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Natural Disasters, Nature-based solutions and Media


According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, ‘A disaster is a sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and causes human, material and economic/environmental losses that exceed the community’s or society’s ability to cope using its resources.’ 

Academicians and scholars have been doing lots of research on the role of media during disasters. It has been written over and over again that natural and manmade disasters put additional responsibilities on media and how it brings out stories in front of people. The focus has been more on how media is supposed to or has covered a particular disaster in history. However, it has often been ignored what impact the media coverage leaves on the people once the dust settles and media people leave their notes full of stories of misery and despair.

As media is the main stakeholder in issuing warnings and spreading awareness amongst the people, the role of media in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process cannot be denied. Therefore, the media has an exceptionally good role to play in addressing nature-based solutions. 

The world is facing unprecedented climate challenges and many of those challenges can be directly connected to human activities, unchecked industrialization, unplanned urbanization, unregulated drilling, deforestation and the list goes on. We cannot continue with an unsustainable trajectory but need to stop and think, stop and listen, stop and learn from nature. The time for action is immediate and we need to find nature-based solutions to combat the environmental and climate challenges that we are facing. 

According to, Global Warming: The Predicament, Contributions and Initiatives, by Sarah Schaub, ‘The causes of global warming are found in the multiple consequences of industrialization. Emissions pollution, overpopulation and deforestation are double-duty issues because while they are the negative effects of industrialization, they are also the main causes of global warming. Most scientists agree that the “blame for air and land pollution, global warming and ozone depletion have all been laid at the door of industrialization. These issues of pollution have been intensified in the large urban areas which developed as a result of industrialization” (Japanese). Industrialization is an ongoing process in modern society and its effects are long-lasting, which is why the problem of global warming persists today.’

Unchecked industrialization and global urbanization is the biggest hindrance of sustainable development. Its long-lasting effects not only affect our environment but also the surrounding communities become vulnerable to the disaster. Hazard events often become disasters because of the wrong decisions taken by people and sometimes administration. The decision to build an industry or any building in a flood plain can expose the community to a greater risk of flooding.   Source: UNEP Course Material.

In 2012, Hurricane Jeane hit the Dominion Republic and then Haiti. There were 18 casualties in the dominion Republic but in Haiti, more than 2000 people lost their lives and more than 2 lakh people were severely impacted. The natural hazard became a major hazard in Haiti because of mismanagement and wrong decisions taken by the administration and the people respectively. According to the survey of UNEP, the main reason was that there was no natural barrier that could stop flash floods because of the years of continuous land degradation. Another reason was that poor people were accommodated in unplanned and unregulated settlements. 

If we destroy natural buffers or build too close to areas likely to be struck by natural hazards, we create the conditions for a disaster. Additionally, the mismanagement of managing hazards may turn it into a disaster. The main lesson that we can learn is that nature has created some natural defences to stop the hazards to become major disasters, we should not encroach on them. By maintaining the natural defences of nature, we can reduce the impact of disasters to a large extent. The conditions of people in which they live determine the degrees to which communities are climate and disaster resilient.

 

The transformation of cities into urban malls puts a negative impact on our environment. It destabilizes the natural setting and natural vegetation at the same time. Due to neo-capitalism or global urbanism, our society is following the path of a fantasyland in terms of constructing ideas and values which destabilizes our courteous set of morals too.

There are various types of environmental management approaches that can reduce disaster and climate impacts when combined with disaster risk measures. All the environmental management approaches involve environmental governance which requires a clear understanding of the desired objectives as well as any tradeoffs which need to be managed to reduce environmental impacts. The support of local and national governmental organizations and NGO’s can help in understanding the approaches and their objectives clearly. Media plays a monumental role in spreading awareness and giving early warnings to prevent and respond to hazard events accordingly. 

(Author is RK columnist. He studies Doctorate in Philosophy in Journalism and Mass Communication from IUST, Awantipora. He can be reached at: syedtasaduqnazmi@gmail.com)

 



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