Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Life After the Tsunami (Part 2)

When the next tsunami occurs (note, WHEN, not IF) the impact could be even greater then the recent disaster. And over the next few months there may well be one or more. The recent tsunami was a result of movements in the tectonic plates -- a sudden jolt -- but that can easily increase pressures in other parts of the plate. It can also produce volcanic activity in the region. Following the tsunami, there has been a lot of discussion about the devastation of Krakatoa in 1883, but most the discussion ignored the fact that activity continues, and that there have been several other major eruptions particularly in the 1920s and 1930s. But they were nothing compared with the eruption of Tambora in 1815. Although the direct death toll was 'only' in the region of 10,000, another 85,000 died from disease and starvation. And that was at a time when the population of Indonesia was a fraction of the present day. The resulting ash and dust clouds rose an estimated 28 miles (44kms), and spread over an area of more than 1000kms; today the devastation it would cause is almost unimaginable. In fact, the whole of the Northern Hemisphere suffered a series of crop failures, and exceptionally cold winters. Charles Dickens (born 1812) grew up in this period, and his growing up with snow at Christmas, has influenced Christmas traditions in England ever since. But the crop failures were they to be repeated now, would be disastrous, and the impacts far reaching, causing widespread starvation in many parts of the world, not just southern Asia.

While there is very little that can be done to avert natural disasters -- Acts of a vengeful God -- there is plenty that can be done to avert the disastrous impacts of man's activities. Pollution can be reduced, and even human populations can be reduced. But they demand strong political will, in all countries. It may appear futile for governments to initiate pollution reduction, and population controls while some countries, particularly the US continue with expansionist policies, but a start has to be made. And perhaps eventually, a US president who is more rational and better informed will be elected, one who wishes to work with the world community. In an ideal world, conservation issues should be non-political, but in a world dominated by the largest superpower it has ever known, which is also the richest, and most consumptive, it is impossible to ignore politics. Nearer to my own home it is also impossible to ignore the fact that the British Government is still spending obscene amounts of money on arms and warfare, in comparison with what it spends on the natural environment.


  1. There was an interesting article on the bbc website today about a community that was saved from a tree planting venture in 2002. Despite neighbouring villages being devastated by the waves, the villagers escaped 'almost unscathed' - I think the billions that will be spent on developing a tsunami warning system, something that would be very impractical to deploy over such a large area with poor communications could be better spent on planting a few trees...
    Full story

  2. Thanks for this. There is a growing amount of support for mangroves as a long-term solution, and we are already consulting our partners about implementation. We will certainly be raising funds, and I hope some of the surplus funds raised by other charities in the Tsunami Appeals will be diverted to these activities.

  3. I hope the phrase "acts of a vengeful God" does not imply that the World Land Trust is run on religious grounds. Natural disasters are natural disasters - they have no bearing on our behaviour, whatever the author may like to think.