Our Earth, Our Problem: The Nepal Earthquake
by Aeshna Chandra on Friday, May 22nd, 2015
On April 25, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal, the epicenter located just over 100 miles from the city of Kathmandu, the nation’s capital. According to the BBC, the Nepalese government, already wracked by corruption and growing political tensions, simply did not have the infrastructure in place to deal with such a catastrophe, despite warnings from geophysicists that, with its ancient architecture, rugged topography, and lack of resources, the country was especially vulnerable. As expected, the consequences of the earthquake devastated the region. As of May 15th, more than 8,000 people had died from the first earthquake alone, while over 100 more casualties were reported after the 7.3 magnitude aftershock of May 12th. According to The Associated Press, the country’s history, a “distinctive blend of Hinduism and Buddhism,” was forever changed when hundreds of UNESCO world heritage sites were torn down by tremors. Until the recent earthquakes, the deadliest incident recorded in the region occurred on Mount Everest, when an earthquake in April 2014 killed 16 Nepalese mountain guides; the avalanche triggered on April 25 killed at least 19 additional climbers. While it may seem far away, the Milton community is in fact directly connected to the earthquakes in Nepal. Carolyn Damp, a now retired member of the Lower School, was trapped in a small Nepalese village not far from Kathmandu before returning to the United States much later.
Personally, I, while aware that the earthquake had happened, was not aware of just how far-reaching its effects were until I went on Facebook on April 26th. I found notifications from family members waiting for me there. Now, April 26th to me was the start of my Honors Biology DYO, mere weeks before my AP tests, and only about a month before my SAT subject tests. I went on Facebook to de-stress and instead was shaken out of my self-obsessed mindset. My cousins, halfway across the world, needed to be marked safe during a life changing earthquake, and here I was, worrying when I would have time to go to the lab. Only a day later, I got another notification, this time from some random person I went to middle school with. She had also been marked safe during the earthquake but meant it as a joke, ignorantly mocking the millions who were trying desperately to find their loved ones. To me, her actions were a statement of cold indifference. Despite the fact that 8,000 people had died, despite the increasingly hopeless outlook for hundreds of thousands of Nepali citizens, she saw only an opportunity for humor. In sixth grade, I stood next to her while we collected money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake; how was this situation any different?
I understand that our lives are busy. I understand, as much as anyone else in this school, that sometimes the work and stress involved with high school can seem overpowering, that sometimes we simply cannot look beyond our own lives to another’s. It is not up to us, as teenagers, to change the world—at least not yet. However, as we grow older and more aware, we have a responsibility, at the very least, to consider and to actively acknowledge the lives of others. My sixth grade teachers taught both that girl and me about compassion. They tried to explain that the universe did not revolve around the suburbs of Boston and that it did, for a time, revolve around the people of Haiti. Now, even though most of us are busy with the onslaught of DYOs, term papers, and the fast-approaching summer, we all should take some time out of our day to walk over to people who have relatives in the area and wish them well. It is not yet up to us to change the world, but it is our job to support our community, whether or not our own lives have been affected.
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