Thursday, February 15, 2007

A flood of pestilence

Jakarta's hospitals are struggling to deal with the hundreds of flood victims who have sought treatment in the aftermath of the worst flooding Jakarta and its surrounding areas have experienced in five years, according to ABC News Online.
Some 200,000 people have suffered from flood-related illnesses and there are fears that disease could spread with hundreds of people still displaced from their homes and thousands living in homes with no clean water or plumbing.
Ddealing with the outbreak of disease is one of the main problems in the aftermath of any disaster. Flood waters make things worse. A spokesperson for the National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Management says:
"There are 757 in-patients, most of them are suffering from diarrhoea, skin diseases, dengue, leptospirosis and severe respiratory problems."

The Indonesian Red Cross warns of that "danger rotting dead animals" pose for spreading disease after the floods.

The floods have killed 94 people so far.

Last night, my partner and I discussed some recent WorldChanging posts on climate change and 'climate foresight' – thinking about how we should anticipate and prepare for life under a changed climate that brings greater risk, disasters and problems to our habitats, not to mention possible threats of war, terrorism or other economic conflict. We speculated whether we should prepare our children to live in such a world. As we listed a range of possible scenarios of disaster, conflict, threats to health and more, we wondered whether having such a discussion in the first place was a) being paranoid, b) focusing on calamity rather than solutions, and c) betraying hope.

Eerily, this morning I came across another WorldChanging post by
Chad Monfreda, whose list of calamities we will face resulting from climate change mirrored ours:
A planetary fever is about to deal a wallop of catastrophic floods, insect borne disease, deadly heat waves, and an all around worsening of the risks people face everyday across the world.
It can be considered quite heretical to talk about 'adaptability' rather than working on cutting emissions and reversing global warming, because we're urgently required to work on solutions rather than calamities. But, as Monfreda also wonders,
… if human vulnerability gives climate change saliency, aren’t direct adaptations to current risks a more efficient way to meet our goals than greenhouse gas mitigations that would have an indirect effect decades away?
In some contexts and extents, we are already doing this. In bush fire prone parts of Victoria, people are urged to develop their 'bush fire plans', i.e. plans that set out clearly what families will do in the event their homes are threated by bush fire – prepare defences, decide to stay or flee early, etc (as last minute decisions and evacuations, and panic being significant causes for fire-related injury and death).

Where I grew up, during the monsoon season, TV and radio announcements urged people to prepare to evacuate their homes in the event of flooding, and to ensure their important documents and identification papers were handy to grab with them to safety. Are these situations we will have to prepare our children to face in Australia? Families in northern Queensland are already facing this situation. Is this abandoning hope, or being realistic?

As Monfreda puts it, "
it's time to start making our systems more resilient to the effects of climate change, even while we work to limit the magnitude of climate disruption," something other WorldChanging writers have argued for before. I'd say we need to make our selves and our children more resilient too.

[The amazing photos are by Yay!, which I found when WorldChanging published the top one. He has a flickr set on the Jakarta flood.]

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