Human arrogance. Luxury over safety. Repeatedly unheeded warnings. The refusal to follow established industry protocols in the name of speed and innovation.
These are the tragic flaws that sank the RMS Titanic. And over a century later, that ship and those very same flaws just claimed five more lives.
I’m not writing this to demonstrate irony, and certainly not to express schadenfreude. I’m genuinely sad that these people died. But the worst kinds of tragedies are the kind that are preventable. There weren’t enough lifeboats on the Titanic because the White Star Line feared they would be an eyesore to the first class passengers; and there was not adequate testing on this submarine – the Titan – because the CEO of OceanGate decided that third-party safety tests and certifications were too expensive, stifled innovation, and were unnecessary in international waters.
Well, that CEO is dead now. He piloted the vessel, and even though he had no choice in the matter, the captain went down with the ship.
But as sickened as I am by the choices he made that brought four other people down with him, I mourn his death, too. As a child, he dreamed of becoming an astronaut to explore the vastness of space – but because he had poor vision and needed glasses, he could not pursue his dream, and instead turned his gaze to the seas. His tragic flaws were such human flaws: Hubris. Stinginess. Impatience. And Greed.
Nature is a formidable foe. And in the long run, it tends to get its way. The sky was just pink and orange for a week, the sun so obscured by smoke that at times it could be looked at with the naked eye. Temperatures are rising. Wildfires are burning. Ocean levels climb higher and higher. Droughts and famines abound, and we, as a species, are… trying (vaguely) to cut down on how many plastic bags we use.
It’s not enough.
My hope is that this entirely preventable tragedy will serve as a metaphor and reminder for all of us that the flaws of humanity will bring all of us down if we don’t come together as a species to keep them in check. It’s not about saving the planet – the planet will be just fine without us. But if we want to save ourselves, we have to evolve into something better than we are.
My heart goes out to the victims of this tragedy, and all their friends and families. Yes, they were wealthy adventurers who chose their insatiable thirst for novelty over their own safety. But I don’t believe that should come with a death sentence. We may never know the exact details of how they died, but we can be quite sure that it was awful.
May we all be spared a similar fate.