climate change

Ordering our outrage

It has been difficult to avoid succumbing to the atmosphere of anger and despair that has developed in the wake of the havoc wreaked by Typhoon Yolanda, internationally known as Typhoon Haiyan, especially when, by most accounts, relief and rescue operations led by the present administration have been and continue to be slow while thousands of people starve, sicken, suffer, and die in the devastated areas of Visayas. The frustration and resentment have been particularly pronounced among users of social media, who, prior to the current crisis, had already been up in arms for weeks on end over the Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF) scam involving several legislators and its most prominent—thus, most hated—face, businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, and had more recently been in anguish because of the effects of the 7.2–magnitude earthquake that had hit Bohol, Cebu, and their neighboring provinces.

Even after we had heard from our relatives in Kalibo, Aklan, which, though not as badly ravaged as other places, has certainly seen its share of death and destruction, I continue to feel weighed down by elemental helplessness, and it has been tempting to yield to the impulse to contribute to the rapidly rising tide of recriminations that I have observed among my colleagues, friends, and other contacts. There can, after all, be no denying that the response to Yolanda so far signals immense, perhaps criminal, failures on the part of the government, both at the local and national levels, in terms of disaster risk reduction, mitigation, and management, and therefore scrutiny and censure are more than called for. (In line with this, I would particularly like to know whether charges of treason would prosper against local officials who, despite being safe and sound, chose not to reach out to their constituents, but to ensconce themselves in Manila and issue statements to the press.)

The problem with social media, however, is that it can perpetuate a vicious cycle of validation rather than allow for catharsis: when we vent in Twitter, Facebook, or similar platforms, there is a distinct possibility that our fury and despondency may not drain away to create a space for clear, intelligent thought, or convert itself into energy for deliberate, effective action. Instead, it may simply go round and round and round, accumulating intensity and power while destroying our ability to ask ourselves what has so provoked our emotions and to consider if our reactions are still commensurate to the matter at hand. I do not wish to suggest that indignation cannot be productive—a cursory survey of our history as a people would prove otherwise quite easily—but any expression of such ought, I believe, to be accompanied by a strong sense of proportion, of responsibility: the best instances of criticism contain within them not only an invitation to dialogue, but also a commitment to it. Engaging in vituperation helps nothing and no one, as this reduces us to mere cogs in a mindless machine of rage.

If we are to converse on Yolanda and its aftermath in a manner that is meaningful and can lead to vastly improved disaster response in the future, I suggest that we begin with the following considerations:

First: Yolanda was one of the most powerful typhoons in the recorded history of the world—the fourth strongest, in fact, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii. While the Philippines is battered by about 15 to 20 typhoons each year, it does not seem reasonable to suggest that this has given us sufficient experience to face a monstrous weather event like Yolanda, which had one-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h, a speed that would enable one to traverse a traffic-free EDSA from end to end in less than five minutes. Prior to November 8, when it first made landfall in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, it is difficult to imagine any individual or institution being able to extrapolate from available data and set a baseline for preparations that would be good enough. How does one prepare a nation for a natural disaster of this magnitude?

The initial plans that had been made—and it must be acknowledged that plans were in place—were based on assumptions that Yolanda, precisely because it was so unprecedented, easily blasted, ripped apart and destroyed. The excruciatingly sluggish pace of the response is not necessarily a function of ineptitude, but it is definitely a function of lack of information: how can one plan when one does not know the reality on the ground? And how can one know what is out there when communication lines, roads, bridges, seaports, and airports are out of commission, wrecked, or otherwise unusable owing to safety and security concerns? Such situation has begun to be addressed, but repair and recovery work takes time. Anecdotal information may come in from several sources, but these reports still need to be collated, arranged, and made sense of from a broader perspective to facilitate the conduct of aid that is as efficient as can be, in light of prevailing constraints.

Second: Much of the rage that I have seen (hardly representative, admittedly) appears to be based on the heavily sensationalized—or, to use John Crowley‘s term, “catastrophized“—stories and images of agony that the media, especially parachute journalists like CNN celebrity anchor Anderson Cooper, can capture: as of this writing, various news entities have collectively served up seven days of post-apocalyptic poverty porn for the combination of the 24-hour news cycle and Web 2.0 that has proven so menacing to journalism and so soporific to the general public. The latter was something that cultural critic Neil Postman had warned about as early as 1985, in his book against television, Amusing Ourselves to Death:

In both oral and typographic cultures, information derives its importance from the possibilities of action. Of course, in any communication environment, input (what one is informed about) always exceeds output (the possibilities of action based on information). But the situation created by telegraphy, then exacerbated by later technologies, made the relationship between information and action both abstract and remote. For the first time in human history, people were faced with the problem of information glut, which means that simultaneously they were faced with the problem of a diminished social and political potency.

