Category Archives: Natural Disasters

Chile: Was Valparaíso fire a “natural disaster”?

April 20, 2014. Source: Weekly News Update on the Americas

The central Chilean port city of Valparaíso remained under military control as of Apr. 15, three days after forest fires began sweeping into some of the city’s working-class neighborhoods, leaving at least 15 people dead and destroying 2,900 homes. Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said the government hoped to have the fires under control by Apr. 16, but the national forestry agency indicated that it might take the 5,000 firefighters and other personnel in the city as long as 20 days to extinguish the fires completely. Some 12,500 people are now without homes in Valparaíso; this disaster follows an 8.2-magnitude earthquake in northern Chile that killed five people on Apr. 1 and made 2,635 homes uninhabitable.

Declared a World Heritage City in 2004 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Valparaíso is located in an area prone to forest fires. But experts and reporters said the extent of the devastation resulted less from natural conditions than from political failures. Witnesses reported that the firefighters–all unpaid volunteers, according to Chilean historian Sergio Grez–were slow to arrive when the fires started on the afternoon of Apr. 12, and they were equipped only with shovels and one truck. Driven by strong winds, the fires spread quickly through the close-packed wooden structures in the poorer neighborhoods, made vulnerable by decades of unplanned growth. Roads were often too narrow for fire engines, and there was no running water for fire hoses in the affected areas. Helicopters came with water hours later.

“We have been the builders and architects of our own dangers,” Valparaíso mayor Jorge Castro admitted on Apr. 13. Chilean president Michelle Bachelet told the national daily El Diario de Cooperativa on Apr. 15 that her government would try “to rebuild in a more orderly manner.” “It’s not enough to reinstall houses or support families,” she said. “We have to do something more substantive.” (El Mostrador (Chile) 4/14/14Les InRocks (France) 4/14/14US News & World Report 4/15/14 from AP)

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Chile quake: This was big but a bigger one awaits, scientist says

By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, April 2, 2014.  Source: CNN

An 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northern Chile Tuesday night, triggering small landslides, setting off a tsunami and killing at least five people.

But geologists say an even larger quake in the region is lurking.

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“This magnitude 8.2 is not the large earthquake that we were expecting in this area,” said Mark Simons, a geophysicist at Caltech in Pasadena, California. “We’re expecting a potentially even larger earthquake.”

It could be tomorrow. Or it could be 50 years.

“We do not know when it’s going to occur,” he said.

Here’s why:
Chile sits on an arc of volcanos and fault lines circling the Pacific Ocean known as the “Ring of Fire.” This area sees frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The country itself has seen no shortage of seismic activity in recent years.

Since 1973, Chile has had more than a dozen quakes of magnitude-7.0 and above.

In 2010, about 500 people died when an 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit. That quake was so violent, it moved one whole city about 10 feet west.

Simons says Tuesday’s quake is of interest because the fault line along Chile’s coast has constantly shifted during the last 140 years.

In recent weeks, this area has seen a cluster of activity– something like 50 to 100 smaller quakes.

Then, late last month, a 6.7 and a 6.1 magnitude quake struck.

When quakes happen, the surface ruptures. The two sides of the fault slip past each other.

But the area to the north and south of Tuesday’s quake “did not rupture in this event,” Simons said. And it’s “still an area that hasn’t ruptured in 140-odd years.”

Given that it’s an area of frequent quakes, and frequent ruptures, it may only be a matter of time.

“We expect another 8.8-8.9 earthquake here sometime in the future,” Simons said.
The good news? “It may not occur for many, many years.”

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Filed under Climate Change, Latin America-Caribbean, Natural Disasters

State allowed logging on plateau above slope involved in deadly mudslide

By Mike Baker, Ken Armstrong and Hal Bernton, March 25, 2014. Source: Seattle Times

This aerial photo, taken after Saturday’s landslide, shows part of the plateau that has been logged over the decades. Right above where the hill fell away is a 7½-acre patch, shaped like a triangle, that was clear-cut about nine years ago. Photo: AP

This aerial photo, taken after Saturday’s landslide, shows part of the plateau that has been logged over the decades. Right above where the hill fell away is a 7½-acre patch, shaped like a triangle, that was clear-cut about nine years ago. Photo: AP

The plateau above the soggy hillside that gave way Saturday has been logged for almost a century, with hundreds of acres of softwoods cut and hauled away, according to state records.

