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Haiyan: A Disaster Made Worse by Greed

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Posted on Nov 14, 2013
AP/David Guttenfelder

Typhoon Haiyan survivors ride motorbikes through the ruins of the destroyed town of Guiuan, Philippines.

By Sonali Kolhatkar

(Page 2)

What is happening in the Philippines is a portent for poor nations of the world. Tacloban is witnessing a deadly intersection of abject poverty, a local environment stripped of its natural resources, and a storm intensified to catastrophic proportions by global warming. Montances told me, “There is so much poverty and so many American and Canadian corporations are logging and mining in many areas of the Philippines, including Leyte, Mindanao and other places that were hit recently. When there aren’t any trees and the vegetation is taken away and there’s huge open-pit mining, the water has nowhere to go when [there] are typhoons and so it floods into the coastal towns like Tacloban. It just exacerbates the damage, and destruction, and the casualties.”

He concluded, “There needs to be continued pressure, and really, a mass movement of people around the world that are saying ‘you know what, we cannot allow this to happen. We really need our governments to work for the people, not the interests of private corporations.’ People in the Philippines understand that the urgency is now.”

Hilo echoed that urgency saying, “Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina should have been wake-up calls to people in the United States. Much remains to be done to change the global system that is driving global warming. It will take dramatic changes in the West if we are going to take on the fight against global warming.”

Despite the fact that we are already in an age of superstorms like Haiyan, many individuals and organizations are in fact doing their best to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In Canada, First Nations people are taking action to halt fracking operations. Students in the U.S. are calling on their universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry. International activists working with Greenpeace are currently being held in Russian prisons for challenging Arctic oil drilling. Even a former senior executive from the oil and gas industry has joined the fight against global warming.

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Indeed, if we are to survive as a species, urgent action is imperative. Hilo told me, “People have no other option but to organize themselves and fight back. From the fight against tar sands in North America, to the fight against large-scale mining in the Philippines, people are asserting their rights to exist.” She added on a personal note, “I have to channel my grief into action.”

Montances and Hilo are raising funds for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan through the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, which works directly with grass-roots groups on the ground in the Philippines.


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