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Human disaster is talked about a lot — global warming, CO2, famine, local wars, genocide — but there hasn’t been a general measure for disasters, like a Richter Scale for earthquakes, or a Fujida Scale for tornadoes, until now. Now there is the Probaway – Disaster Scale by Charles Scamahorn.

Probaway - Disaster Scale 450

This is too small to read so click here for a nice printable PDF.

The Disaster scale begins at DISS-0 which is a single person’s death and maxes out at DISS -14 with a single person surviving. It goes up by multiples of ten to DISS-9, which is a billion people being killed. Then there is a break when going to DISS-10 because 10 billion would be more people dead than are presently alive. The scale shifts from number killed to number surviving, going from DISS-10 to DISS-14 by multiples (actually divisions) of one hundred, based on the number of survivors. This change of scale works much better than trying to do some weird decimal between 9 and 10 and conveys the magnitude and meaning of the disaster better.

This disaster scale is important, because it gives people a better intuitive feel for different magnitudes of disasters, and hopefully will give them, and their decision makers more flexibility in avoiding such disasters. The news media seems to make today’s top story into the greatest tragedy imaginable no matter what the scale. For example, a child trapped in a well will create more media interest than the report of a historical fact like the population of China having 150 million people missing in a population gap. See page 141 of Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race by Richard Rhodes. This is a tragedy of previously inconceivable proportions, though even those directly involved, and right in the middle of the worst of it would be unaware of the magnitude. They can only see what is before them, and no one has an appropriate overview. In our daily lives we have no sense of proportion for really large scale world events, and we tend to see them in the same way we see our daily lives.

Hopefully — this Disaster Scale will help people see more clearly and find their way to a better understanding of world events.