Below is a slightly-shortened note from a reader, questioning the way I write this blog and suggesting a more subjective and passionate approach. My reply will be included in the next posting, because of space limitations here. The writer, Vicki Campbell, said she wanted to open the topic up for discussion publicly.
Claire, we’ve never actually met, but you’ve been asking for support and feedback, and I’d like to offer some. I received my MPA in Emergency Management a while ago, have been deploying nationally with the Red Cross for about 8 years now, and also gone on to do further grad work in disasters and human rights, and relief and recovery/reconstruction issues and economics, etc. I’ve been following your blog for awhile now, and I have to say, with all due respect, I have honestly felt much more disappointment in than support for it , for several reasons.
(1) There’s really not much to your blog but a lot of links to articles elsewhere, that are at least as often as not hardly the better ones on the subject. People don’t read expert blogs to get primarily nothing but simple links to go elsewhere to read entire articles or reports or whatever; they read them to get a summary, analysis and no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase commentary on them, or on a topic, or or a piece of news, etc.- and there’s usually nothing close to that in your blog. Linking to relevant material elsewhere is just for reference and backing comments and analysis up – it’s not supposed to be the main point or substance of a post. And people don’t start blogs to make money – they start them because they’re driven by and passionate about their subject and the issues surrounding it, and have a frame of analysis and perspective that they feel is important to be put out there and be heard about. In turn, those blogs are comparatively popular, and useful, and as I understand it, do in fact eventually make a little money, etc. But again, I don’t find any of that anywhere in your blog posts almost ever. In fact I almost spilled my coffee yesterday when you actual made a very mild statement ever so slightly suggesting that the bad
location of the Texas fertilizer plant explosion might have something to do with lax regulation, and might be “tragic.” (Ya think?) And you did it in a very casual, off-hand way, linking to and leaving others to make the actual real points, and sounding yourself fairly detached, rather than like the issue was important or indicative of anything larger that actually mattered and needed to be addressed or changed.
(2) You almost never seem to focus properly or proportionally on what really matters about disasters – which is of course not the disasters themselves, but the actual people affected by them – and you’re hardly alone in that. For me, it is the human dimensions of every aspect of disasters, and emergency management more generally, that is what is both most interesting and immeasurably more important about the subject and all of its many, many attendant aspects. It has really saddened me to see you seem to follow right along with the hyper-male-dominated field of ours in all but never uttering a word about the very real and often massive human impacts of the social, economic and political nexus of issues surrounding every phase of emergency management policies and processes – often ESPECIALLY in relation to disaster recovery.
Whether its the appallingly discriminatory and otherwise incompetent recovery process that unfolded after Katrina, or the inexcusable lack of any response to and effective abandonment of thousands of elderly, disabled, and otherwise especially vulnerable populations in lower income and minority communities and housing projects all along the northeast coast in the wake of Sandy, or the unbelievably irresponsible state oversight of the location and fraudulent mismanagement of the fertilizer plant in TX right next to some of the most vulnerable populations in that area – the abject silence on the part of supposed EM “professionals” or otherwise self-proclaimed disaster experts who have gone before me about these things as well as so many other issues unfolding all the time regarding real or potential disasters has absolutely shocked me, and left me feeling almost foolish for taking the profession as seriously as I did when I went into and began studying it. Climate change, disaster capitalism, nuclear power, FNSS issues, poor to non-existent mass care planning and management, utterly uncontrolled growth and development, as well as increasing deregulation of an ever growing number of ever more hazardous industries, the alarming militarization of emergency management overall, and yes, terrorism, and the failing neo-liberal economic context underlying all of this, amongst many other topics all raise issues incredibly important to our society and that can and has had a dramatic impact on many people’s lives, as they potentially provide both cause and context for increasing risks of hazards
and subsequent disaster events. Emergency Management professionals of every stripe – and recovery professionals in particular to my mind – should be fighting to be at the very center of discussing these things, widely and loudly, and generally having a helluva lot to say about all of it. But instead there’s pretty much just dead silence from almost every corner of the profession, for all intents and purposes – and that silence and general passivity in no way reflects the professional obligations and responsibilities of emergency managers as I was taught them – not by a long shot.
And I don’t see anything different here in your blog, Claire. I mean, lets just take the 2010 Haiti earthquake for instance. It was one of the worst disasters on record anywhere, and the only disaster in human history to effectively destroy the capital of a entire nation, etc. As an EM professional, I was not only naturally concerned and interested, but felt an obligation to learn about and follow it, and stay informed about it – especially given its exceptionally close proximity to the U.S., as well as
the long and very destructive history of U.S. intervention in Haiti, and the fact that both U.S. disaster management and U.S.AID international disaster assistance norms and policies will probably shape the disaster’s aftermath more than any other. As a result, I’ve watched, as appalled as much of the rest of the world has been, as the disaster-after-the-disaster reconstruction effort unfolds down there. In a nutshell, Haiti is “disaster capitalism” laid bare, for all the world to see – and its not just what happens “over there” – its also what happens after any major disaster here as well – and its a very poor and certainly abusive substitute for an even half-serious approach to disaster recovery. One woman to another, I’d wondered what you, as a supposed recovery expert, had to say about it all – and was very disappointed to find that you basically have not much of anything to say about what is widely considered to be possibly the worst sham of a recovery effort of all time. That may be your idea of a “Recovery Diva” – but it is definitely not mine. It also in all honesty does not make me want to hire you as a staff or research assistant.