Wednesday night, August 15, 2007 the Cincinnati Reds were hosted by the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The game, which had substantial playoff importance for the Cubs, had been delayed by rain. Not staying up long enough to hear the final outcome, it wasn’t until Thursday morning that I found out that the Cubs had dropped an 11-9 decision to the Reds. After muttering a few silent expletives, I arose, determined to have this Cubs loss make me grouchy for at least a few minutes. That’s when I found out about something else that had happened while I was asleep, a devastating earthquake in Peru, killing hundreds of people.
It was at that moment that the inconsequential nature of my concerns became apparent. Here were hundreds of people in Peru who had lost relatives and friends, not to mention their homes and belongings. Then there was poor me, suffering because one of my favorite baseball teams had lost a game on the north side of Chicago. Let me see, an earthquake versus the outcome of a baseball game. I guess we know who really has a problem.
On August 6, 2007 a coal mine collapsed in Utah trapping six miners. On August 18, 2007 another three miners were killed trying to rescue the original six. Assuming that the original six miners can’t be rescued, that makes nine mining deaths in 12 days. That’s bad news, but when taken in the context of a broader world, our mining tragedy doesn’t even scratch the surface. Just this week, on August 18, Chinese news sources confirmed that 172 miners have been trapped by floodwaters in a coal mining accident in Shandong province. It remains to be seen if they will survive, but the Chinese Government officially acknowledged the deaths of 2,800 coal miners in China during calendar year 2006. Do the math and that’s 7.67 miners per day. The Utah death toll (nine) over the past twelve days equals .75 miners per day, making the “normal” Chinese average daily death rate ten times greater than our average during what we call a “mining disaster”.
On August 1, 2007 the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis with a death toll of 13 people. This was a disaster in the United States and has been covered extensively in the US media for over two weeks. Thirteen days later, on August 14, 2007 a bridge under construction at Fenghuang in Hunan province, China, collapsed killing more than 40 construction workers. The bridge was being built without steel reinforcement rods so that it would appear similar to other historic structures in the area. The Chinese bridge accident killed three times as many people as the Minneapolis disaster, yet it got just a mere mention in the US media.
You could make many conclusions from the above disaster statistics. You might conclude that there is a higher value placed on life in the United States than in many other nations. You might deduce that China is a really unsafe place to work, especially if you’re a coal miner. You might conclude that the USA is a pretty good place to live, even during disasters. You may even conclude that Americans are spoiled, spending far too much time complaining about things that most of the world’s people consider trivial. In my book, you’d be right on all four counts.