Hurricane Stan and the need for green disaster relief

Disaster gap means poor hit more by natural and unnatural disasters

Feature story - October 13, 2005
Our office in Mexico has shut down operations to assist in the humanitarian efforts for victims of Hurricane Stan.

Thousands of victims have been left homeless by Hurricane Stan.

The storm brought five days of destruction upon Mexico, Guatamala, andEl Salvador, affecting millions of people.  As Alejandro Cavillo,Executive Director of our Mexican office notes, there are communitiesin the mountains and along the coast that are still cut off from accessor even communications, and the death toll is certain to rise.

The Mexican president, Vicente Fox, has vowed to channel ballooningprofits from Mexico's oil exports to relief work.  Given that oiluse is one of the chief contributors to global warming and with it anincrease in the incidence and severity of extreme weather events, theirony of this should be lost on nobody.

It would be funny, if it weren't tragic.   While no singleweather event  can be blamed on climate change, the overall trendis toward more weather-related destruction as the Earth warms. And as with so many natural and unnatural disasters, it's the poorwho suffer first and most from global warming.

Campesinos who rely on natural weather cycles and have noirrigation sufferthe impacts of drought and seasonal shifts more than industrialfarmers. Communities in the Amazon which rely on shallow rivers forfood and medical supplies face mortal perils when those riversdisappear.  Poor people living in low-lying areas are hit harderbyflooding than the wealthy who have the means to flee, and places to go.

As hundreds of thousands of people in Central America dig their way outof mud slides and struggle with medical and emergency infrastructuresthat are inadequate, the oil industry rakes in massive profits, theenergy consumption in the United States and Europe continues toskyrocket, and the rich keep getting richer while the poor lose theirhomes, lives,  and livelihoods to the increasing storms, floods, and droughts ofa world which keeps getting warmer.

Unless we dedicate long term relief aid to our world's climate, thedeadly spiral will only worsen.  As we rebuild towns and cities,we should truly rebuild in a way that eases our planet's carbonburden.  We should ensure renewable energy replaces fossil fueland nuclear power plants.  We should build energy-efficienthousing. We should invest in public transportation. We should ensurethat wetlands and forests and other natural buffers againstdestruction  are in place.

The only upside to total destruction is that it provides theopportunity for a new start. The energy revolution that the worldreally needs ought to begin in those places that have seen the firstglimpses of the greater destruction which will come of our world's oiladdiction, unless we act now.

To the victims of Hurricane Stan, our heartfelt sympathies for all yourlosses.  And to the oil industry and those who continue to poisonour planet while turning a blind eye to global warming and its effects,our promise: a day of reckoning is coming.

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Ways to help the victims (en español)

Our Mexican office is gathering relief materials and lists ways you can help with relief efforts.

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