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Posts Tagged ‘economics’

An article by Zach Beauchamp in ThinkProgress explores the effect of income inequality on disaster impacts.

Inequality was, the researchers found, the single most important predictor of vulnerability to storm damage — variation in the wealth of individual counties alone explained 12.4 percent of the differences in the impact of natural disasters between counties.

And from Kathleen Tierney at the University of Colorado:

The lack of affordable housing in U.S. metropolitan areas forces the poor to live in substandard housing that is often located in physically vulnerable areas and also to live in overcrowded housing conditions. Manufactured housing may be the only viable housing option for people with limited resources, but mobile homes can become death traps during hurricanes and tornadoesdisaster evacuation scenarios are also based on other assumptions, such as the idea that in addition to having their own transportation, households also have the financial resources to leave endangered communities when ordered to do so. This is definitely not true for the poor.

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Cheatgrass near Gardiner, MT in 1964
Image Credit: National Park Service

There’s an interesting article in the NY Times on biological controls being tested on cheatgrass – one of which is a fungus with the striking moniker, Black Fingers of Death. Labeled the “country’s most invasive plant species,” cheatgrass covers perhaps as much as 60 million acres, with a concentration in the Intermountain West region.

“Cheatgrass is a very insidious kind of biotic virus,” said Stephen Pyne, a Western fire historian at Arizona State University. “It takes over and rewrites the operating system. Because it grows earlier, it can burn earlier,” then in its regrowth “drive off all the other competitors. That makes for a complete overthrow of the system.”

It is the association with fire that is significant, resulting in millions of dollars being invested in research to eradicate it. The article raises an interesting point. Research may result in new, effective treatments, but then industry would need to take up the mission. Markets would determine if the new treatments make it into production. If demand stems solely from the federal government, Westerners may be shaking their fists at cheatgrass for another 100 years.

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