Post-Haiyan Futures at ThinkTech Hawaii

Aloha kakahiaka!

Yesterday,  I got interviewed by John Sweeney, researcher and PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies for the Post-Haiyan futures segment of ThinkTech Hawaii, a digital media corporation based in Honolulu organized to raise public awareness on diversification, futures thinking, climate change, technology and energy.  John and I discussed a couple of plausible futures for the Philippines in a post-Haiyan scenario and explored some resilience myths that could change the way we perceive and anticipate disasters in a climate change era.

The interview  had me critically analyzing the implications of disaster risk reduction and management  manuals  and discuss national and local government dynamics and the role of political dynasties in performing disaster related activities in the aftermath of the powerful tropical cyclone that hit the Visayas region.

As of today, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reports that the death toll has reached 5,000 and counting and that there were 23,409 injured and 1, 600 missing.  The President of the Philippines, three days after the tropical cyclone impact, declared a state of calamity to fast track rescue operations and rehabilitate affected provinces. The trail of destruction was inconceivable and slew of warnings remain as the Philippines braces for Haiyan-like disasters and storm surges in the future.

New questions and insights emerged during the interview and noted some of them:

1. Do we need to move beyond the business as usual government manuals and idiot guidebooks to disaster risk and crisis management and adopt new models or develop emergent crisis capacity approaches responsive to third world contexts and low income communities?

2. We have to fix the roof while the sun is still shining and the cliche that necessity is the mother of all invention may not be appropriate for countries like the Philippines – a fragile and vulnerable island ecosystem in the Asia Pacific.

3. Cooperative and collaborative strategies is a must to withstand the physical, emotional, biological and psychological impact of disasters. If the government can’t do it, then we have to involve the private sector, the NGOs, the academics, the children, teachers and students, seek the help of the more technologically advanced countries and think labs to plan, prepare respond and respond to disasters.

4. What is resilience in a post-normal era?

5. What about grassroots innovations – Are cheap, dirt-based community prototypes effective in mitigating impact and casualties of disasters? If they are, then we need to create avenues for people to innovate, share their knowledge and network to increase safety and security in disaster prone areas.

5. Poverty amplifies the negative impact of disasters.  To counter and mitigate the impact of disasters in cash only worlds, providing jobs, sustaining local markets, keeping the prices of basic necessities accessible as possible and providing avenues for the most vulnerable to engage in real markets – local and global – can cushion the impact of disasters.

6. The role of remittances in cushioning the impact of disasters should be explored. It was noted that Haiyan relief and other responders needed cash to speed up their relief and rehabilitation efforts. Victims would ask for cash, water, food and medicine.  The government can only do so much as far as relief efforts are concerned and cash would help survivors recover faster and better in an after impact scenario. Government and international aids can only do so much. Providing opportunities for survivors to earn income should occur as possible.

7. As of today, the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub has posted a total of 414million$ dollars in pledged assistance (Rappler, 2013).

8. There is a need to increase government allocation for disaster response and strengthen local government capacity  and technology to respond to natural disasters and calamities.

9. Resilience is a long-term agenda and that there are no easy short-cuts to creating and building resilient communities against increasing incidence of tropical cyclones.

For more ThinkTech Hawaii interview here:

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