But in recent decades, as the slope has become more unstable, scientists have increasingly challenged the timber harvests, with some even warning of possible calamity.

The state has continued to allow logging on the plateau, although it has imposed restrictions at least twice since the 1980s. The remnant of one clear-cut operation is visible in aerial photographs of Saturday’s monstrous mudslide. A triangle — 7½ acres, the shape of a pie slice — can be seen atop the destruction, its tip just cutting into where the hill collapsed.
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NASA-funded study: Industrial civilization headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?

Note: Finally, some wonky experts have used complicated equations to determine exactly what social movements have been saying for decades.  Granted, their solutions are unlikely to be rooted in justice, equity and biocentrism.  But at least this study talks about wealth redistribution.

Now if we could only conduct one more study…

-The GJEP Team

By Nafeez Ahmed, March 14, 2014. Source: The Guardian

This Nasa Earth Observatory image shows a storm system circling around an area of extreme low pressure in 2010, which many scientists attribute to climate change. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

This Nasa Earth Observatory image shows a storm system circling around an area of extreme low pressure in 2010, which many scientists attribute to climate change. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.”

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Natural Disasters

Godlike storm names make jest of weather

Note: We usually do not run much mainstream media commentaries, but the following from The Buffalo News brought a smile to my face.  For years now The Weather Channel has been going deeper and deeper in inane attempts to garner more viewers,whilst at the same time  “dumbing” down” as many as possible.

Of course The Weather Channel wants to dumb us down.

The Weather Channel a part of The Weather Channel Companies. TWCC is owned by a consortium made up of NBC Universal and the private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital. NBC Universal used to be owned by General Electric, one of the single largest corporations in the world.  Now it appears that NBC Universal is owned by Comcast, one of the largest mass media and communications company in the world. We could go on and on but…

-The GJEP Team

By Denise Jewell Gee, January 5, 2014  Source: The Buffalo News

Even winter storms can’t escape the type of branding that’s ready-made for Twitter.

There was Hercules. And now Ion. Before that came Atlas and Boreas.

Whatever happened to old-fashioned blizzards? Who makes this stuff up?

Turns out, the Weather Channel. The weather conglomerate has taken it upon itself to issue a series of mostly Greek names to the type of winter storms that barrel across the nation.

So it came to pass that Hercules, son of Zeus, brought icy temperatures that rendered snow impervious to salt and allowed children to stay home.

It also brought a gorgeous, crisp-cold winter day Friday with bluebird skies and bright sunlight. Hercules just didn’t seem quite right.

“Way overstated,” said Molly Ullrich, a teacher who had the day off.

Katie Diebold, a social worker in Buffalo, was similarly amused by references to Greek gods.

“I grew up in Buffalo, and this is actually the first winter in a while that feels like what it was like when I was a child,” said Diebold, bundled in winter gear while out for a walk Friday.

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Typhoon Haiyan exposes the reality of climate injustice – We strengthen our resolve to struggle for an end to the climate madness

December 4, 2013. Source: La Via Campesina

On November 8, 2013, the strongest super typhoon ever recorded in history, with winds as high as 314 kilometers per hour, slammed into the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan devastated several cities in the islands of the Visayas, leaving in its wake, more than 5,000 dead, more than 1,000 still missing and millions impacted with thousands of families left without food, water or shelter.

The Philippines, a country used to an average of 20 typhoons a year, had never seen a category 5 typhoon so destructive that it flattened entire towns. But with climate change, this is the new reality. Warmer seas and warmer air temperatures combine to produce more violent storms. The climate is changing and as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated in its report, “many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.”

