Report, Questions from a Friend in Nepal

Sent: Thursday, April 30, 2015 11:27 AM

Subject: Alive for now

Hello….  I am alive and with family after hours of frantic search. I don’t know where to begin talking abt everything that has happened and is still happening. We are in open land haven’t checked home. We haven’t gotten any govt help. Foreign aid is restricted to where media can cover so the politicians can earn more money from showing the devastation. Cash aid is going straight to politicians and top aid agencies cats pockets. Heard it was same in Haiti with Red Cross officials pocketing the money. People are the worst.

… I want to look forward. My family is alive though we’ve lost so much so I want to make the best of it. People here need counseling support, I am afraid of a mass hysteria/ depression situation. People are already very anxious, depressed and the men just drink while the women cry. Is there any organization that specializes in helping with psychological damage after calamity? If yes, how do I get them to come here? I know ER docs are coming from everywhere.

Once here I can lead the coordination efforts to set up camps and go to needed areas. I have limited internet and phone charge so will check email as much as I can. We have a pair of warm clothes on us and dry foods but water is getting scarce and scarce. Hope things change soon, out government is useless so we have to pick up ourselves.

Note: Several updates included among the comments!

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Feedback. Examples of crisis cases, analysis?

Thank you everyone who read our first post, wrote, voted and especially those who commented! I’m gratified that in its first three days, the blog received 196 views from 108 visitors located in 6 countries.

As of noon Monday the poll on topic areas for upcoming posts received 36 votes, the clear winners being “Cases” (8 votes) and Impending Crisis?” (7 votes).

I’m preparing posts on both topics:

  • a business case that I received a small grant to develop on the experience of an entrepreneur in the midst of a crisis
  • a potential crisis in my own field, higher education, due to unsustainably increasing costs, questionable performance outcomes and changing technology.

Both are still quite rudimentary. Even though no one expects a blog to be all that polished, I would like them to be reasonably well considered, or at least legible, prior to publication. So if you’d like to see drafts and provide feedback, please let me know (and specify if only certain topics …)

I also have two general questions for you:

  • Voting option / Number of Votes / % of total votes
    1. “About” (key concepts, the blog, research, courses …) 3 votes  8%
    2. Crisis Preparedness Basics (in the crisis, before / after the crisis, personal CP …) 3 votes  8%
    3. Resiliency (domains; examples; sources, skills, practices and attitudes; beyond resiliency …) 4 votes  11%
    4. Crisis and Opportunity (crisis and change, crisis and leadership, crisis and growth, CP and business development …) 4 votes  11%
    5. Cases (historical cases, business topic composites, crisis/resiliency in film/ literature …) 8 votes  22%
    6. CP Science and Scholarship (theory, empirics, book reviews … ) 3 votes  8%
    7. Impending Crisis? (analyses of the likelihood and severity of specific potential global, national and regional crises) 7 votes  19%
    8. Survival (teotwawki?, everyday crises, survival practice / survivalist groups …) 0 votes 0%
    Other4 votes  11%
    Life Stages and Crisis (Adolescence, Mid Life, Old Adult, etc…)
    Crises in polarized political decision-making
    Crises engineered by vested interests to achieve unpopular goal
    “Crises” produced by powerful actors to create outcomes otherwise unacceptable
  1. How should I present my case online? Do you have any experience of useful case delivery or discussion outside of a classroom?
  2. Any examples of well presented considerations of impending crisis? I have in my mind a picture of how such a consideration should be presented, but I have no good examples, even though I’ve been tracking discussions for years!

There are many books that effectively consider and analyze a given potential crisis, e.g.,

  • Carson, Rachel. Silent spring. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1962
  • Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed. Penguin, 2005
  • Kolbert, Elizabeth. The sixth extinction: an unnatural history. A&C Black, 2014
  • Lewis, Michael. The big short: Inside the doomsday machine. WW Norton & Company, 2011
  • Meadows, Donella H., et al. The limits to growth. Club of Rome, 1972
  • Pollan, Michael. The omnivore’s dilemma: a natural history of four meals. Penguin, 2006
  • Wright, Ronald. A short history of progress. House of Anansi, 2004

Also some websites (e.g., and movies (Food, Inc. is certainly among the best)

But short articles? None come to mind. Please, suggest examples!

