Why It’s Time to Stop Calling These Hurricane Disasters “Natural”

From the WashPost, this opinion piece authored by an MIT professor: Why it’s time to stop calling these hurricane disasters ‘natural’

We must first recognize the phrase “natural disaster” for what it is: a sham we hide behind to avoid our own culpability. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and wildfires are part of nature, and the natural world has long ago adapted to them. Disasters occur when we move to risky places and build inadequate infrastructure.

In the United States, we have in place a range of policies that all but guarantees a worsening string of Katrinas, Sandys, Harveys and Irmas as far as we can see into the future. Climate change acts as a threat-multiplier to these policy-generated disasters, making them progressively worse than they would have been in a stable climate.

Women More Affected by Natural Disasters

Women respond to the effects of climate change and natural disasters

Women generally suffer more than men do from the effects of climate change and natural disasters. This observation leads the SDC to develop a targeted strategy of supporting projects in which women play an important role in their own social and economic emancipation.

On the slopes of the Bolivian Altiplano, in Haiti and in rural India, women tend to bear the brunt of climate change and natural disasters. Because they attend to household duties, they depend on access to natural resources more than men do. When these resources become scarce, an entire way of life – and means of survival – collapses. Some women also lose the little financial independence they had gained.

 

“Natural Disasters as Threats to Peace”

United States Institute of Peace - 2012-09-13

From the US Institute of Peace, this new special report was recently released.  The executive summary and details about the author are located here.  A link to the full text ( 17 pages) also is provided.

I think I will have to add this topic to my list of What Keeps Me Up at Night. The current list was posted on Nov. 15th on this blog.

The main theme is fascinating and one that would make a great discussion topic at future conferences. The author makes a number of generalizations about disasters and emergency management systems used in recent years, which I find interesting and consistent with some of my observations.  One example follows:

Most fundamental to stoic readiness is the political capacity of societies to mobilize in the face of crises. Such capacity includes the ability to make decisions quickly and cohesively, to redirect funding rapidly without corruption, and to deliver supplies and support efficiently. * * * In failed or failing states, government capabilities are especially lacking, and such political capacity is the most difficult set of skills and institutions to improve, even with major develop assistance from outsiders.”

A related report is this one from Harvard University: Climate Change As a National Security Issue. Feb. 2013. The full report ( 184 pp.) is here.

One more article on the topic, from the NY Times on March 3 in this review by Thomas Friedman of The Arab Spring and Climate Change.

Use of Social Media in Disasters – the Colorado wildfires-updates

Česky: Logo Facebooku English: Facebook logo E...

With all the fire and flooding disasters going on presently, I thought I would pull up some practical resources for people to use.  See this handbook created by residents of Joplin, MO with help from their state university:  The Use of Social Media for Disaster Recovery. Note that the same two ladies who were the creative force in Joplin have created a Facebook page for the Colorado Wildfires.

Additional resources are on Kim Stephen’s blog: idisaster.wordpress.com
Be sure to check out the Resources page.
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Maps:

Great use of Google maps for detailed accounts of the various fires: Use this link.
Another link with info from Crisis Commons.  If you work with these maps you will see situation reports, shelter locations, and other useful facts connected by URL to the images.

Information:

From the Denver Post, resources and assistance available to evacuees.

Website for the CO Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters.

From USA Today, some interesting facts about why the risk is so high in Colorado and other western states:

Throughout the West, firefighters have toiled for days in searing, record-setting heat against fires fueled by prolonged drought. Most, if not all, of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana were under red flag warnings, meaning extreme fire danger.

The nation is experiencing “a super-heated spike on top of a decades-long warming trend,” said Derek Arndt, head of climate monitoring at the National Climatic Data Center.

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I keep wondering how you shelter 32,000 people who have evacuated rapidly from an unexpected disaster event. If anyone has details, please let me know.

New Report on Natural Disasters and Resilience

Thanks to an organization called the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH) and their contractor, Weather Predict Consulting Inc., we have the benefit of an excellent report on natural disasters with some recommendations re resilience.  I especially like it because it presents a lot of hard scientific information about natural disasters and some useful observations re resilience, a topic that often sinks under the weight of platitudes and wishful thinking.

The 14 page report is titled: Impact 2011: Examining a Year of Catastrophes through the Lens of Resiliency. It is international in scope though the recommendations are meant for a U.S. audience.

Please patronize our sponsor: DisasterBookstore.com

Recovery in Louisiana – still ongoing in year 6

Hurricane Rita

Image by Preston Kemp via Flickr

This article focuses on the slow drawdown of federal funds made available for recovery projects in Louisiana since the trio of hurricanes that hit in 2005. It highlights the financial management needed for the long, complicated recovery  process. Check out:  Another lesson learned from hurricanes Rita, Katrina; December 16, 2011.  A couple of excerpts:

While recovery from hurricanes Rita and Katrina from 2005 has been steady, the money allocated by the federal government to Louisiana has not been all spent. There is almost $2 billion still unspent from the $13.4 billion that was given to the state for rebuilding from those devastating natural disasters, according to the state Division of Administration.

That doesn’t mean it won’t be spent, since it will probably take the state years to fully recover.

While we can be grateful for the aide from the federal government, among the lessons from hurricanes Rita and Katrina is how to make the recovery programs from natural disasters more efficient, while making sure the money is spent honestly and for the purposes intended.

Christchurch, NZ – quake analyses are yielding some unique results

Christchurch Earthquake 22/02/11

Image by geoftheref via Flickr

In an article titled Sobering alarm for cities on faultline; the Press (NZ), Nov. 2, 2011, describes some unusual geologic conditions and sounds and alarm for cities on faultlines.  In the report, it quotes Erol Kalkan, manager of the United States Geological Survey’s national strong-motion network, said the February earthquake was “remarkable on several counts”.  Some quotes from the report:

“The ground motion was much larger than previously recorded, the high intensity of  shaking was greater than expected, particularly for a moderate-size earthquake, and the liquefaction-induced damage was extensive and severe within the central business district of Christchurch.

“Many urban areas are built over soft sediments and in valleys or over basins, for example the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles metropolitan. These are urban areas that sit atop geological features that may exaggerate or amplify ground motion, just as Christchurch experienced.

“The question is how to apply or account for such significant, higher-than-expected ground motions, as seen in Christchurch.”  The Christchurch quake would have a long-lasting and significant impact on engineering practices and provided a huge opportunity to fuel scientific knowledge, Kalkan said.

GNS Science’s John Callan said the quantity and quality of data collected during the quake was “almost unprecedented internationally”. “Analysis of this data is already having a significant impact on seismology worldwide.”

 

 

Queensland, Australia – new recovery organization created

Queensland, Australia

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I read that about 70% of the entire population of Queensland, Australia has been affected by the recent floods and cyclone.  Today in the Wall St. Journal that indicate that a new organization has been created to deal with the recovery process.  This article is a bit brief, but I expect more details will be known in the coming days.

One more article from the Adelaide newspaper, Feb. 7.  The issues surely do sound familiar – how to spend large amounts of money efficiently and effectively……