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Archive for 16 septiembre 2021

The Heat and Health Series published recently by The Lancet focuses on the devastating effects of heat on human beings. It is estimated that “54% of the global population [will be] exposed to more than 20 days of dangerous heat per year by 2100”. A strategy of disaster risk reduction (DRR) is needed because “Society must adapt in ways that not only enable it to survive, but thrive, in a much hotter future.”

Fighting heatwaves has brought up another example of the divide between rich and poor societies, as well as between rich and poor individuals within societies. Air conditioners are by far the preferred tool in fighting heat. But they are an expensive tool. Most vulnerable societies and people cannot have access to an environmentally cooled area, whether it is because they cannot afford it or because their living or working conditions make it impossible to cool the living/working environment. Think about the homeless or those working outdoors.

Another factor making air conditioning a tool that should be put on hold, is the environmental vicious circle created by its use. Most scientific literature recognizes that global warming is here to stay. Air conditioning runs on electricity, the production of which results in CO2 emissions contributing to global warming. A secondary effect is the anthropogenic waste heat they produce, contributing to the urban heat island effect.

A more long-term strategy for heat DRR should focus on the individual, coupled with permanent changes in urban planning. In the first centuries of the past millennium in southern Spain, Arabs put nature to work to cool the environment. Some of their ideas are being used in city planning today, introducing urban gardens and fountains to fight the heat island effect.

As for the individual, electric fans are more environmentally friendly than air conditioners, but above all, a good target communication strategy should be designed so as to reach the population more at risk. Workers laboring outside, such as those in agriculture or construction, have special needs. Not only access to water but also shelter and resting times. A strategy to match their needs and those of the employer can only be attained through a well-designed communication tool directed at employees and employers.

We should think more in long term changes to our DRR heat strategy, less air conditioning and more environmentally friendly solutions and communication.

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The second focal point of the TIEMS handbook, Training for rural communities in emergency management & emergency situations, states as an objective the need to “Raising the awareness on technical solutions involving computers, communication and information technology and social sciences to provide emergency and disaster managers with helpful decision support”.

After the recent floods in Germany and the Netherlands, it has been stated that the high incidence on the population may be due to overreliance on ICT technology for communication purposes. It is a fact that ICT relies on the existence of a functioning electrical network. What happens if the electrical flow is cut off? In those situations, the ICT system will go and, with it, internet and mobile communications.

I was living in Germany many years ago, so long ago that the Berlin Wall still existed. One Sunday afternoon sirens started to sound. I don’t know if sirens, used during WWII and after, are the answer. What I know is that we have to put in place a communication network that works even if the electricity goes, even if internet goes, even if mobile communication goes.

Probably, relying on people directly communicating to each other would be the best bet. It would be good to investigate the application of the concept of fractal social organizations to the design of a communication network based on people.

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