A couple of days before Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013, the residents of a small village in the mountains outside Tacloban noticed that the birds were behaving differently and then stopped singing. According to a local newspaper report, the 75 villagers recognized this as a warning and responded by preparing shelters. All of them survived the 250 mile-per-hour winds despite significant damage to their homes, gardens, and trees.
In the beachside village of Jagnayan, I walk along the rows of plywood temporary shelters – known here as bunkhouses – looking for Estralia, a woman I met when I was here last February. The residents of the bunkhouses are typhoon survivors whose homes were destroyed when super-typhoon Haiyan, the strongest ever to make landfall, wrought total destruction across this region a little over a year ago. More than 6,000 people were killed and 4 million left homeless.
Earlier this year, many heralded New Zealand’s grant of asylum to a family from the low-lying Pacific island nation of Tuvalu as the first legal recognition of “climate refugees.” This was not the case. While the applicants claimed that they would be victim to the impacts of climate change if returned to their country, the tribunal explicitly refrained from ruling on this matter and granted the family's appeal on unrelated humanitarian grounds.
This month, the people of central Philippines are marking a sad anniversary. On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall, drove a path of destruction across the region, killing over 6,000 people and displacing some four million.
On September 21, thousands of people will come together in New York City to demand action on global climate change. The People’s Climate March, which comes in advance of the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, will not only be the largest climate march in history, but also the most diverse.
After decades of war punctuated by drought and famine, signs have emerged in recent years that Somalia may be heading toward a more peaceful and prosperous future. The terrorist group Al Shabab has been driven out of the capital and other areas (although attacks and assassinations are still a regular occurrence), a federal government has been elected and – despite limited capacity – assumed the reins of power, and economic projects are being planned and implemented.
Less than a year after super-Typhoon Haiyan wrought havoc on the southern Philippines, the country is again in the thick of storm season. The latest was Typhoon Glenda, a category three storm that first made landfall over Albay Province on July 15, before continuing northwest and knocking out power over Metro Manila.
Every morning, Estralia wakes up in an unfamiliar environment, feeling unsure of where she is and where her home has gone. After a moment, all the terrible memories of Typhoon Haiyan come flooding back to her and she remembers the painful truth: everything has washed away.
On Saturday, February 22, scholars, humanitarian workers, activists, and religious leaders gathered at Washington’s National Cathedral to discuss why all of us should care about environmental sustainability and climate change and how can we help the people most affected.
In 2012 and 2013 millions of people were forced from their homes by floods, storms, and other weather-related disasters. Millions more were affected by droughts, desertification, and degradation of the land, air, and water. While impacts are being felt in rich and poor countries alike, it is the most vulnerable people who suffer most.