Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Infra Danger: The 10,000 Year View

In an earlier post this summer, I suggested that America's obsession with crime and other forms of "stranger danger", came at the expense of sufficient attention to the hazards of defective and deficient infrastructure, or "infra-danger." A measure of just how casual we have been about infra-danger is provided by the very language we use to discuss infrastructure. In a fascinating interview that Harry Shearer did with John Barry, author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America (Le Show, July 20th), Barry noted that while most American flood levees are designed to protect against a 100 year flood (the highest water likely in 100 years), European countries and Japan typically guard against 10,000 year floods (at least when dealing with oceans, rivers might receive protection again 1,250 year floods).

The contrast of course is with imprisonment where Americans support harsh prison sentences and the death penalty while Europe has abolished the death penalty and have incarceration rates that are 1/5th or less then Americas.

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