The earthquake is also a reminder that while natural calamities do not discriminate between rich countries and poor ones, their effects almost invariably do. The 1994 Northridge quake was nearly as powerful as the one that struck Haiti, but its human toll was comparatively slight. The difference is a function of a wealth-generating and law-abiding society that can afford, among other things, the expense of proper building codes.
In the long term, the best defense against future natural disasters is to promote the political and economic conditions that can move people out of the slums and shanties that easily become death traps. For now, however, we wish godspeed to the armies of relief headed for Haiti’s desperate shore.