Thankfully, the eventual impact of Cyclone Mahasen on South Asia was softer than feared before it struck land this past week. However, the storm still left dozens dead and caused the precautionary evacuation or subsequent displacement of one million persons living in coastal areas around the Bay of Bengal.
The human and economic toll from natural disasters since global leaders met at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 has been staggering. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction estimates that natural disasters caused 1.3 million deaths and $2 trillion in economic damage worldwide since then.
Climate change these days is the new development buzzword, and rising sea levels and drought incidences highlight the increasing urgency for action. Yet for some reason, there is disconnect between the high level commitment to action and the carrying out of projects that effect change.
I am not an environment or climate change expert, but I am an environmentalist out of conviction. When I was 14 years old I wrote a letter to the German Minister of Environment asking for faster policy action to reduce green house gas emissions.
Manila has the distinction of being one of seven cities globally judged to be at extreme risk from the combined impacts of climate change and climate-related disasters – and only Dhaka in Bangladesh is estimated to be at higher overall risk.
If a frog is placed in a boiling caldron, it will immediately jump out to safety. If the same frog is placed in water, which is slowly heated to boiling, the frog will tranquilly remain and eventually die from overheating.
This biological anecdote is frequently utilized as a metaphor for our political state of affairs over global climate change. As the planet slowly heats and succumbs to gradual change we unwittingly accustomize without sensing the dangers that await us. The lessons from this phenomenon also encompass the state of our cities and the transport sector.
More effort and resources need to be invested in making migration a tool of climate change adaptation rather than accepting it as a failure to adapt.