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18 Apr 16 10:41

One hundred and four years ago this April, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. The ship sank in the early hours of April 15th, taking over 1,500 lives with her. 

Over a century later, the sinking of the Titanic remains a great reminder of both humankind's arrogance and our vulnerability to Mother Nature. Society at the time believed watertight bulkhead technology had rendered the ship unsinkable, despite being constructed from the same materials that so many other ships used. The incorrect perception that the ship was somehow mightier than the ocean she was sailing across resulted in somewhat lax behavior by the passengers and crew during her journey; operating at a high speed through the icy North Atlantic and prioritizing passenger message transmission over receipt and acknowledgement of iceberg warning were among them. It did not take a great collision with an iceberg, but rather a swipe along the ship's hull that caused the steel plates to buckle and rivets to pop, flooding numerous watertight compartments within the ship and causing it to founder.  The sinking of the Titanic on its maiden voyage grounded the citizens of the Gilded Era, and served as a harsh reminder about the fallibility of technology. It was also one of the greatest maritime disasters of the 20th century, and led to sweeping changes in maritime and shipping regulations, regarding communication, iceberg observations and minimum lifeboat capacity.  Society learned from its mistake, but not before too many lives were lost. 

Even today, lessons from the Titanic disaster are applicable.  Ultimately, the Titanic sank because humanity thought it had conquered Mother Nature, and didn't heed the warnings in its path. We must not fall victim to this same mentality when addressing climate change. 

To ignore the warning signs that Mother Nature is sending us, in the form of rising temperatures and seas, and disappearing ice, is foolish. To believe that we as a species are somehow above Mother Nature, instead of a part of her, is egotistical, and can lead to our demise. To plan only for what we think we can reasonably absorb, instead of increasing our resilience to preemptively prepare for the worst-case event is shortsighted.

If the builders, crew and proprietors of the Titanic had prepared for the worst and foreseen all potential hazards in the ship's path, the outcome of the maiden voyage might have been dramatically different (and much less lucrative for James Cameron). Let's not make the same mistakes the people of the Gilded Era did; instead, let's learn from them, and apply to the hazards and risks that we face today from climate change.


Category: Climate/natural disasters: Climate change, Disaster risk, Resilience

Location: Atlantic Ocean


4 Comments

Urs Leimbacher - 18 Apr 2016, 1:47 p.m.

Thanks, Megan, for this timely reminder! Very much to the point. Have we used the past 104 years to "get wiser" in terms of mother nature's (clear!) signals? I do hope so!

Alicia Montoya - 14 May 2016, 8:29 a.m.

So clearly, that's not how our short-sighted, selfish human minds work. We forget yesterday's disasters, we're biased and over-optimistic about our future and we stumble on the same problems time and time again. So clearly we need a new approach as we don't seem to heed all the warning signs and overwhelming scientific evidence behind the probability of disasters happening again, and all the other risks we clearly face and yet we do a great job at ignoring.

After many years discussing climate change, the lack of food security & safety, unsustainable energy practices and other issues our society needs to resolve, I have come to the conclusion that us mortals need help in order to make the right choices. And the most effective of those tends to be regulation and/or financial incentives to drive the right behaviours.

What does it take you to change your behaviour? What would help you? I'd say let's start with an honest debate as to what works and build from there.

Tanya Hogan - 24 May 2016, 4:26 p.m.

Alicia, you rightly mention that we need help to make the correct choices with regards to climate change including financial incentives - to avoid an epic tragedy. "Therm Smart" produces the Little Magic Thermodynamic Box which works like a refrigerator in reverse, taking energy from ambient air temperature to heat water etc. It seems like an interesting and cost-effective device that is environmentally friendly and saves on bills, and was recently featured on Grand Designs. I normally don't do product plugs - my brother is selling this - but I think it's a cool device that could contribute towards behavioral change without too much effort on the part of the consumer: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/magic-thermodynamic-box-featured-channel-4s-grand-designs-hogan?trk=prof-post

Alicia Montoya - 24 May 2016, 5:07 p.m.

I love it!! Simple, smart and exactly the kind of small behavioral nudges that can have a big impact on a macro level and many ripples!! Thanks for sharing :)


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