The timing of hurricanes Harvey and Irma have somewhat ironically coincided with the rise to prominence in America of a number of climate change sceptics and deniers. The very real devastation caused by these hurricanes in America and the Caribbean leaves little room for denying the existence of climate change and its impact (in this case, the extreme weather conditions that accompany it).
It’s not enough to send aid and relief in the aftermath of natural disasters. We need to act before they occur. Sending aid and relief in the aftermath and pledging to rebuild communities doesn’t cut it in an environmental epoch where such disasters are only likely to increase in frequency and intensity. Dramatic changes must be made to the way we care for our planet.
‘theresa may has faced criticism for her failure to rapidly send relief to British territories in the caribbean’.
The natural disasters within the last month have reinforced the positive side of globalisation, which can be seen in the offers of aid and relief assistance from countries such as Mexico and Canada, as well as international bodies including the European Union and United Nations. Although nothing compared to the aid which was offered after hurricane Katrina, it does showcase the advantages of regional and international power blocs in their ability to lessen the long-term damage and consequences of Harvey and Irma. They are a leading example of a fast and effective response to unfolding natural disasters.
Theresa May has faced criticism for her failure to act fast enough to send relief and aid to the hurricane-devastated areas, especially British territories in the Caribbean who were in the path hurricane Irma. Jeremy Corbyn has attacked the government for their failure to act fast enough, given the imminent danger that residents in these territories were known to be facing.
‘the domestic response to hurricane devastation in america left a lot to be desired’.
The long-term damage is likely to far surpass the quantity of aid which can be donated to help rebuild the lives and communities of those affected. The new focus must be on how to rebuild effected communities with conditions that enable them to withstand future hurricanes.
Jeff Herbert, chief resiliency officer for New Orleans, has said that a difficult conversation about whether a city needs to be refashioned as it recovers has to happen. One option for refashioning areas prone to hurricanes are ‘rain gardens’, which have already been created in New Orleans — they are areas designed to pool and absorb water.
The domestic response to hurricane devastation in America left a lot to be desired: Trump’s lackluster initial response, followed by unfiltered comments on his second visit to Texas and a lack of clarity on exactly what his government was doing to help those affected left many bewildered by the poor leadership of their president.
The handling of the situation on a local level following hurricane Harvey seemed unprepared — the decision not to order the evacuation of Houston was a massive oversight given the disaster that followed. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner explained that this decision was taken because it wasn’t feasible to evacuate the population of Houston safely. The US must prepare for this in the future: steps must be taken to ensure that it is always feasible to safely evacuate people from major cities.
‘the new focus must be on how to rebuild effected communities with conditions that help withstand future hurricanes’.
Officials in Florida, by comparison, were better prepared when hurricane Irma hit, ordering the evacuation of all residents. Some residents, however, defied orders, deciding to ride out the hurricanes in their homes.
As the affected areas begin to see the consequences of these category five storms and start trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild their homes and communities, the lack of aid this time around should serve as a warning to those in charge of the rebuilding: build safer and more robust communities which can withstand strong storms and the effects of climate change. Next time the damage could be far greater — and there may not be the funds to offer aid and relief again.