After initial media coverage of the flooding, Colorado’s disaster has virtually disappeared from the headlines. But why?
Last week Colorado was hit with what many have termed “biblical” flooding. There have been at least 8 deaths so far, over 12,000 people are currently displaced from their homes, and initial figures from the Colorado Office of Emergency Management say that 1,502 residential structures were destroyed and 17,494 have been damaged. There is no question that those totals are almost certain to rise.
Although there were initial reports of the flooding, the majority of medial outlets have moved on. Less than a week later, and before the flood waters have receded. Is it possible that we have become so used to disaster, so accustomed to tragedy in the media and the world as a whole that we no longer even see the impact of something as massive as “biblical” flooding. Drea Knufken asks this same question in her article at Salon. Living in Colorado, she has experienced firsthand the impact the floods have had, and the complete lack of attention they have received by the Nation as a whole. She says:
Nobody ever anticipated a FEMA-level disaster. And when it became clear to us that things were bad, the rest of the world still lacked comprehension. Perhaps disasters have become clichéd. In the same breath that we view images of destruction on the news, we text friends and read about Kardashians. We don’t see our own vulnerability until we’re standing knee-deep in mud in our basements.
Boulder is my backyard, my home. To me, the floods are urgent; they are an emergency. To others, our floods are another face in the crowd of headlines. Today alone, I read in the news that 260,000 people had to evacuate Kyoto due to a typhoon. In Washington’s Navy Yard, someone murdered 13 people with a gun. There’s the new episode of “Breaking Bad” and the threat of war in Syria. Every headline screams to be first in line. Everything is a crisis. And let’s face it, in media language, Colorado is a small mountain state that likes to ski and smoke pot. Decimation here doesn’t echo as loudly as it does in New York, Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles.
I’d like to think that in our networked world, it’s easy to comprehend how the things we read about in the news or on social media might be impacting friends and loved ones. It seems, however, that we’re so drowned in data that we’ve become comfortably numb. Even our reactions have become passive, disconnected. Hitting “like” on Facebook or leaving a sympathetic tweet doesn’t come close to the human power of a phone call, especially for someone facing the loss of their home, their health, their life. We’re too disengaged to connect the dots between disaster and its human impact. And that scares me.
Do you agree? Have we as a society become desensitized to tragedy and disaster?
If you would like to help those who were affected by the flooding in Colorado click here for the Boulder Flood Relief Organization.