The news coming in about the cyclone in Burma is terrible, with reports that the number of lives lost is likely to exceed 100,000. BBC News has coverage and links. David Weinberger has posted that donations may get to those who need them quicker if sent through International Burmese Monks Organization. See Donate to Burma.

What’s weird from an information and context perspective is how remote this disaster feels, compared to other events such as the Tsunami, Hurrican Katrina and Sept 11th. (A similar effect happend with the earthquake in Pakistan.) Is that because Burma is such a closed society, meaning there are very few first-hand on-the-spot-as-it-happens pictures and videos? Research has proven that people connect more when shown a specific story rather than massive (no matter how scary) statistics. The tsunami also occured in a region with strict controls. Perhaps having a tourist spot complete with Westerners and their camcorders helped.

If one good thing comes out of this disaster, maybe it can show the benefits of having open rather than closed societies. Let’s hope the Burmese military and government relax their grip and allow outsiders to help. Sad to write, the reports are not optimistic.

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