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[Opinion] Forecasting Disaster

Posted July. 04, 2004 23:14,   


The seventh typhoon, “Mindle,” and accompanying downpour, which strained the nation all weekend, are fortunately coming to an end without much damage. Even though there has been some damage such as inundation and house damage, the total damage was not very serious owing to weather experts’ accurate forecasts and following efforts of public servants and people who had been prepared against danger based on that forecast. Shown in this case, forecasts of coming disasters largely contribute to minimizing damages by earning time to prepare in advance.

Expert warnings could be very effective, not only in natural calamities like a typhoon, but also disasters made by mankind itself. For example, The Rome club warned in a book titled “The Limits to Growth” in 1972 that the human race will face a serious threat in the middle of 21st century as explosive expansion of population and reckless development of materialistic civilization bring about resource depletion on the earth and environmental destruction. Afterwards, this book became a basis of developing the concept of “sustainable development” by getting continuous attention on protecting the environment worldwide.

Of course, there is a claim that such an environmental crisis theory is too exaggerated and is a mere joint product of some scientists who need research funds and environmental activists who desperately need a slogan for mobilizing the masses, and the media, which ceaselessly pursues new news. Actually, it is revealed that some statistics willingly cited by environmental crisis theorists has been distorted. However, it is still not deniable that people could be aware of environmental problems and make positive efforts in preserving the environment because those experts had warned against worldwide environmental crisis beforehand.

There is a controversy between private scholars and government officials on the issue of the economic crisis of Korea. There could be exaggerations in some scholars’ claims, and there also could be a feeling of heartlessness in the position of the government, which has made efforts of its own. Nevertheless, isn’t it a better attitude for officials who are paid by people’s taxes to accept those claims as a pre-warning and prepare against a possible danger rather than to attack them suspecting their real intention?

Guest editorialist and professor on Physics in Seoul National University, O Se-jeong.