Stop the cycle

I may not be the most faithful Catholic out there, but I do believe in the strength of prayer. I believe in the strength of hope, of holding on, of not letting go in order to carry on for another day. So yes, pray for the Philippines. I’ve always been praying for this usually god forsaken country, once offering entire mysteries when my mother required us to pray the rosary on summer days.

But there is much wisdom in the saying “Sa Diyos ang awa, sa tao ang gawa.” And yes, I am proud of the rescuers who are risking their lives for others, for no reward or compensation. It’s touching that all of us unite to donate, rescue, and inform the proper channels to help our kababayans.

Long term solutions, however, are much more practical than relying on people’s kindness and generosity. We don’t always have to return to yet-another-state-of-calamity. Hindi tama na normal ang baha sa atin.

The Asian Development Bank’s paper entitled Learning Lessons: Intense Climate-Related Natural Disasters in Asia and the Pacific warns against the frequency of this situation:

The rainfall and temperatures associated with these events are becoming more variable and extreme, while the evidence suggests that coastal regions in South, Southeast, and East Asia are at greater risk.

It proceeds to emphasize that although the weather is beyond our control, urban planning and educating the people are. A no brainer that the government ignores, so private sectors are left to clean up the mess.

There is also evidence that the more frequent and intense impact of these weather-related disasters results from a confluence of three factors: the changing nature of the hazards, rising exposure of populations, and limited adaptive capacity in many countries.

We only have two seasons: tag-init and tag-ulan. We have more than six months to prepare for the latter, and with a population that suffers from economic inequality, the not-so-privileged suffer physically (apart from monetarily) and lose the little they own during the natural disasters:

Disasters also seem to be taking a heavier toll on low- and lower-middle-income countries. In other words, exposure, sensitivity, and lack of adaptive capacity turn a hazard of nature into a natural disaster.

As my friend Aia stated in her blog post, we can somewhat avoid this by doing our part before the flood. Throw your trash in a proper bin. It may be convenient to leave it on a sidewalk or out your car window, but for sure, there are thousands more doing the same. Elementary math: multiply your amount of trash by a million and you get this:

The study continues to state specific reasons for Asia Pacific’s natural disasters:

 (i) the rising number of people exposed to hazards in low-lying cities near coasts (approximated by population growth); (ii) adaptive capacity (high population density and income) (iii) climatic factors (percentage of a country’s land that is tropical, amount of precipitation, average temperature).

Manila is a crowded place. No matter how large it is, just pile into an MRT or LRT, and you’ll wonder how much more the city can take. Top that with the fact there aren’t enough jobs to accommodate everyone trying to seek better opportunities in the city, and the fact they are supporting more than 2 children. This is where the relationship among overpopulation, the area and its urban development, and support from the public sector comes in.

We are living on the earth. We may have been declared stewards by the Bible but ultimately, our sustenance and survival depends on the land and sea’s resources. There needs to be a respect established with how much it can give to us and how much we owe it for our abuse. Slowly but surely, Mother Nature is getting back at us for not regarding the relationship we should have had with her:

As in many parts of the world, temperatures are rising in the Philippines. The annual average temperature rose at a rate of 0.65 °C during 1951–2010, or an average of 0.0108 °C annually. The rate of increase in temperature during the last 30 years (0.0164°C per year) is also faster than the long-term rate of increase. The number of hot days and warm nights is increasing, and the number of cold days and cool nights decreasing.

There is also evidence of increasing frequency of extreme daily rainfall. For example, over Luzon, the northern most and largest of the three major island groups of the Philippines, Figure 5 illustrates that more frequent rainfall of greater than 350 millimeters is recorded in the latter part of the 2000s, than the 275 millimeter events of the 1960s and 1970s.

When the sky rages on and drowns our city, we are rendered helpless. No amount of arrogance or denial of global warming will stop the earth from going on with its natural and inevitable processes. But a closer study into what we have been abusing and the consequences of our selfish actions will wake us up. Let us not add “environmental amnesia” to our culture’s convenient practice of historical amnesia. The ADB study concludes that awareness and action is THE answer to our prayers:

The main effects of climate change may well be in the near future. There is evidence that the increasing frequency of intense weather-related disasters is caused by a confluence of the changing nature of hazards that are affected by climate change, including human-induced climate change, rising population exposure, and limited adaptive capacity.

Better mitigation and adaptation, such as accelerating plans for the clean development mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, as well as refining hazard mapping and various risk assessment systems, are needed. Mainstreaming disaster management and climate adaptation is ultimately about reducing disaster risk, aside from mitigating the impact of the consequences of disasters.

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