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UN Report on "Climate Apartheid"On June 25th, the United Nations released a report saying the world is at risk of a “climate apartheid.” This describes a situation where wealthy people will be able to escape heat and hunger caused by climate change, while the poor are forced to endure distressing conditions. Philip Alston, a UN expert on human rights and extreme poverty, said climate change “could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work.” While there are many things to understand from the dense findings, there are key highlights that are crucial to know about the UN report on “climate apartheid.”

5 facts from the UN report on “climate apartheid”:

  1. Extreme weather conditions threaten to undo the last 50 years of progress in poverty reduction around the globe.
    Weather-related conditions like droughts and flooding are much more likely to occur if climate change continues to worsen. People who already experience extreme poverty tend to live in communities that depend on local harvests to survive. If weather causes food supplies to disappear, these people are likely to experience famine and malnutrition. This can result in illness and death.
  2. Even the “best-case scenario” for climate change would lead to food insecurity in many regions.
    Next, Alston says that “even if current targets are met, tens of millions will be impoverished, leading to widespread displacement and hunger.” Reaching current targets would mean only a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in temperature by 2100. This would cause many already poor regions to become food insecure.
  3. The UNHC says that it’s likely the wealthy will be able to pay to escape worsening conditions.
    Alston notes that “an over-reliance on the private sector could lead to a climate apartheid scenario in which the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict, while the rest of the world is left to suffer.” For example, he cited the 2012 Hurricane Sandy as an example of this, because many impoverished New Yorkers were without basic necessities during the disaster, while “the Goldman Sachs headquarters was protected by tens of thousands of its own sandbags and power from its generator.”
  4. Democracy could be at risk in affected regions.
    If weather conditions lead governments to declare states of emergency, it is likely to cause drastic changes in power structures. The report says “states may very well respond to climate change by augmenting government powers and circumscribing some rights. This will be a very fraught process and require great vigilance on the part of governments, human rights institutions and national and regional courts.” Additionally, some governments will be under-prepared to cope with serious conditions. As a result, this can cause social unrest and community discontent. It could even spark nationalist, xenophobic and racist responses.
  5. There are potential solutions.
    The report also suggests that tackling the problem with a human-rights-focused response may be the best way. It includes giving vulnerable communities access to protective infrastructure, financial aid, relocation options, employment support and land tenure. Additionally, this includes access to food, clean water and healthcare. Furthermore, the report noted that building coalitions are key to addressing the issue, saying “major human rights actors must tackle questions about emissions, resource allocation, and energy and economic policy that states are grappling with and where there is a real need for detailed, actionable recommendations.”

Why the report matters

Overall, the release of the UNHR document has sparked widespread media coverage and global awareness. Understanding these 5 Facts from the UN report on “climate apartheid” is a critical step in addressing the problem.

-Natalie Malek
Photo: Flickr

10 Worst Hurricanes

Hurricanes represent an annual threat to the lives and livelihood of millions living in coastal or insular geographic regions. Throughout history, certain natural disasters have stood out as especially destructive. This is a compilation of the 10 worst hurricanes in modern history, with 10 being the worst.

