Desastres naturales

A kangaroo roots through charred ground in search of food on Kangaroo Island in South Australia in January. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

In the Australian bush southwest of Sydney, a wedge-tailed eagle is gliding over the paddocks. He’s on the hunt for prey. Watch a “wedgie” for long enough and you’ll see them suddenly swoop, dive-bombing toward the ground, before lifting aloft a rabbit, wallaby or small kangaroo.

There’s no sign of that today. Today, he circles, looping over hillsides filled with blackened trees. There’s no prey to find.

We’re on Tallygang Mountain Road, in an area called Wombeyan Caves. The bushfires swept through this part of Australia in early January, during a fire season which consumed more than 12.6 million hectares (about 50,000 square miles) of bush, mainly in the country’s eastern states.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian scientists work at the Tsunami Early Warning Centre of the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) in Hyderabad. Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images.

While most people would agree that resilience – commonly understood as the ability to adapt and bounce back from adversity – is a good thing, the varied responses to COVID-19 have demonstrated that the concept is multi-layered and highly complex.

In many countries, policymakers are calling for increased emphasis on making systems and societies resilient against shocks, while some have already been incorporating resilience thinking into their strategies – either as a result of previous shocks or having understood the systemic challenges they face in being prepared for major shocks, usually following an audit.

Resilience is not just about preparedness for pandemics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por qué la preparación para casos de desastre no puede esperar

El mundo se estuvo preparando para el futuro creyendo, incorrectamente, que se parecerá al pasado. Pero mientras la COVID-19 coincide con ciclones en el sur de Asia y el Pacífico, y gigantescas mangas de langostas en el este de África, queda más claro que nunca cuán necesario es preparar al mundo para hacer frente a impactos inesperados. Se prevé que las epidemias, inundaciones, tormentas, sequías e incendios fuera de control serán más frecuentes y graves, y afectarán a cientos de millones de personas cada año.

La pandemia de la COVID-19 es un llamado de atención mundial. Como líderes de organizaciones internacionales entendemos tanto la grave amenaza como la oportunidad para lograr cambios que representa.…  Seguir leyendo »

In this photo provided by the Russian Marine Rescue Service, rescuers work to prevent the spread of an oil spill outside Norilsk, Russia, on June 2.

An approximately 5-million-gallon diesel fuel spill from a power station storage tank near the Arctic town of Norilsk, Russia, poses a deadly threat to the region’s people, plants, and animals. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, who doesn’t have a strong environmental track record, has declared a state of emergency.

Nornickel, the parent company of Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company, which operates the station, said the accident could have been the result of the foundation of the storage tank sinking due to thawing permafrost, the Russian state news agency TASS reported.

As an oil spill scientist, I see unique dangers in the Arctic. This spill is a warning of a precarious future that we are unprepared for.…  Seguir leyendo »

Integrantes de la tribu Mura descansan en un área deforestada de la selva amazónica cerca de Humaita, estado de Amazonas, Brasil, en agosto pasado. Credit Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Cuando vuelva la temporada seca, la selva de la Amazonía arderá de nuevo, como todos los años. Por desgracia, esta vez será diferente. Los titulares internacionales del año pasado tomaron por sorpresa al presidente brasileño, Jair Bolsonaro, y a sus aliados. Con seguridad, tendrán preparados más trucos para dar respuesta a la próxima temporada de incendios. Es vital observar de cerca sus acciones.

La deforestación aumenta a un ritmo alarmante. Desde agosto de 2019 ha aumentado un 94 por ciento con respecto al año anterior, que ya había tenido el nivel más alto de deforestación en una década. A diferencia de las áreas más secas de Australia o California, en el bosque tropical no pueden originarse incendios a menos que los seres humanos talen árboles.…  Seguir leyendo »

Flooding in a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar on Thursday as a result of Cyclone Amphan. (Mayyu Ali)

Cox’s Bazar — In what is often described as the world’s largest refugee settlement, Rohingya refugees who have fled genocide in Myanmar are enduring one disaster after another.

On March 24, Bangladesh confirmed the first covid-19 case in the city of Cox’s Bazar. Since then, the government imposed a lockdown in the area, including for the camps where more than 1 million Rohingya refugees — myself included — are surviving. On May 14, Bangladesh reported the first two confirmed cases within the camps itself — a Rohingya refugee and a local Bangladeshi person.

The nightmare of what we and the world have feared for months had finally arrived at our doorsteps — and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.…  Seguir leyendo »

París desierta el 25 de abril. Credit Dmitry Kostyukov para The New York Times

En Tiembla, un libro colectivo sobre el bestial terremoto de Ciudad de México de 2017, Juan Villoro cita la correspondencia que Rousseau mantuvo con Voltaire donde habla de los riesgos de elegir vivir donde el mundo entraña peligro. “No era la naturaleza la que había juntado allí veinte mil casas de seis o siete pisos y que, si los habitantes de esa ciudad hubiesen estado más dispersos y más ligeramente alojados, los daños hubiesen sido menores”, escribía a propósito del sismo de Lisboa de 1755.