The catastrophic and horrific tragedy however failed to move the developed nations into committing to real climate action. Instead, they moved backwards. Japan, one of the leading emitters, declared that instead of their original pledge to cut emissions by 25 percent, they would increase emissions by 3 percent by the year 2020 based on their level of CO2 emissions in 1990. The Durban Platform, the new global agreement that would apply to all countries and would replace the Kyoto Protocol, is supposed to be agreed by 2015 and implemented by 2020 but the past climate negotiations, including this recently concluded one in Poland, have witnessed developed countries moving further away from real commitments and instead moving towards voluntary pledges and still no specific numbers on targets or cuts.

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Doha/COP-18, Food Sovereignty, Indigenous Peoples, Natural Disasters, Warsaw/COP-19

IBON International Update from Warsaw Climate Conference

Climate, Number 1

Warsaw, November 18, 2013

The nineteenth meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 19) is taking place inWarsaw, Poland, the 10th largest consumer of coal in the world, and producing 92% of its electricity from coal. According to many, must mark a ‘turning point’ for the international climate negotiations. Among the key outcomes expected from this meeting are on issues around mitigation, scaling up finance especially for adaptation, setting up an international mechanism toaddress loss and damage, and a plan for reaching a new legal agreement on climate action in 2015.

The COP 19 opened last week with the world witnessing the massive devastation wrought by super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and with that, the impassioned appeal of Philippine Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Sano to ‘stop the madness’ of a few rich countries that continue to renege on their climate commitments amidst the worsening impacts of climate change. Sano also announced that he will go on voluntary fasting throughout the COP 19 meetings, and this has snowballed all over the world, with many organizations and individuals going on solidarity fasting for the climate.

But as the first week of the 19th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP18) drew to a close, fault lines between developed and developing countries are becoming clearer.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Natural Disasters, Politics, UNFCCC

Tom Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network KPFK Interview

IEN-logoTom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network was this week’s guest for our Earth Watch interview segment on the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK in Los Angeles.  Tom addressed the issues for Indigenous Peoples around the UN Climate COP in Warsaw.  Listen below:

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Coal, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, KPFK, Land Grabs, Natural Disasters, Politics, UNFCCC

COP19 – the cathedral and the bazaar

By Trevor Davies, 14 November 2013, Source: Thought Leader

The people in suits want to talk and nothing will stop them from listening to the sound of their own voices. COP19, the global climate-change meeting, might seem far away in Warsaw, Poland, this week but like a massive weather system migrating the globe its impact will be felt in Africa for sure.

Africa knows how to throw a party and South Africa — the 13th largest polluter on the planet — added big time to its carbon emissions, thanks to its hosting of the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference popularly known as COP17 in Durban. A primary focus of the conference was to secure a global climate agreement as the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period (2008-2012) was about to end.

This didn’t happen. After two weeks of negotiations a deal was reached only on the last day, Sunday December 11, after a 60-hour marathon negotiation session. The Durban conference agreed to establish a legally binding deal comprising all countries by 2015, which was to take effect in 2020.

The president of the Durban conference, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, declared it a success, but scientists and environmental groups warned then that the deal was not sufficient to avoid global warming beyond 2 °C as more urgent action is needed.

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Filed under Africa, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Durban/COP-17, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Natural Disasters, Politics, Pollution, UNFCCC

Audio: Will Typhoon Haiyan Affect the Debate on Global Climate Change?

Note: Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, was featured in a press release by the Institute for Public Accuracy on the link between Typhoon Haiyan, climate change, climate justice and the upcoming UN climate conference in Poland.  The link below is to one of the interviews she gave.

–the GJEP Team

Released on Nov 12, 2013

The typhoon that laid waste to parts of the Philippines last week struck just before the 19th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change got underway in Warsaw, Poland on Monday.  But while there is general agreement that global climate change is a major factor in the increasing number and intensity of storms worldwide, there continues to be little progress toward limiting the emission of greenhouse gasses.  We speak with Anne Peterman, executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project.

To listen to the show, go to Left Voices

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Filed under Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Natural Disasters, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, UNFCCC