Cooper et al. may not be malicious—a contentious point that I will leave on the table for now—but that does not mean they are not guilty of imperial and imperious condescension: a number of commentaries, academic and popular, have underscored the problematic, even racist, rhetoric of Western media when their reporters cover Third World events, as in the case of the 2010 earthquake that struck the Carribean nation of Haiti. Here, for instance, is Rebecca Solnit on the coverage of that specific tragedy:

The belief that people in disaster (particularly poor and nonwhite people) are cattle or animals or just crazy and untrustworthy regularly justifies spending far too much energy and far too many resources on control — the American military calls it “security” — rather than relief. A British-accented voiceover on CNN calls people sprinting to where supplies are being dumped from a helicopter a “stampede” and adds that this delivery “risks sparking chaos.” The chaos already exists, and you can’t blame it on these people desperate for food and water. Or you can, and in doing so help convince your audience that they’re unworthy and untrustworthy.

As well, it may be useful to remember that no less than the United States of America hardly seemed like the global superpower it styles itself to be following Hurricane Katrina, as evidenced by this timeline, or by this clip, in which Cooper interviews Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu:

(None of the foregoing, by the way, should not be understood as a tacit defense of broadcaster Korina Sanchez, who I understand has been pitted against Cooper in many discussions given her reaction to the coverage of CNN. As far as I am concerned, Sanchez, given that she is the wife of Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, should not be associated with any outfit that purports to report news.)

Third: Whenever we are moved to slam the government, we must remind ourselves that “government” is not a faceless, monolithic entity or an arena populated entirely by corrupt, greedy, and incompetent officials who are hell-bent on looking after their interests, preserving their prerogatives, and perpetuating their political careers at the expense of lives.

The government is also made up of the tired, hungry, overworked, and utterly courageous police officers, soldiers, doctors, nurses, drivers, pilots, clerks, technicians, engineers, and aid workers who are contributing to the relief effort. The government is also made made up of people who have lost their possessions, their homes, their relatives, and their friends to Yolanda, and yet they are out there in Eastern Visayas, sifting through the ruins of various cities, towns, and barangays, to save who and what they can. The government is also made up of people who need to know that we completely support what they are doing, and that our appreciation and gratitude for their vital work are boundless.

Finally, the government is also made up of us—we who are, in ways large and small, inextricably bound to and complicit with the system as it exists, and if said system needs to be renovated, refurbished, or razed to the ground so as to establish a better one, then this could be the moment to seize and to shape, not by way of ire-driven status updates, but by sustained, collaborative action beyond the screen, in the real world for which the digital one, for all its attractions, will always be a poor substitute.

(This has been cross-posted from Random Salt.)

An invitation to a UNESCO talk regarding ethics, energy and climate change

“Beyond Fukushima: Ethics, Energy and Climate Change”
Consultation Meeting with UNESCO Bangkok RUSHSAP in cooperation with the National Commission of the Philippines to UNESCO, and the Department of Philosophy of Ateneo de Manila University
Ethics and Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific (ECCAP)
8:00 – 12:00, 30 April 2011

Venue: Ching-Tan Room of Ateneo Gokongwei School of Management
Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Q.C.

 

ManilaECCAP30APril2011program

WWF is looking for volunteers for Earth Hour 2011

Just sharing a message from our friends over at World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines is inviting any able body who would like to help in making this years Earth Hour 2011 a success to come and volunteer.

WWF-Philippines has been helping communities in the Philippines adapt to climate change, secure food and water sources, conserve local ecosystems and species, minimize ecological impacts and development and promote renewable sources of clean energy.

Among WWF’s most successful global campaigns is Earth Hour, which since its inception four years ago has captured the world’s imagination by becoming a global phenomenon. As a global campaign, Earth Hour is a worldwide initiative showing how individuals, communities, businesses and governments can address the threat of global warming if we resolve to work on it together. Earth Hour 2010 inspired more than a billion people worldwide and over 15 million Filipinos to switch off their lights for the planet.

On 26 March 2011, the Philippines will once again join the global community in launching Earth Hour 2011, with cities and towns all over the world switching off their lights for one hour at 8:30 P.M. sending an even stronger message to take action on
global warming. However the key difference for this year is that we also hope to inspire the public to go beyond this hour and make long-term commitments to do more for our planet.