The World’s 10 Worst Hurricanes

  1. Sandy
    • Death Toll: 186
    • Economic Losses: $65 Billion
    • Summary: In 2012, this massive, slow-moving storm wreaked havoc not only in Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica but also on the United States East Coast in New Jersey and New York. Sandy caused devastating flooding, killing 80 people in the Caribbean and damaging 18,000 homes. Sandy hit especially hard in Haiti, where the storm execrated food insecurity, which Haiti had already been struggling with after Hurricane Isaac.
  2. David
    • Death Toll: 2,000
    • Economic Losses: $1.54 Billion
    • Summary: In 1979, Hurricane David, a powerful Category 5 storm, struck both the Dominican Republic and the East Coast of the United States. In the Dominican Republic, David killed at least 600 people and left over 150,000 homeless.
  3. Jeanne
    • Death Toll: 3,000
    • Economic Losses: $8 billion
    • Summary: Jeanne was the deadliest hurricane of the 2004 season. Jeanne was a Category 3 hurricane, which caused devastation in the same region as the prior storms on this list, the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States.
  4. Flora
    • Death Toll: 7,000
    • Economic Losses: $125 million
    • Summary: Flora struck in 1963, but it remains one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes of all time. The storm swept through Tobago, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, triggering massive landslides and destroying crops. Inland flooding caused by the storm surge was among the chief causes of crop destruction, especially in Haiti. In Tobago, crop destruction was so great that the agricultural backbone of the economy was abandoned in favor of a new emphasis on tourism as a means of revenue.
  5. Katrina
    • Death Toll: 1,800
    • Economic Losses: $125 billion.
    • Summary: Katrina is infamous for being one of the worst natural disasters ever to strike the United States. Coastal flooding caused by Katrina completely devastated many communities on the gulf coast. Katrina nearly completely submerged New Orleans and destroyed around 800,000 homes in Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. While it is not quite among the deadliest hurricanes of all time, the extensive destruction caused by Katrina makes it by far the costliest in terms of economic damages.
  6. Maria
    • Death Toll: 4,500
    • Economic Losses: $90 Billion
    • Summary: Maria is the most recent of the tropical storms featured on this list, and the devastation that it brought is still fresh in Puerto Rico, Dominica and Guadeloupe. The most severe effects of Maria were felt by Puerto Rico, where Maria severely damaged the infrastructure, leaving countless citizens without power for extended periods. Maria was also the most costly hurricane in modern history for the island territory. Fortunately, thanks to efforts funded by the federal government, Puerto Rico has seen a slow, but steady recovery, with power being entirely restored.
  7. Fifi
    • Death Toll: 8,000
    • Economic Losses: $1.8 Billion
    • Summary: Fifi was a catastrophic storm that struck Central America in 1974. Fifi triggered landslides and flash floods, which swept through crop fields and small towns throughout the region. Dozens of villages in Honduras were completely wiped out. Twenty-three hundred people were killed when a natural dam in Choloma gave way to the flooding and burst. The impact of Fifi sparked a series of reconstruction projects among the villages of Honduras, which succeeded in rebuilding housing and infrastructure across the nation.
  8. Galveston
    • Death Toll: 8,000-12,000
    • Economic Losses: $20 million
    • Summary: Galveston was a vibrant trading port, and the largest city in Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. Though Galveston had endured many tropical storms since its founding, the 1900 Hurricane was in a class of its own, and the ensuing 15-foot storm surge wiped out the city, destroying 3,600 buildings. Galveston was the deadliest natural disaster in the United States history at the time. Remarkably, despite the immense damages, and the loss of 20 percent of Galveston’s inhabitants, the people managed to rebuild and construct a new seawall to protect it from future catastrophes.
  9. Mitch
    • Death Toll: 10,000-20,000
    • Economic Losses: $6 billion
    • Summary: Hurricane Mitch was a Category 5 storm that predominantly affected Nicaragua and Honduras. Flash flooding and landslides caused by Mitch destroyed thousands of homes, rendering 20 percent of the population homeless. Mitch also caused extensive damage to the infrastructure of Honduras, leaving numerous roads and bridges destroyed, which prevented the transport of much-needed aid. In Nicaragua, a mudslide off of La Casitas Volcano killed over 2,000, and over 1 million homes were damaged or destroyed. In the aftermath of Mitch, countries around the globe donated billions to Central America, which the affected countries used to rebuild, constructing stronger foundations to withstand future disasters.
  10. The Great Hurricane of 1780
    • Death Toll: 22,000-27,000
    • Economic Losses: Unknown
    • Summary: The Great Hurricane of 1780 predates modern storm-tracking technology, but it is widely accepted to be the deadliest storm in history. Making landfall on Oct. 10, the Great Hurricane devastated Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean, causing incalculable damage and claiming more lives than any other storm in recorded history. The Great Hurricane represents a disaster of unprecedented scale and truly belongs at the top of the 10 worst hurricanes of all time.

Hurricanes often serve as a bitter reminder of human vulnerability, however, even when in the path of the 10 worst hurricanes, people show an incredible capacity to adapt and recover from tragedy. The 10 worst hurricanes of all time illustrate not only the fierce violence of nature but also the ingenuity and tenacity of humanity.

– Karl Haider
Photo: Flickr

humanitarian_service_medal
The Humanitarian Service Medal was created in 1977 by Gerald Ford, President of the United States at that time. Ford wanted an award established to recognize service members who go above and beyond the call of duty during national and natural disasters. The medal is awarded to people of the U.S. Armed Forces.

It is earned when a service member gives help to others during a time of need that is not part of normal duties and standards. The service member must also be active duty status to receive the medal. The humanitarian medal is a bronze medallion bearing a facing up palm on one side, which symbolizes “a helping hand.” The other side adorns an oak branch.

Recently, 5,600 members of the Minot Air Force Base have been approved to receive the humanitarian award.

