Class and Natural Disaster


In 2011, Vermont and many other areas in New England were hit by Hurricane Irene.  Roads disappeared, houses and bridges were swept away, and entire communities were cut off from the rest of the world.  Although this natural disaster affected many people in the area, I would like to focus on two specific aspects of the whole event: the way in which lower class housing was damaged, and the way that people in the lower/middle class immediately looked to help out after the floods.  The trailer park in town was severely damaged because it had been placed in the flood-plane and was poorly constructed, while most of the upper-class housing was either elevated enough to avoid damage or was constructed with materials that could withstand the water.  After the damage was done, however, those who lived in these affected areas immediately came to the aid of their neighbors: taking quads through the woods to deliver supplies to isolated houses, shoveling out homes and cars, sheltering others without a moments hesitation.  Looking at the recent disaster in Nepal, and previous large-scale disasters such as the earthquake that affected Haiti not long ago, it seems as if there is a direct correlation between class and the way that people are both affected by these disasters and are willing to help.  Commenting on the events in Nepal, Carole McGranahan of Savage Minds observed that “his was a very class-conscious earthquake, in town & country it targeted underprivileged households with mud-mortar construction.”  She went on to say, however, that “in Nepal as in Haiti, we are witnessing duty and community in numerous acts of citizens responding to the devastation. Rescuing, caring for, organizing, making new commitments to each other, and in turn new demands on the state.”  The fact that some of the people who have lost the most are the ones to help the most says a lot about the ways in which class establishes views towards community, and understanding this level of generosity and selflessness is essential towards building better communities on a global scale.