Sitting in my office on a beautiful morning, I was reading about yet another natural disaster hitting a community miles away. My heart broke for those people who had lost their home and loved ones. I looked out the window and tried to imagine what it would be like to experience nature’s cruelty.
The litany of nature’s woes are all around in this small, connected world. The Philippines, for instance, has been hit by a succession of weather-related disasters. Typhoon Haiyan struck in November and the country is still recovering — and counting its dead. Closer to home, the United States has been hit hard by increasingly severe natural disasters — tornadoes, hurricanes and drought.
In Ontario, where I live, we see so little of the problems and disasters that the rest of the world experiences. Yet our climate is changing and the experts say even we won’t be immune to the erratic weather caused by global warming.
“Canada will continue to see more warming than the global average and extreme weather events will be more frequent and more intense. There will be stronger hurricanes, longer heat waves and, in some parts of the country, more snow and more hail,” the Toronto Star wrote recently after the release of the big report from the U.N’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This year Canada got a taste of extreme weather with the flooding in Calgary, Alberta in June and the huge downpour in Toronto in July. Russ Blinch, chief scribbler at CopyCarbon, wrote about his experience after the massive rains struck the Toronto area:
“We were in nearby Mississauga and needed to get back to downtown Toronto. Traffic, however, was a mess. The storm had laid waste to the city’s power grid and traffic lights were down. We started crawling along a major artery that would get us to the freeway. With growing horror we listened to reports on the radio. The announcers were running down a list of woes: traffic was snarled everywhere, cars were seen floating on a stretch of a highway to which we were headed, subways were shut down and a major commuter train was marooned in water with commuters still inside… It took us four hours to get home in a journey that would normally take about 40 minutes in decent traffic.”
And what are we doing about it? Our governments are moving slowly to come to grips with climate change. Besides the over arching battle to reduce emissions, cities need action plans to deal with the growing natural threats to its citizenry.”
We see that our world is changing and scientists continue to confirm our deepest fears that nature is becoming more violent. Are we accepting of this truth and readying ourselves for the worst? David Arama, founder and teacher of WSC Survival School, would say no.
“The apathy towards natural disasters from citizens seems to be worse in urban areas like Toronto,” Arama told me in an interview. “99.9 percent of the population is not ready for anything to go wrong. Large amounts of our population have nothing backed up like extra food, wool blankets, or generators.”
“‘Emergency Management Ontario’ seems to be well prepared for the extreme disasters but senses the lack of concern from the overall population. It would be great to see more mandatory programs preparing people for natural disasters,” said Arama, who holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and an Outdoor Education Certificate among his many credentials. He has been teaching and leading wilderness survival programs for more than 30 years at colleges in Ontario.
If we teach our children to swim to avoid drowning or practice fire drills at work to be prepared for a fire, then why aren’t we preparing people for natural disasters? Scientists are pointing towards a future with a temperamental mother nature and we need to heed the warning. Yes there is probably only so much we can do to fully prepare for a disaster but accepting our new reality and preparing for the worst can bring hope, raise morale and even save lives — when we need it the most.
For more information on how you can be prepared for the forces of nature, click on the sites below.