Or does a decent analysis requires a whole book, film or website?

Regardless of whether you or I ultimately use any as a template, we’ll want a good library of articles (as well as books, video, blogs, websites and other materials) on topics we consider.


Crisis: a Rich Concept, Critically Misunderstood

“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.” ~Susan L. Taylor

“Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you realize your potential.” ~Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

“Maybe it did take a crisis to get to know yourself; maybe you needed to get whacked hard by life before you understood what you wanted out of it.” ~Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

“The crisis is a period in which a … body or system cannot live on as before and is obliged, on pain of death, to undergo transformations that will give it a new lease on life. Therefore, this period of crisis is a historical moment of danger and suspense during which the crucial decisions and transformations are made, which will determine the future…” ~André Gunder Frank

“King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a reevaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living …” ~Cornel West

“Only a crisis–actual or perceived–produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.” ~Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom

“Crisis is a Messenger.” ~Bryant McGill

“Theology starts with a crisis, the very crisis of reality itself. The crisis is the fact that you live, that you have a life to live. … The crisis is the very mystery of our existence and the yearning for there to be some kind of meaning to it.” ~Andrew Root

Few concepts are as rich as “crisis” and few are so critically misunderstood.

Nearly to a man, crisis is understood as an ominous situation — something to be avoided or that should have been avoided. This is true on the macro-scale (Loose nukes in Russia ‘the greatest crisis of the next decade), on the micro- ([students] are constantly stressed out, seemingly lurching from one crisis to another), and in between (Too Busy Putting Out Fires To Get Anything Done …)

The aim of the entire field of risk management, the dominant relevant professional and academic domain, is to avert crisis. In a nutshell, the protocols of the field amount to:

  • identify and assess risks;
  • identify and assess risk mitigation approaches; and
  • select and implement mitigation methods.

Of course we all want the best for our organizations. We don’t want the world to blow up. And we certainly don’t want students to be all stressed out.

But in many ways crisis is the essence of being alive.

Try to imagine a novel or drama without crisis. Without crisis, there is no story, no growth, no change, no … life.

The word crisis derives from the Greek krísis, “judgment, result of a trial, selection,” from krinein, “to separate, decide, judge.” The word comes to English through Medical Latin, where it meant (and continues in medicine to mean) the turning point in a disease.

Life fully lived is a stream of turning points — challenges, changes, crises — in the world at large, in our families, relationships, workplaces, institutions, and also within. Every step of the way is a crisis of sorts from which we emerge (if we emerge, for at some point we do not) changed for better or worse.

Since 2003 I’ve taught a crisis preparedness/ organizational resiliency course at the University of Pennsylvania and although I still can’t claim to understand crisis well, I do know that common conceptions are at best one-dimensional, and often fundamentally wrong. And that this misunderstanding dangerously increases vulnerability at every level of life.

It also dramatically undermines the most potent offering the world presents life for growth, opportunity and development.

Cryptic as this may seem, I’ll substantively end this first post at this point, though depending on your votes and comments (see below), I’ll explicate next week. In the meantime, the quotes at right give some sense of this alternative perspective on crisis.

To encourage your engagement, I’m asking for your input on topics of interest. Below is a poll about which of eight broad topic areas you might like to see a post soon. On a separate page, I’ve created a fairly elaborate table of potential topics organized by category and subcategory. Just ignore the table if it seems a bit much, but please vote on topic areas and tell us in the comments section about any specific topic you’d like to see considered — or would like to write — whether it’s on the list or not.

Till soon*,


* Come TEOTWAWKI, garden produce will be especially precious

PS: A reader wrote that he couldnt find any place to leave a comment. On some browsers, they won’t appear unless you click on the link at the top, or use the full link: (I think it’s just a first post problem.)


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