"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." - Leonard Cohen
A lot of people have been wondering if the world is going a little wonky in terms of our weather. Does an earthquake in Brooklyn, NY mean the world is coming to an end? Is the earth really getting warmer? Have there been an unusually high number of devastating storms this year? What about tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes?
Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s real in terms of what’s going on in the world around us, what’s been filtered through the information spin cycle, and what’s just plain old conspiracy theory built by a brain that’s been playing Angry Birds for too long.
I think I first started to get a little paranoid after Al Gore’s Global Warming campaign which seemed to literally heat up with the political climate and then go cold soon after. It didn’t matter if we had thousands of hot days in December dating back to 550 BC. The idea that the earth was getting warmer seemed to be all that mattered. All I could see when I heard the word Global Warming was a frumpy Polar Bear walking around aimlessly on a melting iceberg.
Then, when CNN covered Hurricane Katrina like it was an epic Hollywood Blockbuster, I began to have anxiety about the weather. At about that time, a new market seemed to emerge and then snowball based on a new line of products meant to quell every consumers inescapable fear factor. Hurricane programming started to run throughout the year like the meteorologists were running an NFL draft.
Did it matter that Hurricane Cuba in 1924 and Hurricane Camille in 1969 practically knocked parts of the United States off the map? I don’t think my grandparents or my parents had much of a concern in those days. For a more extensive list of the hurricane cycle check out Wiki’s list at:
When a reality TV show about nuts who chased tornadoes in their cars started to air it suddenly occurred to me that information about the weather was a product that required the same kind of marketing as a McDonald’s Big Mac or a bottle of Kumbucha from Whole Foods. And, that’s when I began to understand that the information I might be receiving might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Yesterday, I was eating a bowl of granola in a tiny coffee shop in Brooklyn, NY called the Blue Roost when the ground started to shake. As a recent transplant to the city and a first timer at the coffee shop, I thought it must be the subway and I wondered if the shaking was a selling point. “Get the shakiest cup of coffee in NYC!” Then, when everyone started running out into the street, I ran too - like a scared little boy.
Outside, as the ground continued to shake, there was a magical moment as all the coffee patrons and everyone else (from those in the beauty shop next door to those in the Indian grocery store) who flocked into the street began to bond over this unique experience. Traffic was at a dead stop and this busy NY street was silent.
In the street, I felt this beautiful connection with all these strangers around me. Everyone felt this. Boundaries were gone. Our differences had vanished. We were laughing together. Touching one another. The universe had pushed the reset button on our lives. I felt less alone in the world.
It only lasted about four minutes. Back in the coffee shop, everyone was back in their little confined world within the forcefield of their smart phones texting friends and trying to call family members though most of the phone lines were down.
On the subway ride home though, I began to think about the bigger picture. Does an earthquake in Brooklyn, NY mean the world is coming to an end? Is the earth really getting warmer? Have there been an unusually high number of devastating storms this year? What about tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes?
Like most people, I'm well aware of the recent earthquakes:
- Chile - Feb 27, 2010
- New Zealand - Sept 4, 2010
- Japan - March 11, 2011
These were all over the news. But, is this a lot? A little? Should we be concerned?
Back in my apartment I did a little research and was relieved to find information that made me feel a little better. According to information listed on the Wiki page “Earthquakes in 2011,” which lists global earthquakes ranked at a magnitude 6 or above, there have actually been 140 earthquakes this year throughout the world.
But, is this a lot? A little? Should we be concerned now? Considering that in 2000, there were 146 earthquakes and in 2007 there were 178 earthquakes, it seems like we’re right on target for an average year.
And since todays earthquake was only a magnitude 5.9, it won’t even be included on this chart. Obviously, the media isn’t deciding to devote coverage to every time the earth decides it’s time to shake and wiggle.
But, if you keep yourself glued to the media, like I sometimes do, it’s easy to get paranoid about the earth coming to an end. Yet, the data just doesn’t justify it. As my father reminded me, there have been people saying the world was coming to an end since he was a little boy.
Slash Coleman is a professional storyteller best known for his award-winning PBS special "The Neon Man and Me." His twitter campaign helped him win over PBS stations nationwide and land a two year distribution deal with NETA His recent column in Storytelling Magazine concentrates on social media and marketing strategies for artists and he was most recently featured on the NPR series "How Artists Make Money." For more information about Slash Coleman - please visit www.slashcoleman.com