Like everyone else, I have been saddened by the impact of the recent earthquake on the people of Haiti. It seems horribly unfair that they have been hit by this disaster just as (according to some reports) their economy was beginning to move forward.
At the same time, the response of the world community has been heartening. People have given money to help, and first responders from many different countries are on the ground, doing what they can to assist the survivors. (Sadly, two of them have recently died in a helicopter crash.) There have also been complaints about the pace of the relief operation, and stories about lack of coordination. Unfortunately, this sounds familiar, because it's a pattern with just about every natural disaster that strikes, i.e., there is a tremendous outpouring of support in the early days, and then there is a sense of frustration when food and medical supplies are delayed in reaching those who need them the most.
For the most part, we cannot stop natural disasters. However, we can do much better in how we respond to them. Our current approach is to go along with business as usual until a volcano erupts, an earthquake occurs, or a tsunami roars out of the ocean. Then, we hurriedly cobble together a relief effort. The truth is that we are going to have a number of these disasters every year, and we should simply prepare for them so that we can mitigate the suffering to the greatest extent possible.
This is why we need an "Earth Corps," a standing group of people trained in all aspects of disaster relief. Like a military organization, some Earth Corps members would be career professionals, ready at all times to move out as needed to devastated parts of the planet. Others would be reservists, who would be activated on certain occasions, especially if the problem occurs in their own country. In quiet times, rather than allowing "business as usual" to take hold, Earth Corps teams would monitor events around the globe and be ready at any time to respond. They would also spend their time in training, learning, for example, how to use new tools for locating people trapped in collapsed buildings.
The Earth Corps has to be a planetary organization to be successful. It could be funded by participating governments, private donations, or a combination of both. It might be supervised by the United Nations or another international organization. Many of those who currently respond to natural disasters would be ideal members of the Corps, while others could easily be recruited to such a noble cause.
Creating an Earth Corps is a form of "overview thinking," or taking to heart the message of the Overview Effect that we are one species with one destiny, and beginning to understand the art and science of planetary management. As I wrote in The Overview Effect, planetary management is a centerpiece of a planetary civilization that is emerging on Earth, and which I called "Terra." We Terrans cannot rest easy in simply realizing that our planet is a whole system, in which everything that happens affects everybody. We must begin to act on that realization as well.