One of my supervisors, John Mutter, is a seismologist and has a recent post on the CNN blog in response to the earthquake in Haiti.
"Earthquakes don’t kill people; buildings do. And the poorest constructed buildings are inevitably home to the very poorest people. Homes and other structures built way out of safe building code – if codes even exist or are known about, or minimally enforced after the building inspector is bribed for a permit – are built by people who lack the resources to build minimally safe structures if they could."
I think that both him and I find nothing surprising about what has happened in Haiti. This doesn't make it any less tragic, but rather more tragic. The fact that this was at all foreseeable suggests that we can all be guilty of not having helped mitigate risk in advance. The Heifer Project is an organization that promotes development by letting wealthy Americans buy a cow or goat for a family in a poor country. Maybe an organization can enable an American to donate money to pay for rebar in a Haitian home during reconstruction.
This guy is a really cool aerial photographer that focuses on issues at the human-environment interface. His photos are a super interesting and powerful way to raise issues about development patterns in the US. I saw his new book "Over" in B&N recently and thought that I'd like to have his photos in every presentation I give from now on.
Haven't gotten the chance to look through all of this, but it seems like a good project to aggregate decentralized information about energy projects, practices and potential:
(even after 4 years at MIT, I'm still sometimes surprised when predictions about the "power of the www" actually come true).
This website has a huge directory of survey data sets (mostly household-level, I think) that should be useful:
They don't host the actual data, but it seems like a great place to see what's available.
I'll try to add it to my [short] list of places to look for data.