Everyone can help in their own little way, whether it be to simple things like unplugging your cellphone charger from the wall socket when not in use, or using a tabo instead of the shower. Or if you would like to do something more, we are inviting you to come and volunteer for the Earth Hour 2011 Team.

Any time and effort you could donate would be greatly appreciated! For those interested, please email us at [email protected] so that we could coordinate with you!

You can also help by donating. Any amount would be appreciated;

For Globe and Smart subscribers, support Earth Hour by:

Texting EHOUR to 5333 – to donate Php15 for Smart and Php20 for Globe and receive an MMS picture
Texting EHOUR ON to 5333 – to subscribe to the SMS info service and eco-friendly tips. Php 2.50/text.

Once again, we hope you will help us in sending a message as a global community through this information and education campaign against climate change. Thank you!

Asia-Pacific at risk from climate migration

Governments in the Asia-Pacific region face the risk of unprecedented numbers of people displaced by floods, storms and other impacts of climate change, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report on Monday.

The bank and climate scientists said the region, home to 4 billion people, will be among the regions most affected by the impacts of climate change, leading to major migration both within and between nations, stretching resources.

The draft report, “Migration due to climate change demands attention” also said no international mechanism has been created to manage millions of people on the move.

“Protection and assistance schemes remain inadequate, poorly coordinated, and scattered. National governments and the international community must urgently address this issue in a proactive manner,” it said.

Failure to do so risked costly humanitarian disasters, the report concluded.

The report for policymakers reviewed climate threats and the complex nature of migration, of which climate change is only one of many drivers, including greater numbers of people moving to cities to seek jobs.

It pointed to impacts such as higher temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, greater monsoon variability, rising sea levels, floods, and more intense tropical cyclones.

Read more at GMA News

Climate change costing PH $241M yearly, says study

The Philippines yearly loses millions of dollars in direct damage to properties, livelihood and crops due to climate-related natural disasters, according to a senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

Danilo C. Israel said in a paper posted on the PIDS website that from 1990 to 2009, the Philippines suffered $4.813 billion in direct damage, or an average of $240.7 million per year, due to weather and climate-related disasters.

In the decade starting 2000, total losses from damage were placed at $2.121 billion, lower than the total damage of $2.602 billion in the 1990s.

There was also indirect damage, such as the impact of agricultural damage on other sectors of the economy through increases in the prices of goods and services. Forms of indirect damage, whenever possible, will also have to be accounted for. However, the available secondary data on economic damage available at present only reflect direct damage and thus, the figures presented below are only the conservative estimates of the total damage.

Read more at Philippine Daily Inquirer

NEDA says 50 provinces to have risk reduction dev’t plan 2011

The DRR Guidelines was developed by NEDA in 2008 to enhance natural disaster risk reduction efforts in the local development planning process. It introduced a disaster risk assessment methodology that enables LGUs to identify areas at risk to natural disaster and the appropriate mitigation measures.

The DRR Guidelines were piloted in the Surigao del Norte and in the Ilocos and CARAGA Regions, whose Physical Framework Plans are already enhanced with DRR principles. NEDA has been promoting the use to LGUs in various regional fora.

The NEDA has been rolling out the DRR Guidelines through its “Integrating DRR/Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) Project,” which is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Australian Aid for International Development (AusAID). The Project incorporates climate change adaptations and sectoral impact parameters into the DRR Guidelines.

“We expect at least 50 provinces throughout the country to complete their DRR/CCA-enhanced Provincial Development and Physical Framework Plans by the end of 2011,” said Director Susan Jose of the NEDA-Regional Development Coordination Staff.

source: gov.ph

The media is responsible

Asia-Europe foundation

The Asia-Europe Foundation posted this:

According to Prof Klaus Toepfer, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Asian and European countries needed to find the path to a more sustainable and green future as the world gears up toward the Rio+20 Earth Summit in 2012 and leaves behind its “black past”.

In this context, the media and other players in the creative communication industry have an important role to play. ASEF explored their role in a workshop at the ENVForum Conference, entitled Educating Audiences in Creating Demand for Sustainable Consumption & Production: The Role and Responsibility of the Media, Entertainment & Creative Industries. The Workshop was hosted by the Swedish Environmental Secretariat for Asia, the Asia-Pacific Media Alliance for Social Awareness and Deutsche Welle.

image by Asia-Europe Foundation

Infrastructure woes hinder MDGs

Infrastructure woes hinder MDGs
Written by Cai U. Ordinario
Business Mirror

DESPITE the country’s efforts to increase social spending through programs like the conditional cash-transfer (CCT) program to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) believes that addressing infrastructure constraints will still hold the key in achieving the goals by 2015.

