Day 56: I’ve Thought A Lot About Disasters This Week (it’s not as grim as it could be)

The current class is Coping with Disasters, which means we’ve spent all week talking about how we define disaster, how we decide which disasters to pay attention to, how to cope with the aftermath. To that end, on Monday evening a narrative therapy lady came in to walk us through some writing exercises about how to construct narratives to increase emotional resilience. Which I was dubious about, because I’m often dubious about psychology (mainstream psych is wrong far too often), and then the therapy lady mentioned that this particular chunk of psych was based on Freud and also Jung, and I nearly left the room. flipping goddamn freud UGH. The last time I was talking about Freud and Jung it was in my high school senior English class where I was in a pitched grudge match against the teacher all semester (who Richly deserved it); only bad associations on that front. So I spent two hours trying not to roll my eyes too loudly, and being deeply amused that even when I did pipe up in the conversation the therapy lady only gave me little blank looks before moving on without recognizing my points. I’ll admit that my points were mostly that these exercises don’t necessarily work for everyone (me) because brains sometimes work differently, but she didn’t even want to acknowledge the lack of one-size-fits-all therapy tools. Ah well, it kept me amused and prevented me from getting into how narrative feels like a weird choice for the aftermath of disaster, which is a random event over which no control can be exerted, so any kind of story that makes sense to human brains is a post-hoc construction with little semblance to the truth, making it of dubious value. They also fed us though, which meant I could snack on grapes rather than saying something unnecessarily pointy.

The rest of the class has been really interesting though, and we’ve mostly been focusing on how people and societies respond to disaster. We’ve read a couple of disaster theorists who consider disaster a purely social construct; i.e. because disasters primarily reinforce already existing social inequalities, we should consider them social problems and try and solve them with social structures as opposed to anything else. While this is an interesting opinion to me, I can’t fully agree, because even in a hypothetical purely egalitarian society, both physical processes and human engineering will still exist and need to be dealt with. Even if everything designed with failure tolerances of 1 in a million, cities contain trillions of things that all have to get used everyday. If your city stands for long enough the hundred year flood will come. You’re dealing with numbers so big that statistics becomes an inevitability, which means you need not just physical systems that work but systems that fail gracefully too. And anyway, knowing whether you’re in earthquake or hurricane or wildfire country is important when deciding what you need to prepare for, which the social model of disaster doesn’t describe. Disasters aren’t a purely physical problem, but it sure can be whittled down with better science and better models and earlier warnings.

We went to a town a fjord over that has had several bad avalanches in the last 20 years, and I found this charming mural of arctic terns while we were walking around. The avalanche wall is in the background on the mountainside.

Because it’s been so warm and only slightly drippy rain with occasional sun, I’ve been spending more time wandering around in the foothills and in the itty bitty forest we went to a couple weeks ago for Methods. I spent about 2 hours yesterday scrambling through the trees and poking boulders; I finally remembered to bring my rock hammer, so I broke a bunch of rocks open to marvel at the lack of weathering rind and look at the mineral crystallization. I sat down by a stream at one point to build a little dam and race pine needles through the little rapids and only noticed I was directly in some mud when it soaked through one pant leg. I think I’ve missed hiking through trees more than sunlight, and I had a fabulous time. Spending time indulging the inner eight year old is important, she’s got a lot of stuff figured out. The tiny grocery store also got some decent flavors of Haagen-dazz in this week, and having nice ice cream has been a joy.

There was a pretty good northern lights display earlier this week too, both a pretty bright green and covering a lot of the sky:

I took all my pictures leaning out my skylight, hence the roof-line, because I only noticed as I was going to bed.

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