Images of Myanmar before (above) and after (below) (modified from Wikimedia Commons and AFP)
Environmental Graffiti is, of course, the site for environmentalists who don’t take themselves too seriously. Aside from going on at PETA every once in a while, we’re happy to spread urban legends and make jokes about pot. Unfortunately, something happened over the weekend that was so cataclysmic that we simply couldn’t ignore it. A huge cyclone struck Myanmar, a small country in Southeast Asia, and killed nearly 4,000 people.
The death toll was originally announced to be just over 350 on Saturday; a number that was mercifully low in retrospect, as deaths from more more remote areaswere reported. While details are still sketchy, it’s clear that the death and destruction is the greatest inflicted on the continent since the 2004 tsunami struck Indonesia. The government has been criticized for having a slow response to the tragedy, especially the military. Our more politically oriented readers may remember last year when the military in Myanmar was brutally effective in cracking down on monks who dared to protest in favor of democracy. It leaves one bewildered to imagine how an organization that can mobilize so rapidly in the face of unarmed old men in robes can be left gasping when there are lives in the balance.
After all, it does make a lot of sense: after you’ve been through a cyclone you should have to scavenge your own supplies and attempt to rebuild your life on your own. Why should the foreigners help you? They are only going to spark a revolt, or so the government claims.
The UN, meanwhile, is doing what it can to negotiate relaxing the regulations, and the Red Cross is keeping their local volunteers in supplies, but the bulk of international aid continues to be undermined, adding insult to injury.