Environment & Climate Change

Counting the Cost of Nature’s Takeover: Are we forcing Nature’s Hand?

The wake of hurricane Irma along the Caribbean and Southeastern United States has raised concerns over whether nature at its best is starting to show its negative side. The Atlantic has reported on Irma’s case in Florida as one ‘that will go down as one the most infamous in Atlantic Hurricane history,’ one that has filled everything with water, claimed the lives of 27 people and counting, left 3 million Floridians without power and more than 6.5 million being told to evacuate, in “the largest evacuation in state history”.


But hurricane Irma is not alone. Hurricane Harvey too has had its fair share in the destruction of property and claiming lives in Texas and Houston. In Seirra Leone, the country named after its geographical terrain of mountains has seen the worst of mudslides and floods in history. The mudslides in Freetown which have been seen to be “worse than Ebola” have killed an estimated number of more than 13000 people and cut off water supplies to millions. As we talk, hurricane Maria is already causing more tension while on its way to Puerto Rico after hitting the Virgin Islands and flattening houses in Dominica.


Its Floods, Floods, Floods, Again!

It is not Harvey, Irma and the torrential rains in Sierra Leone trapped in this tragedy of floods alone. In Makurdi, Nigeria, floods have been reported to displace “over 110,000 people” and in Niamey, Niger’s Capital, thousands have been forced to leave their homes seeking shelter in schools while others with nowhere to go. In Ituri Province,, DR. Congo, a massive landslide triggered by heavy rains swept through this province in Tora village leaving ’50 houses’ in shambles and a total of ‘atleast 200 people’ dead. In South Asia, “floods have claimed more than 800 lives in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh”. In all these risks, triggers of food shortage and risk of disease (skin disease, eye problems, fever, among others) always come into context. People were not the only ones affected in these cases. For instance, in India, “Around 225 dead animals have been recovered since 12 August, including 15 rhinos and a Bengal tiger.”

And it is Fires, Too!

Forget about the floods; imagine the white ash-grey sky dusking on you. Why? Because of wildfires gone wild! The La Turna fires in California have been seen as the biggest in acreage as registered owing it to the “heat wave month” of September due dryness where over 7000 acres of land were scorched in a fire brush. Other fires witnessed in this September (2017) include the Eagle Creek and Indian Creek fire that “has emerged in the Columbia River Gorge, burning an estimated 30,929 acres,” and the dust storms following the fires in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada which was 16 miles away from the Burning Man festival. The main argument given behind these fires is the changing climate where one season is extremely filled with too much rainfall and other will less rains. The weather patterns are increasing getting unpredictable. Just like Sub-Saharan Africa, California is one of the places that has been vulnerable to drought.


What is the meaning of all this?

Toast your compass and wherever you face, nature is in turmoil and resisting. These events show us that when nature takes turns, everyone is wielded by its force. Not even the world’s acclaimed superpower can stop the wrath of nature’s overturn, as Irma and Harvey have shown us. It raises concerns regarding how we should be prepared for these events, and if we are actually prepared for them.

Scientists have warned that global warming, which plays the biggest part in triggering these disasters, is human-induced, setting 2016 as the hottest year that has been pushed into 2017. In fact, “Earth has not been this warm for 115,000 years.” From Irma to mudslides, fire, and earthquakes, nature is consciously waking our call that more might be coming. Human actions such as the rise in fossil fuel industry, deforestation, and careless attitude towards nature are among the factors that might be pushing nature towards its precipice.

Therefore, disaster management preparedness, which is a key in all this, needs to reconsider the human actions both at the policy and local level in reaction to how we relate with the environment. An inclusive multidisciplinary approach that aims at protecting/conserving the environment and having policies that regulate humans to tap on the environment sustainably is the way to go. How and what is sustainable is another argument for each country to find out.

Things such as reforestation, relying on biofuels instead of coal or natural gas, protecting natural heritage sites, sensitizing the local population to continuously live in harmony with nature, among others are needed in this age of consumerism and urbanization where everything that seems not turn into profit is valueless. This is because the cancer with capitalism is that it makes us think nature is a business enterprise to exploit endlessly for profit without limits. On the other hand, cancer with communism is that nature is left in the hands of everyone making it a victim of the human ego gone uncontrolled.

Since August 2017 till up-to-date is itself quite enough to teach us that Climate Change is Now, thus the more reason that we need more actions than just words!

Photo Credits: The Atlantic, The BBC

By Ibrahim Bahati

Ibrahim Bahati is a MasterCard Scholar at The American University of Beirut studying an Msc in Rural Community Development. Ibrahim is also a recent Global People's Summit Fellow (2018).

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