I hope that regular visitors to this site have not been put off by my sudden interest in the Valparaíso fire, and that new visitors, seeking fire news, have not been baffled by reports of MERS in Yemen or H5N1 in Japan. The longer I work on this blog, the more clearly I see how all these seemingly unrelated disasters actually fit together.
When the Chile story broke last night (hat-tip to Maryn McKenna for retweeting a startling photo of the fire), it quickly became the kind of disaster that draws a lot of traffic, like the Haiyan/Yolanda typhoon last year or the Ebola outbreak in recent weeks. That in itself fascinates me, because a kind of online community forms with astonishing speed. Flublogia seems to be part of the world's new electronic immune system, setting off alarms and making the planetary organism more aware of the threat. In this case, hashtags like #AyudaValpo appeared as channels for information and help.
Those channels may dry up with the passage of time, but Flublogia knows they're there, and Valparaíso knows Flublogia is here. When the next disaster arrives, its flash-flood of information will have those channels to move through. Similarly, we won't be quite as ignorant when the next outbreak hits West Africa, and our familiarity with the region may help to hasten aid and strengthen support.
Apart from the shock and alarm of a given disaster or outbreak, I increasingly see such stories as just another aspect of a larger story: the environmental, climatic and epidemiological impact that we are making on the planet and its organisms.
Just this morning the IPCC released a new report advising us on what we can do to keep the global temperature to a rise of 2 degrees. It should come as no surprise to Chileans, who have been struggling with drought both in their far north and in Valparaíso. It is no surprise to those living in Africa just south of the Sahara, where horrendous low-scale warfare seems like a preview of a post-apocalyptic future: armed groups slaughtering one another to scavenge the scraps from dead or dying countries. Whether by driving herders and farmers into stinking refugee camps or by driving bats out of clear-cut forests, the struggle for survival becomes ironically suicidal.
So having started nine years ago with a focus on one very obscure strain of flu virus, I increasingly see such viruses as just part of an enormous picture. Trying to encompass the whole picture of fire, flood, pestilence and famine is far beyond the capacities of one retired college teacher in a Vancouver suburb, but as part of a growing Flublogia I'm happy to do my part.