.
Be honest: are you prepared to deal with a natural disaster that could touch your life? How about a political or terrorist attack?
In most parts of the developed world we take for granted that systems work and will always be there. You know — basic amenities like electricity, cellular and mobile networks, delivery of food and fuel, and the Internet. But if these were not available, how long could you or your family survive?
Now is the time to think about that. And to recognize that our colleagues and fellow members in Houston and around the globe need our support — physical, emotional and financial.
When it’s my time to need help, I sure hope someone is willing to lend a hand.