Making us safe has been a Bushite mantra, but it's mostly been very expensive marketing for a nonexistent product. When it comes to protecting citizens from the effects of disasters and emergencies at home, a new study by the nonprofit Trust for America's Health concludes, "the United States is not safe."
Individual states and the federal government are at fault: Many states still lack a stockpile of drugs, masks, gloves and other equipment needed to battle a pandemic of diseases, despite five years of constant and detailed warning, the Trust for America's Health said in its report. Overall, federal funding for state and local preparedness will have declined by 25 percent in 3 years if the president's FY (fiscal year) 2008 request is approved," the report reads.
The report focuses on pandemics and public health consequences of emergencies. Also out this week, a Washington Post story that lists some (but by no means all) of the possible consequences for health of the climate crisis."We are not dealing with a single toxic agent or a single microbe where we can put our finger with certainty on an exposure and the response," said Jonathan A. Patz, a physician and epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "Climate change affects everything."
It is the complexity of climate crisis effects that would test even a system ready to respond to known kinds of emergencies--and we still aren't anywhere near that. Public health is still in shambles, and the general infrastructure for emergencies found wanting in the above report applies to more than the health aspects. These effects are already happening, and they will happen more and more in our immediate future.
Months ago, Keith Olbermann quoted Winston Churchill: "The responsibility of government for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence." This basic civics lesson is also a question for 2008 candidates. What will you do to truly prepare, to truly try to make America safe?
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