Como con los terremotos, no es la naturaleza culpable del coronavirus. Las epidemias son hijas de la humanidad.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the Old Testament, the Bible recounts the 10 Plagues of Egypt, disasters inflicted by God to force the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. In the past few months, Australia has been forced to endure plagues of its own, afflicted with terrifying bush fires, drought and smoke pollution that choked the skies. Now, the emergence of a global pandemic feels very much like another plague lapping at our shores after the summer that destroyed so much.

As of Thursday, there were 5,133 confirmed cases of covid-19 in Australia. Most cases have been in returned travelers — people who have traveled by plane or been passengers on cruise ships — rather than from pockets of local transmission.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los temporales arrasan costas, generan grandes inundaciones y riadas, y movilizan grandes cantidades de contaminantes. De forma recurrente, numerosas zonas se ven afectadas por graves daños materiales, personales y ambientales. ¿Qué está sucediendo? ¿Por qué, de manera sistemática, tenemos que asumir elevados gastos de indemnización y reconstrucción, y publicar declaraciones de zonas catastróficas?

Debido a los eventos meteorológicos extremos y los recurrentes desastres de los últimos meses, se ha vuelto a cuestionar si merece la pena reconstruir y recuperar las zonas afectadas si no somos capaces de implementar medidas correctoras que eviten nuevas catástrofes.

Es evidente que algo estamos haciendo mal, o no estamos haciendo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Residents look on as flames burn through bush on 4 January 2020 in Lake Tabourie, NSW. Photo: Getty Images.

The 2019–20 fire season in Australia has been unprecedented. To date, an estimated 18 million hectares of fire has cut swathes through the bush – an area greater than that of the average European country and over five times the size of blazes in the Amazon.

This reflects previous predictions of Australian science. Since 2008 and as recently as 2018, scientific bodies have warned that climate change will exacerbate existing conditions for fires and other climatic disasters in Australia. What used to be once-in-a-generation fires now re-appear within 10–15 years with increased ferocity, over longer seasons.

In a country known for climate denial and division, debate has erupted around bushfire management and climate change.…  Seguir leyendo »

Esperando el Apocalipsis

El anuncio del fin del mundo, el milenarismo, es una constante del espíritu humano; no hay civilización, ni época, en que esta perspectiva no haya inflamado los espíritus. Solo cambian los escenarios: felices según algunos ideólogos, místicos o catastróficos, según otros. Karl Marx, un milenarista laico, imaginaba un fin del mundo en el que los hombres, todos iguales, vivirían en una abundancia perpetua. Los milenaristas místicos, de cualquier religión, tienden más a ciertas formas del Apocalipsis y a la desaparición de la humanidad. También es común en todas estas profecías la idea de que el fin del mundo irá precedido por un conflicto mortal entre las fuerzas del bien y las fuerzas del mal; la lucha de clases según Marx, la confrontación entre Gog y Magog según algunos pensadores cismáticos cristianos.…  Seguir leyendo »

El barrio de Fort National, en Puerto Príncipe, la capital de Haití, sufrió una destrucción casi total en el terremoto de 2010.

La primera vez que vi a la famosa Fabienne Jean, venía cojeando hacia mí lentamente, pero con la elegancia inconfundible de la bailarina que era. Dos años habían pasado desde que los donadores y los medios de Estados Unidos habían convertido a Fabienne en un símbolo de recuperación del devastador terremoto que sacudió a Haití en 2010. Quienes le deseaban lo mejor le habían prometido de todo, desde una nueva casa y una visa estadounidense hasta su propia academia de baile. En aquel momento, ella mantenía las esperanzas. Sin embargo, nada de eso sucedería.

La última vez que vi a la famosa Fabienne Jean estaba sentada sin hacer nada en su apartamento en un sótano de Puerto Príncipe, sin poder trabajar ni bailar, aún nostálgica por su breve encuentro con la generosidad estadounidense.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rubble surrounding the Iglesia Inmaculada Concepción in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, last Tuesday.Credit...Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

My great-grandmother Syra was 5 years old when the San Fermín earthquake hit Puerto Rico in 1918. Her school day had just begun in Mayagüez when the earth began to shake. She held onto the guardrails and made her way out of the building as the stairs were collapsing. My tatarabuela, or great-great-grandmother, María Ana ran through the still-shaking town to retrieve her. As they reached their home, they saw the sea pulling out into itself. Miraculously their house did not flood; my tatarabuela credited the rosary she hung in her garden. The quake, registered at a magnitude of 7.3, and ensuing tsunami killed 116 people and caused $4 million in damages.…  Seguir leyendo »

Control burning by volunteer fire fighters along the Princess Highway in Meroo National Park, New South Wales, Australia.Credit...Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

Every state in Australia has been touched by fire since the season started in September. The fires have burned over 12 million acres, an area larger than Maryland. Four hundred and eighty million animals are estimated to be killed or badly injured. Thousands of people have been evacuated. At least 24 have died.

