October 21, 2005

Not enough tents in the world

Kathryn Cramer continues to break all sorts of new ground, serving as a sort of epicenter for a revolution in mapping and bringing news to the world. Her latest: there might not be enough tents in the world to shelter the survivors of the recent earthquakes.

Today, the official death toll has risen to 79,000. I expect it to go much higher, given the extent to which affected areas have not yet been reached and the living conditions of the survivors. Think about it: Not enough tents in the world. Meanwhile, the entire matter has fallen almost completely off the front page of the New York Times website.

Scientists are trained in back-of-the-envelope reasoning. You say, "we're gonna evacuate the SuperDome? OK. A bus holds maybe 100 people, I guess. And there are maybe 20,000 people there. That's 200 buses. Who has 200 buses? Sounds like they'd better call Greyhound. Now, where are you going to park them?" For some reason, the bureaucrats didn't; they went by The Book or they passed the buck or they waited for the experts and held press conferences to say that nobody expected to need 200 buses. Please.

There might not be enough tents in the world, but I bet there are enough Big Rolls Of Denim and sewing machines. Transport might be a problem...