Category Archives: Present

Risk to National Security

Last week it was the UN Climate Summit connecting climate change to human health. This week it’s the Pentagon calling climate change an “immediate risk” to national security. According to the report:

Climate change poses the potential to destabilize countries, sow the seeds of violence, and even cause wars…and could trigger anything from “infectious disease to terrorism.”

Apparently it’s one thing to lose a couple of species and a few hundred lives a year to “bad weather” but it’s another thing altogether when there might be a war to prep for.

Then again, these are the same people who use zombies to help train future troops for possible catastrophes. Which is actually pretty smart.

4000+ Is Not Just a Statistic

This past week, Cuba sent the first 165 of 461 healthcare workers to  Sierra Leone, making them the single largest force against Ebola in west Africa.

It’s natural that people care more about what’s happening closer to their lives and realities. But I also think we all have a responsibility to not view what is not our immediate problem as a lesser problem. The fact that thousands of deaths in Africa are treated as a statistic, and that one or two patients inside our borders are reported in all their individual pain, should be cause for reflection.

Artist André Carrilho

Read more about Cuba’s long-stading history of providing disaster assistance and the artist’s controversial visual commentary on the Ebola crisis.

Disaster News Update: Japan

Typhoon Roke Approaching Japan
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team

Japan has been headlining disaster news a great deal of late:

  • September 12, 2014: Mount Ontake erupted killing more than 50 people who had been hiking at the popular tourist spot.
  • October 5, 2014: Typhoon Phanfone made landfall, shutting down Mount Ontake search and rescue operations, canceling 400+ flights, closing schools, triggering mudslides,  and resulting in evacuation advisories for more than 2 million people, power outages to 9,000+ homes, and seven deaths with a number of people still missing.
  • October 7, 2014: Typhoon Vongfong, upgraded this morning to a super typhoon, is forecast to hit Japan this weekend.

And, of course, most of us remember the deadly earthquake/tsunami-fueled disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant on March 11, 2011–the largest nuclear disaster since the April 1986 even at Chernobyl.

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Japan shut down all of its nuclear reactors, but recently the Japanese government has approved plans to restart the program, including any reactors that pass strict, new safety tests, along with possible new plants.

While stronger safety criteria are a step in the right direction, Japan has a long history of seismic activity, and the occasionally resulting tsunami, due to it’s location along the highly active Ring of Fire  that surrounds the Pacific. And the intensity and frequency of seismic and other events appear to be increasing. Add to that equation their 118 volcanoes on just over 145, 000 square miles of land, and one has to wonder if any safety measure could be strong enough.

Connecting Climate and Human Health

During last month’s UN Climate Summit, an important connection was drawn between climate change and human health.

It is critical to understand that climate change has both immediate and future consequences for human health. Already today we are seeing threats to health that range from waterborne diseases in degraded, polluted watersheds to the emergence of novel diseases transmitted from wildlife. Grave future threats include changes in temperature and rainfall patterns that can result in the spread of diseases, such as malaria, dengue, and West Nile virus, to higher latitudes and shifting altitudes. And rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere may cause substantial declines in the nutritional content of key crops.

Judith Rodin, President, The Rockefeller Foundation

Acknowledgement of this link between the planet and our individual health may finally be the push global leaders need to raise the priority of climate change and related issues. Read more at Climate Action is a Health Priority.

State of the Union

It can feel hard to know what to believe.

The truth is, even the scientists can’t say for sure what’s coming. But something is definitely coming. Some of it is already here. And whether you think it’s just a “cycle” or the end of days, there are things we can learn, things we can do, and ways we can get creative to help make this life, and change, a little easier.

Tomorrow, I’ll share one filmmaker’s post-apocalyptic vision and start brainstorming about avoiding or surviving that potential future.