This is just the midpoint of our normal fire season, which used to run from October to March but now is almost year round.

As I write this, my parents are living without power in an evacuation center in Narooma, a town of 2,600 people on the east coast of New South Wales.…  Seguir leyendo »

Apocalyptic scenes are playing out across Australia as bushfires have burned millions of acres and ravaged more than 1,000 homes in New South Wales alone.

The bright orange haze may look like something out of a dystopic science fiction film — or even Dante’s Inferno — but this is Australia’s current reality. A total of 20 people have died, and the photographs of human suffering are foreboding: native Australians have poured out of smoke-shrouded towns as the flames creep nearer, while people along the coast have taken refuge on beaches.

These are scenes from an Earth that is becoming uninhabitable amid raging wildfires, severe hurricanes and floods, record droughts and rising sea levels that have already submerged islands.…  Seguir leyendo »

I’m visiting my mother in the little country town where I grew up in Gippsland, a region of Australia that’s currently on fire. That’s not very specific, so let me narrow it down: I’m in one of the south-easternmost parts of Australia that is currently on fire.

Gippsland is a big area, roughly two New Jerseys. The closest fire is 50 miles away from us today, lending the sky a gray hue and the sun an orange tint. The official weather forecast is: «Mostly sunny but smoky.»

People here keep one eye on their phones, watching the online maps that show flames slowing chewing their way through half a million hectares to the north and east, but there’s no immediate danger.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘We’re taught not to look at the sun. Every child on earth is given the same warning. But in Australia these days you can stare all you like.’ Photograph: Mark Evans/Getty Images

We know the sight by heart: corrugated iron on a low pile of ash with a chimney left standing. Another house gone. And the pattern of bushfires is part of our lives too. They burn until a cold wind blows up the coast when it buckets down dousing the flames.

But that’s not the pattern now. The downpour has been postponed officially until late January. Things are looking up: it was April. Either way the experts are saying the weeks ahead are looking dry, tinder dry.

As that news sank in this summer an unfamiliar emotion took hold in Australia: not fear so much as dread.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘The magnitude of these fires alone, apart from their human and environmental consequences, simply shows us that we now confront a new, more flammable world’ Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

The fire situation in eastern Australia continues to rapidly escalate.

At this stage we cannot predict when this will come to an end, but with losses of lives and property mounting on the south coast of NSW, eastern Victoria, South Australia, southwestern WA and Tasmania, we now have a nationally significant catastrophe that affects city and country alike.

The magnitude of these fires alone (about 5 million hectares and rapidly rising), apart from their human and environmental consequences, simply shows us that we now confront a new, more flammable world: a coupling of people, ecosystems and fire that is now irrevocably transformed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Al amanecer, todo es blanco cada día. El cielo está encapotado y jabonoso, se despiertan las ciudades ensopadas, el asfalto brillante de agua, las aceras resbaladizas. En los montes, están enterradas las copas de los árboles. Ya no se abren las nubes, no hay azul. A veces en la tarde unos rollizos cumulonimbus se tiñen de oscuridad, marrón tierra, gris tristeza; entre medias, el ocaso intenta sus dibujos, pero acaba desistiendo. La ropa tendida se empapa, los resfriados se enquistan en los pechos. En la costa, un océano enfurecido como una inquietud. Es la borrasca Elsa. Esta costumbre humana de personificar cualquier calamidad, qué tierna.…  Seguir leyendo »

Realms as diverse and distant as Siberia, Amazonia, Indonesia, Australia and California are aflame. Photograph: Andrew Merry/Getty Images

On any day, between 10,000 and 30,000 bushfires burn around the planet.

Realms as diverse and distant as Siberia, Amazonia, Indonesia, Australia and California are aflame. The advent of “the age of fire” is the bleakest warning yet that humans have breached boundaries we were never meant to cross.

It is time not only to think the unthinkable, but to speak it: that the world economy, civilisation, and maybe our very survival as a species are on the line. And it is past time to act.

It isn’t just fires. It’s the incessant knell of unnatural (human-fed) disasters: droughts, floods, vanishing rivers, lakes and glaciers and the rise in billion-dollar weather impacts.…  Seguir leyendo »