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Developing respect for nature’s power

Posted on January 2, 2014 by Lethbridge Sun Times

Mankind, thanks to remarkable ingenuity, has done an admirable job of conquering nature. We have crafted buildings that can withstand the elements in ways the early pioneers couldn’t have imagined. We have vehicles that enable us to get around in storms that would have bogged us down even a few decades ago, and we have devised sources of light, heat and running water that provide warmth and convenience even in the harshest winter cold.

But every so often, nature offers a reminder that we’re not as invincible as we might think, and that there are forces that exceed our ability to fully withstand.

Residents of Eastern Canada were getting a taste of that last week as tens of thousands spent Christmas without electricity in the wake of last weekend’s ice storm. Even as Boxing Day dawned, there were still 100,000 customers in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick who remained without power. As frustrations mounted, utility officials pleaded for patience, noting that companies were doing their best to restore electricity, with crews working around the clock.

The frustrations are understandable. We live in an age in which we have grown accustomed to enjoying our comforts 24/7, and when something malfunctions, we expect it to be fixed promptly. After all, this is the 21st century.

But in spite of all of our high-tech wonders that would have seemed the stuff of science fiction to our grandparents and would have appeared to be the product of sorcery to earlier ancestors, we are still susceptible to the same forces of nature that have plagued humans throughout their history.

It was just a few weeks ago that deadly Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines. In October, a powerful cyclone in India forced 500,000 people from their homes, and in September, Hurricane Manuel caused $4 billion in damage in Mexico. In Alberta, we got our own taste of nature’s fury in June when massive flooding swamped High River, downtown Calgary and other communities, leaving a trail of devastation from which residents are still recovering.

Mankind has learned to tame nature in some ways, but when the planet’s natural forces really flex their muscles, we’re reminded how small and defenceless we truly are in the face of that kind of overwhelming might. If such reminders give us a little more respect for nature’s power, that’s perhaps not a bad thing.

An editorial from the Lethbridge Herald.

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