Joyce Xiaowen Liu (UWCAC, China ’13-’15)
“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness.”
Typhoon Haiyan recently swept over west Oceania and south-east Asia killing more than 4000 people. It is the second deadliest typhoon on Philippines record and the fourth most catastrophic typhoon ever observed. The most affected towns are around Leyte and Samar islands in central Philippines, which turned into relics overnight.
Students from the Atlantic College are very concerned about the situation in Philippines and are trying to get actively involved in the aid process. The students are particularly concerned about the safety of families of AC Filipino students. Tania Conture, a Filipino student at AC, said that her families have been relatively unaffected by this typhoon as most of them live in or close by Philippine’s capital: Manila, which is more in the North. However her families are already trying to involve themselves to relieve and provide aid in any way they can.
The need of aid, especially of food, is urgent in Philippines. The UN has issued an appeal for $300 million and aids from the international community are surging into the country. But the distribution of aids is obstructed by the damaged local transport infrastructure. Also, considering more than 20% of the country’s population is affected, water hygiene and sanitation are also prioritized to prevent public health outbreak.
Some learnt scholars suggested that global warming is a main contributing factor to this super typhoon. On November 11th, the first day of UN climate talks in Warsaw, the delegate of Philippines gave a highly sentimental talk and started a hunger strike to urge immediate action resolving climate change. The young delegate, Yeb Sano, asked sceptics to visit Philippines and see themselves the evidence of intensified natural disasters. “What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness,” said Sano, whose family is from the devastated city of Tacloban. The speech was very emotional and he was given a standing ovation after it.
Though the delegate’s speech did not give definite evidence of linkage between climate change and Haiyan, it has drawn extensive attention onto this subject. Since the typhoon only receded a few days ago, it is still impossible to conduct a full assessment. However, there are solid reasons to believe there is an actual causal relation. The energy of typhoons is drawn from the heat in the seawater, and man-made climate change has caused seawater temperature to rise dramatically. Prof Myles Allen, at the University of Oxford, says: “The current consensus is that climate change is not making the risk of hurricanes any greater, but there are physical arguments and evidence that there is a risk of more intense hurricanes.”
Sustainability is at the heart of UWC values and this typhoon even made us more determined to advocate for environmentally friendly ways of living. Though our environmental activities mostly are used to sustain only the school population, we can see how important this ideology is. It is highly relevant to the modern society where industrialization and urbanization have made our ways of living very different. Though some people are still comfortable using energy extravagantly, UWC students are educated with such insight to make our planet a more habitable place in the long run. Yeb Sano’s speech was a quite desperate act because so many people are always trying to deny the responsibility to care for the environment. Past UN climate talks have always been given high expectations but countries seem always unable to reach consensus and many countries’ actual interests in environmental issues are questionable. The UN climate talks are more like a diplomatic formality instead of effective discussions.
Our Filipino student, Tania, also suggested many ways for UWC students to get involved in the aid process: “Many organizations have offered ways that people outside can help some of these being: UNICEF, Philippine Red Cross, Oxfam, Doctors without borders and Save the Children. Many are most simply asking for donations to be able to buy essential supplies to temporarily relieve as much of the damage caused and helping people to merely survive through this tragedy.” She also reminded us that though the donation may seem insignificant, the current situation very serious and any donation should be critical. Anyone who wishes to help can check out the NGO websites and support in any way you can.
-The United Words Team-