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Archive for octubre 2021

Landslides are normally triggered either by hydro-meteorological events or by earthquakes. Whatever the immediate cause, the vegetation cover of the affected area is going to determine the degree of devastation that the landslide will have. Factors such as “topography, geology, soils, hydrological conditions, landslide history and vegetation cover determine the response of a landslide-prone catchment to a specific trigger”[i].

Changes in the vegetation cover may be influenced by:

  • Climate change which might slowly but constantly alter it.
  • Extreme events -fire, wind, rain- which might result in rapid changes
  • Anthropogenic forces such as forest logging, changes in agricultural practices, and waste disposal with an immediate effect

Of the three factors, the third one is the one more clearly in the hands of individuals.

Policymakers and individuals, through their acts and inactions, affect how climate change evolves: positively or negatively. The problem, and probably the reason why “earth’s surface continues to significantly warm, with recent global temperatures being the hottest in the past 2,000-plus years”[ii], is that the solution has to be applied today in order to obtain a result in the mid to long term. Humans are not good at working today for a distant reward: at heart we are all kids.

But anthropogenic forces are different. The effect of deforestation is sensed immediately. A change in crops affects the soil in a matter of months. These actions are very near us: individuals are directly involved in them, policymakers can influence them, but the actors are you and me, our relatives and our neighbors. That being the case, what is preventing us from acting now in the right direction?   


[i] Papathoma-Koehle, M& Glade, T. The role of vegetation cover change in landslide hazard and risk. United Nations University, 2013

[ii] https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/

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A sustainable and practical approach to integrating CCA and DRR appears to still be “in its infancy”[i] The 2019 document published by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies points out how the challenge of addressing climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) in a coordinated way is more a desideratum than a reality.

Let us start with climate change. The good news is the Nobel prize given to Syukuro Manabe of Princeton University, Klaus Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, and Giorgio Parisi of Sapienza University of Rome for their work on climate change. The award was very timely since COP26, the UN summit on climate change, will be held next month in Great Britain. It will certainly be an added incentive for governments and institutions to commit to real actions fighting climate change.

But I think those grandiose actions tend to be built on quicksand There is probably already enough legislation, at least in the developed world which is by far the biggest culprit of climate change, and surely a good number of pledges by big corporations aiming at reducing their carbon footprint. But I think that it is at the base of the pyramid where action should be taken. Consumers are the big culprits in climate change. Consumers are those who vote for that big, oversized car and that plastic-wrapped apple in the supermarket.

Let us move on to disaster risk reduction. I have written several times about the fact that the first first-responders are the people living in the area at risk. If those people keep dumping debris in the dried-up riverbed; if those same people keep razing forests and substituting them for yearly crops, then the effects of an otherwise slightly higher than usual rainfall can be devastating. I am sure that, again at least in the developed world, there is enough legislation today to prosecute those actions; I am not so sure about the actual prosecution of those actions by the authorities. The inaction is prompted by the fact that society condones those actions. Again, the legislation and its implementation are built on quicksand.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its annual climate change conference (COP), as well as the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) as the custodian of the Sendai Framework, are all very good. They promote actions by governments and corporations to act in both areas. But those two areas are intertwingled, as the above-mentioned document “Literature Review on Aligning Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)”i contends. My point is that where the connection is stronger is at the base: the citizen. Only with clear and strong action at citizen level, through education at the base, will we be able to simultaneously tackle climate change and disaster risk reduction effectively.


[i] Literature Review on Aligning Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) http://repo.floodalliance.net/jspui/handle/44111/4100

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