Today marks the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, and there has been no better time to call for action to proactively reduce the risk and implement strategies to mitigate the impact of hazards and disasters and respond to a changing climate with better mitigation targets and strategies and programs to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.
We have seen recently in the news the capital city of Choiseul Province in the Solomon Islands, Taro Island, planning to relocate its entire population in response to climate change. Predictions that Kiribati, the Maldives, the Marshall Islands could all vanish at 2 degrees of warming along with many other coastal zones across the Pacific – an estimated 150-300 million people could be displaced by 2050. So what will an era of climate refugees look like? We saw New Zealand deport a climate change refugee, a Kiribatian whose home is threated by rising sea levels. In late September we saw climate change activists protesting outside the Australian High Commission in Suva against what they consider to be Australia’s lack of action to tackle climate change.
Global warming will see an increase in the frequency and intensity of weather events across the pacific, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, an increase in temperatures, precipitation, and salt inundation which will threaten food production and security. The Pacific will face an ever-higher risk of cyclones, storm surges, drought and floods. The current experience of El Nino is causing severe drought in Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and in northern and western divisions in Fiji, while Vanuatu and Samoa are under threat of drought.
In the Solomon Islands, Save the Children is working with offices in Vanuatu and Fiji on a Pacific Coalition on the Advancement of School Safety. We are working at a regional level to make Solomon Islands’ schools safer by educating kids about disaster risks. We are working with stakeholders such as the Ministry of Education to craft key messages and priorities and adapt teaching materials. We are supporting schools to create and implement disaster risk management plans and simulation exercises, making them more resilient to natural hazards such as cyclone, flood and earthquake.
The theme this year for International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is traditional knowledge. In the past, ancestors had ways and means of preparing for disaster through their use of traditional knowledge. This traditional knowledge was passed from one generation to the next by way of story-telling and verbal communication.
Ancestors know when to go fishing by observing the stars and their positions, from tides and waves, from wind and from the moon. A bright full moon with and outer circles tells Routuman fishermen what fish to catch. Formation of bee-hives on soil surface would foretell the coming of a cyclone and to prepare well in advance.
Scientists are now acknowledging the importance of traditional knowledge in promoting sustainability and disaster risk reduction while also recognising that we cannot solely depend on it as some traditional knowledge needs to adapt to the rapidly changing environment and landscape. Whilst climate change will exacerbate the challenges of disaster we should never be caught off guard – together, traditional knowledge and climate science help us predict the patterns of disasters and investment in risk reduction as an effective means for reducing the impact of emergencies and disasters.
With trouble in paradise Dr Guy McPherson leaves us with a poignant remark “if you really think the environment is less important than the economy, try holding your breath while you count your money”
Source: Danielle Wade and Nerol Vaekesa,
* Save the Children.
*Save the Children is implementing Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Programs in Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands in an effort to secure a bright future for children safe from disasters