Cyclone Amphan: Not a “Natural” Disaster

Cyclone Amphan, the first super cyclone in the Bay of Bengal in over 20 years, devastated parts of Bangladesh and India last week. Cyclones are hurricanes by another name on the other side of the world. This one was huge. Millions of people had to evacuate. And this is one of the poorest regions of the world, still suffering from its long history of British colonialism. The cyclone has destroyed the flimsy homes of millions of people and polluted vast areas of land. But in the midst of social distancing imposed by COVID-19, shelters could only accommodate a fraction of the people they were designed for. And, of course, people feared going into shelters for fear of contracting COVID-19.

So-called “natural” disasters like this are not natural! Yes, it was a huge storm. But its size and ferocity were a result of global warming, itself a product of a global economic system – capitalism – that puts profits before life itself. And the poverty of millions of victims, also a product of the same system, contributed to the devastation. The lack of preparedness, like that for Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005, was also driven by the systemic disdain for poor people of color.

We don’t have the technology to control the weather. But working people, almost all of whom are essential workers one way or another, have the possibility to use their essential power to change the system that makes bad weather catastrophic.