Saturday, December 1, 2012

Disasters: Bloodborne and Seaborne

Today is World AIDS Day.  In some ways, we've made enormous progress.  Not too long ago, I saw a documentary about the disease, and it took me back to the early days of the disease, when healthy men turned into skeletons and died within 6 months.

And now, it seems to be manageable.  I say "seems" because we assume that protease inhibitors tame the disease and can be taken for a whole lifetime.  That may be true.  We also forget that diseases mutate and develop resistance to the drugs that we create.  Protease inhibitors that work today may not work in 10 years.

This is a disease that should be easy to avoid, and yet we're not making much progress in dropping the rate of new cases.  AIDS is a bloodborne disease, not airborne.  It's easy to avoid the disease vector that transmits AIDS, and even if we're exposed, it's not as easily transmissible as the news media would have us believe.  And yet, we continue to see risky behavior, and thus, new cases.  I don't know what we could do to make people more aware.

I wonder if people say the same thing about those of us who live along the coast:  "Why engage in this risky behavior?" 

Yesterday was the last day of hurricane season.  We've done OK down here at the Southeast tip of the U.S., but we're lucky.  Hurricane Sandy reminds us of what's at stake with rising sea levels, which we found out this week are rising 60% faster than anticipated.  Sigh.

I wrote out the check for my windstorm insurance this week:  just over $3200.  And that's just for windstorm.  I also pay another several thousand dollars for regular homeowner's insurance.

From a risk perspective, it makes sense.  I live 3 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, which eyes us all with a hungry heart.  Our state this far south perches on a coral bed, so we can't use sea walls or other barriers that will help those further north.  Sea water seeps up from underneath.

Still, my spouse loves it here.  Every year, as we pay our windstorm, I say, "I don't know how much longer we can afford to live here."

He says, "We can afford it for this year."  And so we go, year by year.  I fully expect that some day, the Greenland ice shelf will crash into the ocean, and we'll lose the house in one fell swoop.

I've spent my life expecting disasters of all sorts that didn't come.  I spent the 80's and 90's watching for a mushroom cloud that would signal the beginning of the nuclear end.  Many people find that memory quaint. 

Will we some day see my fretting over rising sea levels as similarly quaint?  What apocalypse will haunt us then?

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Thanks for these thoughts on World AIDS Day and risk. I am glad you can live where you live now. I hope we make the life-directed changes for the future.