May 27, 2013
A Force 5 tornado, the strongest on the weather scale, devastated the Oklahoma town of Moore on May 20. Schools directly in the path were in session. There was nowhere safe to hide.
Twenty-four were killed, including ten children and two infants. Estimated damage was more than two billion dollars.
How could they be so unprepared and unprotected? This was neither unexpected nor a freak. A Force 5 hit Moore before, in 1999. Moore and many other communities are in “Tornado Alley,” that part of the U.S. commonly hit by tornadoes.
The science is precise. A week in advance, the weather service predicted very severe weather, and issued regular warnings and updates.
The science of building safe and strong tornado-resistant structures is also precise. All the necessary engineering was developed long ago.
We know what to do, and how to do it. We know what to expect when certain weather conditions form.
Yet the schoolchildren and other victims got nothing from the modern science and engineering. Their warnings were at the last minute. Their buildings were blown apart like matchsticks. They were provided with no place to go.
This is how things happen in a capitalist society. Social needs and provision for social emergencies come last. Profitability – making money – comes first.
That’s why ordinary school districts and communities in Tornado Alley have been cut off from the money necessary to build secure structures, safe schools and shelters. That’s why no measures to protect a community as a whole are in place, regardless of what warnings are issued. It’s far more important to divert funds to bail out criminal bankers, for example!
The wealthy do take measures to protect themselves. A real estate developer in Oklahoma explained to a reporter that all his custom homes have basement shelters. But for the average home buyer, it drives the price too high. “We think the market ought to drive what people put in their houses,” said the developer.
Yes, under capitalism, the market drives. The flow of money decides who will enjoy the benefits of science and engineering. The flow of money decides who is to be sacrificed, like those in Moore, Oklahoma, and people caught in so many other places where the money flows away.