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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Thursday, January 13, 2005

How catastrophic is the tsunami?

Consider the following: the world has about 6 billion people. A rough estimate of the number that die in any given year is about 1%, or 60 million people per year. (About 1.2 million people die each year worldwide just in car accidents). Divide 60 million by 365 and you have about 165 thousand people dying each and every day. And given the nature of the world, a good number of them are children and good number of these deaths happen with little or no warning.

So assuming 270 thousand people died in the tsunami, then that day had roughly 2.6 times, or 160% more than the usual number of deaths. That week had roughly 29% more deaths than usual and that month (December) had roughly 6.5% more deaths than usual.

I’m not trying to minimize anyone’s suffering or get people not to be generous. But the reaction to this tsunami seems to me a bit over the top. Using the tsunami to question, as did the Archbishop of Canterbury among many others, the existence of God? Because 2004 ends up having one half of one percent more deaths than usual? Please.

We should always care about human suffering and do what we can to help. But every day across the world, families one by one face their own little tsunamis when this child gets malaria or that child dies of Diarrhea. We shouldn’t let the media dictate our empathies.

(My favorite curmudgeon, John Derbyshire at National Review Online, writes why he is having trouble getting too worked up over the tsunami. His reasons differ from mine but he is worth reading.)