In 2011, North Dakota cities Minot Burlington and Velva, respectively, became severely flooded by the Souris River. Over 4,000 homes were destroyed and 11,000 people were displaced. Over 5,000 airmen of the Minor Air Force immediately responded to the need for help.

They began filling and loading sandbags for the levies. What was truly a humanitarian gesture was when the service members offered their own homes to the displaced townspeople.

Another selfless act arose when employees who worked on Fort Hamilton base received the Humanitarian Service Medal for their help during Hurricane Sandy. The civilian workers turned the base into an emergency services area for people in need.

Medal recipient Francis Mitchell explains that, “Fort Hamilton is the only military installation in the metropolitan area, so in the event of a crisis, in order for the military to be able to coordinate their work they need a staging ground.”
Marines deployed to the Philippines during the typhoon in 2010 have also been approved to receive the humanitarian medal.

Typhoon Juan killed dozens of people and displaced over 200,000 people due to millions of dollars of destruction.

The humanitarian service medal exudes leadership to all members that adore it. Being a humanitarian is something everyone should be proud of and excel toward in life.

Whether one’s humanitarian actions are geared toward helping combat global poverty, volunteering during a natural disaster, or administering vaccines to impoverished children in Africa, it is always in need. If the world is going to become a better place, humanitarians must continue to be on the front lines.

– Amy Robinson

Sources: Marine Corps, Army Times, News 12, AFPC, UCSB
Photo: Savannahnow

Every non-profit has an honorable start to their missions, but Robert C. Macauley, founder of AmeriCares, has a particular focus. On April 4, 1975, a United States jet carrying 243 Vietnamese orphans crashed in the jungle outside of Tan Son Nhut. The U.S. was unable to reach them within 10 days, and when Macauley heard this news, he did what any good-hearted American would dream of doing. He chartered a plane and brought them to the U.S. within 48 hours.

Macauley was a paper broker in Connecticut at the time, he and his wife took out a mortgage on their house to pay for the $10,000 down payment for the Boeing 747. His dislike of bureaucratic red tape cost him his home, but gave him a calling.

Macauley’s calling gave rise to one of the largest non-profits in the world, AmeriCares. Currently, the organization works in over 90 countries and has supplied over $10 billion in aid, both foreign and domestic. Here are just three examples of their impact:

1. Relief Aid in Poland – 1981

Before AmeriCares, official conception, Robert Macauley had donated his time and money to a number of causes, but his action in Vietnam brought good media. News spread quickly of Macauley’s actions and in 1981, Pope John Paul II asked for his assistance. At the time, Poland was under martial law and in desperate need of medical supplies. By 1982, Macauley had gently wrestled $1.5 million in medical supplies from over a dozen companies. March of that year, he was able to airlift the supplies to Poland. This was the first official act of AmeriCares and an impressive one at that.

2. The Darfur/Sudan Conflict – 2011

In 2004, AmeriCares began a long-term relief effort in Sudan by delivering medical aid in order to support health services for the survivors on the Sudan conflict. With South Sudan’s independence in 2011 came a rush of refugees and native South Sudanese returning to their homes. Most were in need of shelter and medical assistance.

AmeriCares began supporting the efforts of Relief International in their health outposts and camps. In Renk, funds were used to rehabilitate three health clinics and installations of emergency medical modules. This helped with treatment of diarrheal diseases, medical waste management, sanitation and health education. The health clinics also saw installations of exam tables and benches in waiting rooms. These clinics served 14,000 survivors at Renk and another 13,000 in the Gendrassa camp. AmeriCares replenished low stocks of first aid supplies in Gendrassa.

3. Hurricane Sandy Relief – 2012

The most recent natural disaster seen in the United States was Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012. More than 80,000 residences were damaged and 8.5 million people were left without shelter or power. AmeriCares has provided over $6 million in aid that has benefited more than 465,000 people. Skilled in crisis relief, AmeriCares has supplied medicine, insulin and vaccines, enough bottled water for $75,000 people, diapers for 17,000 and much more for those in need. $2.5 million went to fund programs that provide displaced citizens with emergency warmth, disaster clean up and mental health counseling in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and New Jersey.

Currently, AmeriCares is looking for grant proposals from groups who are starting projects to help with the health needs of Sandy survivors. On July 14, New Jersey was awarded $200,000 in grants to help the elderly, disabled and low-income residents recover.

– Jordan Bradley

Sources: AmeriCares, The NY Times, Darien News, Queens Chronicle
Photo: Forbes