Disaster fatigue -- it's only going to get worse


Wasn't that great this afternoon -- seeing President Obama bound into the White House press room with the band back together again, with Bubba on his left and W. on his right, promising the world that the United States is going the full-Haiti with a massive relief effort for flood-ravaged Pakistan, or Pak-ee-stan, as POTUS called it. This is purely a case where good humanity equals good politics. Speeding up aid to the region will not only save thousands of vulnerable flood victims, but a side effect will be a rare chance to gain good will for America and American ideals in southern Pakistan, a key region that hasn't completely turned against the West as so many of their neighbors in the militant north have done.

Oh wait, I just realized something...

That never happened.

In fact, Obama is busy jetting around the country vacuuming up campaign cash for his fellow Dems, far from humanitarian mode. But then no one is pressuring the White House or other political leaders to do anything. On the main news aggregators of the left and the right -- the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report -- the story has completely dropped off the page this afternoon.

So things must be getting better, right? Not exactly:

KARACHI, Pakistan — Even as the government and international relief workers struggle to get food and clean water to millions of Pakistanis devastated by floods, concerns are growing about the enduring toll of the disaster on the nation’s overall economy, food supply and political stability.

More rains battered the country Monday, adding to the worst flooding in memory and confronting Pakistan with a complex array of challenges, government and relief officials warned. Though they ranged over the immediate, medium and long term, nearly all needed to be addressed urgently for Pakistan to avoid lasting calamity.

Providing clean water for millions and avoiding the spread of diseases like cholera was the first priority. But there were also looming food shortages and price spikes, even in cities, and the danger that farmers would miss the fall planting season, raising the prospect of a new cycle of shortfalls next year in a country that produces much of its own food.

“There was a first wave of deaths caused by the floods themselves,” Maurizio Giuliano, a United Nations spokesman, said. “But if we don’t act soon enough there will be a second wave of deaths caused by a combination of lack of clean water, food shortages and water-borne and vector-borne diseases. The picture is a gruesome one.”

But we're not acting. I think America and the world are suffering from disaster fatigue -- and it's only going to get worse. Natural disasters are always a part of life here in Earth, but you don't need a weatherman to see that the pace of catastrophes is getting worse, that in particular droughts and floods are on the rise, and in exactly the ways that many scientists predicted under a global warming scenario.

Moscow and the key regions of Russia that surround it are on fire, and the geopolitical impact of the drought there on grain production and prices are beginning to effect us all. Meanwhile, record flooding in Iowa barely causes a flip. The record hot summer of 2010 -- among other things -- sends more moisture in the air, and when it comes down the potential for floods is catastrophic. But in Pakistan, scene to some of the worst flooding in our lifetimes, civilization already seems too exhausted to fight back, wondering how soon the next shoe will drop somewhere on this fragile planet.

Just because Obama, and other U.S. and world leaders and the media aren't doing much doesn't mean that you can't. There are some good lists of how you can help Pakistan:

The following charities are assisting with relief efforts in Pakistan. Click the links below to contribute to their efforts.

Make a donation by credit card at the website of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or text SWAT to 50555 to donate $10.

Contact UNICEF.

Make a donation to CARE.

Islamic Relief USA.

International Committee of the Red Cross.

Oxfam America.

"We have a huge task in front of us," said the UN's Holmes. "The death toll has so far been relatively low compared to other major natural disasters, but the numbers affected are extraordinarily high. If we don't act fast enough, many more people could die of disease and food shortages."

There's been a lot of talk about "charity" this year (it's just after 5 -- turn on Fox News and you'll see what I mean) but this is another chance for everyday Americans to walk the walk, as we have done many times before. Yes, there may be another disaster tomorrow -- but Pakistan needs help today.