By Dr. Arshad M. Khan*
Within a week we have suffered floods in France, Toronto, and now a record-breaking monsoon season in Kerala, India which has flooded or endangered 12 of its 14 regional areas. Almost a quarter of a million people are homeless, forcing them into some 1500 relief camps. Sadly many have lost their lives, the toll in Kerala and the states of Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh rising to 900 — the rain water sweeping through villages, bursting irrigation dams and causing mudslides.
Kerala is not the wealthiest state in India; hence, its accomplishments in education and healthcare are all the more remarkable. For those who wish to lend a helping hand, try keralarescue.in or donation.cmdrf.kerala.gov.in/.
This week Kerala, last week France and Toronto, and in July, Western Japan. Exacerbated by global warming, the disasters keep mounting, yet Donald Trump and other ostriches have steadfastly stuck their heads in the sand. It’s all a hoax they will continue to repeat as a forest fire begins to singe their rears. With their luck, a flash flood might quench it.
Such is the state of our world as the window to act on climate change closes a little more each day!
After a violent storm in Genoa, a 200-meter section of the Morandi Bridge, part of the A10 expressway, collapsed including a load-carrying pylon. Vehicles plunged 50 feet killing at least 38. People are blaming shoddy materials in often a mafia-controlled Italian construction industry amid concerns over a generally crumbling infrastructure.
If the collapse has drawn the attention of other Europeans to their own bridges and roads, America’s infrastructure is worse. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in its last report (2017) gave it an overall D+ on the American schools’ grading scale that runs from A to F. Bridges received a C+, not really reassuring for the trucker driving a 16-wheeler.
Mr. Trump promised us a ‘beautiful’ infrastructure on the campaign trail. Not much of that beauty yet. The ASCE estimates an expenditure of $206 billion per year for 10 years to set things right — not really excessive when one considers the three-and-one-half-times that amount ($717 billion) just approved in the latest defense spending bill.
Any analysis of U.S. infrastructure would also reveal a serious void: no high-speed rail. It is the only country among major industrial nations, including China, without such a network. As rail travel is less polluting than airplanes, this void also stresses the environment when CO2 levels are already sky high.
Modern high-speed rail will allow overnight travel between the coasts and day trips between Chicago and New York, attracting the business traveler. Also the latest maglev trains floating on a literal cushion of air, may reduce the time further by a third or more, all without time-consuming trips to and from airports at both ends.
A project to connect San Francisco with Los Angeles supported by Gov. Jerry Brown and his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is underway even if all the financing is still not in place. Originally intended to utilize State, Federal and private financing, it is opposed by President Trump and Congressional Republicans, drying up Federal funding. With $30 billion of the necessary $100+ billion in hand, work continues on the Fresno to San Francisco section in the hope that future elected officials would find it difficult to abandon an unfinished project with partially constructed pylons, viaducts and railbeds littering the landscape.
Rationality is less of a problem than a Republican aversion to new government-funded projects — in marked contrast to the people’s enthusiasm, people who happily passed the original bond vote to initiate funding for the high-speed rail project in California.
About the author:
*Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King’s College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy.