Natural Disasters

Adaptation in Action


In the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr, Reuters finds some good news amid all the death and destruction:

The death toll from the monster cyclone that has struck Bangladesh is already in the hundreds. But just 16 years ago a similar cyclone killed over 140,000 people. And another one in 1970 killed around 500,000….

Cyclones are not getting any less powerful, so what has changed?

"In the 1970s Bangladesh did not have the capacity to face such calamities," says Akbar. "Now in every district there are disaster preparedness volunteers. They are out in the field talking to people, asking them to move to safer places."

As Cyclone Sidr raged up the Bay of Bengal this week, tens of thousands of volunteers went out to tell villagers how to protect themselves and help evacuate those in danger's path.

Announcements were broadcast over mosque loudspeakers to alert communities to the impending disaster, says Ahmed, ActionAid's emergencies co-ordinator in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has also set up several thousand cyclone shelters in recent years. And all new schools are designed to double up as flood shelters. They are built from reinforced concrete and elevated from the ground.

Akbar says factors such as wind speed are taken into account when constructing new hospitals, clinics and schools to ensure they could withstand cyclones.

Another important factor: advances in meteorology. "This time," one aid worker told Reuters, "the weather forecasting system and regional preparations worked very well….Ten years ago, weather forecasting systems were not so good."

The one major barrier to further improvements is poverty:

[W]hile death tolls are falling the damage to people's houses remains the same and that seems unlikely to change.

"We cannot make our houses stronger. The poor people only have bamboo," Akbar says.

There's a lesson there for other environmental threats. The best reforms will make communities richer and more resilient. The worst ones will make them more poor and brittle.

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  1. It’s about time Akbar started preparing for disasters, instead of helplessly mumbling “It’s a trap”.

  2. I sense this has something to do with ManBearPig, so here is the latest Climate change stuff…

    The above is a link to a PDF of the latest summary of the IPCC AR4. (it’s a PDf at Deltoid as the actual release is in MS Word) It’s a Summary. Much of the data used to make it is going on as much as 5 years old; more up to date economic data suggest we are going into the more extreme end of the scenarios.


    And yes promoting wealth in places like Bangladesh will help imensely.

  3. Jesse,
    Perhaps you’d care to add that the best reforms are bottom-up and spontaneous… the kind Julan Simon was talking of.

  4. Wat a minute, so there were cyclones before Al Gore and Maggie Thatcher invented global warming. I didn’t know that. I thought that Hurricane Katrina was a unique of a type that had never occurred before.

    Maybe I need to start thinking for myself.

  5. Al and Maggie were in cahoots?
    I don’t think so.
    Kindly stay lost, soul.

  6. Perhaps you’d care to add that the best reforms are bottom-up and spontaneous… the kind Julan Simon was talking of.

    There’s a strong connection between resilience and bottom-up spontaneous orders.

  7. Al and Maggie were in cahoots?

    Well, I suppose you’d have to see that for yourself.

    Maggie might not have invented Global Warming like our Al did but she certainly used it to break the back of the coal miners union and almost got it to back Parliament voting huge new subsidies for Nuclear Power.

    Cahoots well maybe not. Sympatico in getting huge new government powers, Si.

    I’d salute and all, sir, except it’s been a long time since I was a jarhead in vit nam and all and I’d just as soon forget about it. Maybe you would too.

  8. lost soul, that was a very informative link you provided. Why doesn’t anybody else know that “man-made global warming is a physical impossibility”?

    Nevertheless, I suspect you’re right about Al and Maggie and cyclones. It’s like evolution: God created everything until Darwin came along and invented evolution.

  9. While the whole “man-made global warming is a physical impossibility” is a questionable position now, what is not questionable is that Mrs Thatcher used the newly found science of of global warming/climate change in her fight against the coal miners’ union and in favor of subsidies for nuclear power.

    Milk-snatcher Maggie might not have created global-warming out of whole cloth but she certainly used it to achieve her political ends. And the Tories used her established reputation as a “scientist” to give the whole global warming position a veneer of authenticity.

    What is ironical as all hell is the fact that Baroness Thatcher is now avowing the whole Global Warming deal because a bunch of socialists are using it for their advantage.

  10. The forgoing is not intended to be a Global Warning/Climate Change denial screed, merely a statement concerning the fact that a number of politicos have used the fact of climate change to advance their own political agenda.

  11. The worst [reforms] will make [communities] more poor and brittle.

    Like, for instance, carbon emission caps…

  12. That Thatcher link is utterly preposterous.

    It argues that Crispin Tickell persuaded Thatcher that the best way for her to gain credibility internationally was to find a scientific issue to campaign on.

    As the only world leader with scientific training, other leaders would forget her femininity and, instead, defer to her expertise.

    “Sir Crispin pointed out that if a ‘scientific’ issue were to gain international significance, then the UK’s Prime Minister could easily take a prominent role, and this could provide credibility for her views on other world affairs.”

    This would be completely absurd even if the chronology were to fit.

    Of course, it doesn’t. Thatcher’s speeches on climate change came from the late 80’s, years after she’d gained a reputation as a fearsome opponent on the international scene.

    Savaging opponents in Brussels and fighting the Falklands War (against the wishes of many in the US establishment) achieved that task.

    I am curious to know more about claims that she consciously linked the issue to putting the boot into the miners (repeated, without source, in the Great Global Warming Swindle). Are they also made up out of thin air?

    After all, the miners’ strike was over by 1985.

  13. “Now in every district there are disaster preparedness volunteers. They are out in the field talking to people, asking them to move to safer places.”

    Under FEMA, unfortunately, “volunteer” is a dirty word designating ignorant, untrained, ill-equiped people who need to get the hell out of the way of the Skilled FEMA Professionals who will arrive Any Time Now and be ready to handle any emergency Some Day Thereafter as soon as their Official FEMA Laptops and Humvees are delivered.

  14. Just wait AL GORE and the blabbering idiots from GREENPEACE and the various other eco-wacko groups will blame this on global warming and GEORGE W. BUSH knowing what a bunch of babbling idiots they are

  15. lost soul,
    Are you trying to cry out for intervention/love?
    Ironically, here among the smart and “sensitive,” you go unheard.
    So shout… or go to a more touchy-feely, maybe teen site?

  16. No, all wrong. This catastrophe was clearly caused by global warming, which is directly caused by George Bush. Did Rupert Murdoch buy Reason or something?

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