News Release

Perspectives on Tsunami Disaster

ALFREDO QUARTO
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article titled “On Asia’s Coasts, Progress Destroys Natural Defenses.” Quarto, executive director of the Mangrove Action Project, said today: “The severity of the current tsunami disaster is beyond comprehension. The tremendous force of the 9.0 earthquake that occurred off the coast of Sumatra caused extremely powerful tsunamis. This fact is soberly understood. Nevertheless, the immense loss in human life and property boggles the mind, and the ongoing reports from the multiple scenes of the disaster are nightmarish. What is more disturbing is the fact that the severity of this disaster could have been greatly lessened and much loss in human life and suffering could have been averted had healthy mangrove forests, coral reefs, sea grass beds and peatlands been conserved in a healthy state along these same now-devastated coastlines. Instead these vital protective buffers that nature provides against wind and wave had been foolishly degraded or removed for unsustainable developments such as industrial shrimp aquaculture, tourism and urban expansion into these fragile and now quite vulnerable coastal regions.”
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JAMES E. JENNINGS
President of Conscience International, an aid organization that is taking a medical/public health team to Indonesia, Jennings said today: “While the American public has donated generously to victims of the Asian Tsunami disaster, the U.S. government has been slow and parsimonious, offering far less than Japan. Even though the U.S. is the world’s wealthiest nation, many countries give more as a percentage of their GDP than the U.S. does, so it is fair to say that the wealthiest nation is indeed stingy in relation to its wealth, as former President Carter has frequently pointed out. UN Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland is therefore not the one who is ‘very misguided and ill-informed,’ as the President [Bush] said, but George W. Bush himself. The $350 million assigned to the tsunami disaster after the Bush administration was shamed into increasing its contribution is still less than one one-thousandth of the U.S. 2005 military budget of $401.7 billion. And although America’s citizens have given a far greater amount for this crisis than any other in memory, the absolute dollar amount for all U.S. private contributions to charity remains infinitesimal compared to the billions spent self-indulgently in the U.S. on alcohol, cosmetics, and pet food in a typical year. The figure for alcohol alone exceeds $100 billion per year.”
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STEVEN KULL
Director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, Kull said today: “While there is not yet new polling on the subject, it is likely that the American public is supportive of the U.S. committing significant funds to address the humanitarian crisis derived from the earthquake and tsunami in Asia. In a July poll by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 82 percent favored foreign aid to provide ‘food and medical assistance to people in needy countries’ even without mention of a crisis. Polls often do find that many Americans think that the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid, but this is based largely on extreme overestimations of how much the U.S. spends on foreign aid (the median estimate is that the U.S. spends 20 percent of the federal budget, rather than the actual 1 percent), not an objection to foreign aid per se. When asked how much the U.S. should spend on foreign aid the median response is 10 percent of the federal budget. Americans also tend to overestimate how much the U.S. gives relative to other countries.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167