Tuesday, 10 June 2014

World Environment Day (Natural Disasters and Opportunities for Action - Part 2)

This week, doctoral researcher Lauren Traczykowski, discusses the ethics of intervention for natural disasters and opportunities for action.

Yesterday I explained that I am mainly interested in the ethics behind why countries do/do not intervene in the affairs of countries affected by natural disaster. Assumptions about what ‘should’ be done and why certain people ‘should’ be helped tend to undermine the inherent value of all persons who are equally deserving of being saved in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Instead, I am pushing for an ethical agenda in natural disaster relief.

Policy makers do have a difficult job – and I accept that I am adding one more thing to all the considerations they already incorporate into decision making. Policy is made following intense negotiation and while balancing a duty to assist with operational capabilities. We as every-day people, though, have an opportunity to influence how policymakers make policies.

This week’s posts are supposed to be aimed at what you can do to contribute to the alleviation of suffering caused by a natural disaster. One of the issues policymakers face is the environment. As I explained in yesterday’s post, my research focuses on planning and policy for natural disasters. But there is an obvious link between natural disasters and the environment. Natural disasters are natural – they are formed by and of the environment and so it is impossible to divorce our use of one from the expectations we have of the other. For example, the use of ground water to irrigate desert fields for farming has been linked to increases in seismic activity in California. Removing water creates underground gaps, earth then moves to fill the gap and makes area around the fault lines more unstable (Goldenberg, 2014). There are also concerns that fracking will destabilize areas and also cause, or at least exacerbate, the effects of earthquakes (RT, 2014). So, if we want to better prepare for natural disasters we need to think about how we utilize the environment.

The 5th of June was World Environment Day. This was a day the United Nations identified as the focus for a campaign “encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment” (United Nations Environment Programme, 2014). This year has been designated the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and so all WED Events and activities are focused on supporting SIDS. Particularly, WED is trying to bring attention to the effect that climate change has on SIDS. I therefore offer that climate change and an increase in natural disasters are linked. With this, small island states and developing states are disproportionately affected by natural disasters. Indeed, SIDS are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change: they usually have less capital and more corrupt/non-functioning governments with which to respond to natural disasters.

Considering, then, the impact humans have on the environment, the possible natural disaster destruction this causes, and in honour of World Environment Day, what can we do to support the environment and reduce the associated risk of some natural disasters? The World Environment Day website offers some suggestions.

Think about helping.


Goldenberg, S (2014) "Water depletion in California 'may be increasing chance of earthquakes.'" The Guardian 14 May 2014

RT Staff (2014)"Los Angeles becomes largest US city to prohibit fracking." RT.com 4 March 2014

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