Cory Morgan: Declaring an Emergency Over the Eclipse Is Over the Top

by EditorK

A total eclipse is seen from South Mike Sedar Park on August 21, 2017 in Casper, Wyoming. Millions of people have flocked to areas of the U.S. that are in the “path of totality” in order to experience a total solar eclipse. During the event, the moon will pass in between the sun and the Earth, appearing to block the sun. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Cory Morgan
By Cory Morgan 


When I heard the Niagara Region had declared a state of emergency over the solar eclipse on April 8, I had to double-check to ensure I wasn’t hearing from some sort of parody site. Alas, the news was all too real. Not to be outdone though, our American cousins in Indiana have declared a state of emergency for the entire state for the eclipse. Niagara isn’t alone, but it’s cold comfort at best.

States of emergency tend to be declared when an unexpected event descends upon an area and puts citizens in such danger, the only way to maintain safety is for the local government to declare an emergency to expand its powers as an authority to deal with it.

Did the eclipse come upon the world suddenly or unexpectedly?

No. Any astronomer worth their salt in the last couple of centuries could predict exactly where, when, and how long an eclipse will occur. This event didn’t sneak up on anybody. Local governments have had plenty of time to plan and mitigate any dangers that may come with the eclipse.

What dangers are those anyway? Mass public panic and riots?

We have moved beyond seeing eclipses as indications of a battle between the Moon God and the Sun God leading to public terror among unprepared citizens. In fact, people will be travelling to the region to observe the event in person. Instead of embracing this singular tourism boom by preparing for increased traffic that day, the local government is treating the event like a natural disaster. The Niagara Region is no stranger to tourism, and the traffic from people drawn to seeing the eclipse will be no more difficult to manage than that of a large music festival.

What about the risk to people’s eyes if they gaze upon the eclipse without protection?

If a person hasn’t figured out by now that they shouldn’t stare at an eclipse with the naked eye, there likely isn’t anything that will protect them from themselves including declaring an emergency. As a kid in school in the 1980s, I remember a partial eclipse occurring and we were all warned dearly of the risks as we created our viewing devices from cardboard boxes with pinholes. Now, rather than seeing this as a learning experience, schools in the region plan to close that day for fear of thousands of blinded children.

Could the three-minute period of darkness cause mayhem and accidents?

The Niagara Region has experienced daily periods of darkness lasting longer than eight hours for millions or billions of years. We call it night, and our cars and homes have lighting systems to deal with it. I suspect most will survive the additional period of darkness for a few minutes.

Sarcasm and mocking aside over this gross overreaction by authorities for an innocuous and predictable event, it has exposed just how cripplingly risk-averse and authoritarian our governments have become in the developed world. When states of emergency have been declared, things are no longer a laughing matter.

With a state of emergency, civil liberties of citizens can be suspended. People may be prevented from travelling, evacuations may be ordered, businesses can be forced to shut down, and police forces can be given additional powers. States of emergency should only be declared in the most exceptional and dire of circumstances. The declaration of an emergency alone can foster public fear, leading to the disorder the declaration was ostensibly made to prevent.

Governments do need the ability to declare states of emergency, but that power is being abused. Forest fires, riots, flooding, earthquakes, and zombie invasions all merit extraordinary reactions and powers granted to authorities to deal with them. Eclipses do not.

People are too dependent upon the government to keep them free of any and every possible risk to their safety. There is no such thing as a risk-free world but governments are more than willing to extend their powers under the guise of doing so.

The federal invocation of the Emergencies Act to deal with peaceful protesters in Ottawa set an ugly precedent.

Municipalities are starting to declare everything an emergency lately. Calgary declared a climate emergency while other cities across the country have been declaring emergencies over homelessness. These may be pressing issues, but not emergencies.

As people become desensitized to declarations of emergencies, a real risk sets in. If and when a real emergency is declared, citizens tired of the constant proclamations of emergencies may ignore it and be put at risk.

When everything has become an emergency, nothing is an emergency. That’s where the overreaction to the eclipse turns from a laughing matter into a serious problem.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. 

Cory Morgan is a columnist based in Calgary. 


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