In a statement, ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda said developing countries like the Philippines must address basic infrastructure constraints to achieve the MDGs in five years.

Kuroda said many areas in developing countries still do not have electricity, all-weather roads and other basic infrastructure. These limit access to health care and discourage children from completing their education.

He said the region is lagging in the targets for basic sanitation, infant mortality, maternal health, hunger and environmental improvements, and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Less developed countries, or those suffering from conflicts or disaster, will need more regional help to make progress, and the Asia and Pacific region must step up cross-border cooperation in trade, investment, knowledge and technology, to help bridge gaps in resources and capacities,” the ADB added.

Addressing these concerns is National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director General
Dr. Cayetano Paderanga, who delivered the Philippines’ statement during the High-Level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in New York City.

Paderanga, who is also the Socioeconomic Planning secretary, said while the Philippines made considerable strides in meeting some of the MDGs, like cutting child mortality, and malaria and tuberculosis incidence; increasing access to sanitation and safe and potable water; and providing equal education for girls, there is still a lot to be done.

The Neda chief said the measures that will be implemented by the national government to help achieve the MDGs will be included in the Medium-Term Development Plan for 2010-2016.

He said the MTDP will make sure this growth is inclusive and can help protect the vulnerable by ensuring access of every Filipino to quality health, education and employment opportunities.

These, Paderanga said, will be done through an appropriate mix of physical and social infrastructures, and by strengthening social safety nets, like CCTs and universal health care.

“Despite the gains attained in the last decade, we need to push ourselves more to meet the MDGs, particularly where we lag behind. Moreover, the Philippine scenario is characterized by wide disparities. Our latest progress report also shows that climate change poses a threat to the achievement of our targets. The population above the poverty threshold is declining as a result of low capacities to cope with the effects of shocks leading to more ‘transient poor,’” Paderanga said in a statement.

He urged development partners to also keep their promise of sharing a portion of their gross national income (GNI) to developing countries for MDG achievement. The United Nations official development assistance target is set at 0.7 percent of GNI.

“Excellencies, as we enter the last stretch, the Philippine government is exerting all means to deliver on its promise to realize its MDGs, not just as an international commitment but because our people demand it. Let us remember that each and every one of our citizens deserves a life of quality, meaning and dignity,” Paderanga said.

For its part, the Manila-based ADB said it is targeting increased support for basic infrastructure, such as roads, power and sanitation, which are crucial for meeting MDGs.

It also intends to scale up assistance for education, and for environmental improvements, including the use of clean energy, where ADB investments have grown to more than $1 billion a year, and which are targeted to double to $2 billion by 2013.

Kuroda added that countries in the Asia and the Pacific region, which is home to three-fifths of humanity and two-thirds of the world’s poor, represent the world’s best hope for achieving the MDGs by 2015.

“With more than 500 million people having overcome poverty since 1990, the target for reducing extreme income poverty is in sight. The region is also likely to achieve near universal primary school enrollment by 2015, attain gender parity in education, meet the target on access to safe drinking water, and halt the spread of deadly diseases such as TB and HIV,” Kuroda said.

The country’s fourth progress report on the MDGs showed it had a low probability of achieving indicators—such as increase elementary education net enrollment rate, elementary education cohort survival rate, elementary education completion rate, reduce by three quarters maternal mortality, universal access to reproductive health, halt HIV prevalence among 15 year olds, and provide comprehensive correct knowledge about HIV/AIDS to 15 to 24 year olds.

The report also showed the country had a medium probability of achieving the indicators on halving the proportion of population below the poverty threshold or P15,057 per year per person, halving the prevalence of underweight children under five years old, halving the proportion of households with per capita intake below 100 percent dietary energy requirement, universal access for the proportion of the population with advanced HIV infection to antiretroviral drugs, and halve the proportion of the population with access to safe water.

The indicators also showed the Philippines had a high probability of achieving of halving the proportion of population below the food threshold or P10,025 per year per person, all the indicators of Goal 3 which pertained to gender equality and women empowerment, indicators under Goal 4 of reducing child mortality, the malaria morbidity rate, the malaria mortality rate, the tuberculosis case-detection rate, tuberculosis-cure rate, and the proportion of the population with access to sanitary toilet facilities.

The MDGs are a set of eight goals, 22 quantitative targets and more than 60 specific indicators meant to serve as a focus for international and national development policy.

The first seven goals are concerned with outcomes, identifying the progress toward certain standards of human welfare and development that should be achieved globally and nationally by 2015. The eighth goal is concerned with “global partnership for development” to support the realization of all the goals.

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