Thursday, October 13, 2011

What the Rain Takes Away

In today's newspaper I read El Salvador is officially classified as the country most vulnerable to the consequences of ill weather and rain-provoked catastrophes. More than surprised, I was angered by this. I just find it shocking that in a country where the President collects sport cars, and all members of congress earn their weight in gold (quite undeservedly), there is yet not enough money in the government's budget to educate its people. Another thing our government still doesn't understand, even after decades of tropical storms and hurricane seasons that come ALWAYS on the same month of the year, is that there is such a thing as a "Weather forecast". Heck! There's even something called "Hurricane's watch". Yet, apparently, the national meteorological institute has better things to do than to issue timely warnings, I mean, like BEFORE people lose their houses and livestock and need to be evacuated with water up to their waist...

A couple of years ago, I had the very interesting task of translating into French a study made by a well known international NGO regarding adaptation to climate change in Cuba. What I found fascinating is that, in spite of it being an island, and in spite of the fact that it is the country with statistically more hurricanes than any other in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, it is also the LESS VULNERABLE to these natural catastrophes. It is even more interesting, because Cuba is, in our region, the "elephant in the room". The one shameful communist country, where everyone is poor, with no industry, no food, no nothing. So how do these poor backward Cubans, who supposedly can't get anything right because of their evil government, manage to survive and actually not lose EVERYTHING (as in: their lives) with so many hurricanes hitting their coasts???

And this NGO was not making anything up, just check this web-site: where I quote "Hurricanes are the more devastating natural disasters occurred in Cuba during this century and in particular at the cyclone season from October to November. However, only four got a dantesque character because of the human and material lost that it provoked. These four took place before 1959. Four years later, the Cuban government designed and passed a Measure System for Civil Defense of the country. It reduced damages of every type." Yes, four years after 1959, as in "Castro times".

So what's going on here? Am I suggesting we all turn to Fidel Castro and become communists ourselves? Please, give me more credit. I will give you more credit also and assume nobody has yet jumped to such a simplistic and stupid conclusion (yet it seems in El Salvador, whenever someones mentions something about Cuba that seems to work well, in spite of the potent anti-Cuba American propaganda, we immediately become the new encarnation of Trotsky, or someone...)

Well the study actually emphasized the importance of education to prevent the most damaging consequences of natural catastrophes. And this also applies to earthquakes, since this area is also prone to this other sort of cataclysmic entertainment. If people are educated, if they are not only able to read and write, but are also capable of abstract thinking, and of reasoning on their own (something our governments are not too excited about, because, then, if the people actually become smarter, what will they say when they realize who their rulers truly are????) Well, that may well be a drawback of educating people, but come on Politicians, it also means you will be more educated, and then maybe smarter... you'll still be able to nail everyone, it will only imply slightly more complex schemes and machinations. But quite honestly, this is really not about you and your power-addictions. This is about the people whose walls collapse with every tropical storm, who lose their children when the rivers overflow, whose chickens, goats and cows drown and leave them with no livelihood. And I'm not even getting into the Dengue and other epidemics...
Yet, think about it this way... Less money invested in reconstructing these already pitiful villages,($837K according to today's newspaper) more money for your pockets! More sport cars mister President! More bodyguards mister Congressman! More fake nails and liposuction for your trophy mistresses!!!

How horrible... I am sorry for the sarcasm outburst, but this is just how pissed off I am to see that the years go by, looking exactly the same, and yet our authorities apparently learn next to NOTHING about preventing natural catastrophes. It makes me angry to watch the news and see young mothers cry their eyes out because they lost their babies to a stupid flood. This should not be happening. At least not all the time, at least not without learning the lesson. But guess what? As long as people are kept ignorant and stupid, it will. 

And no, I won't make the mistake of coming down on the government without offering solutions. The ones I present here come from the study I mentioned before. It's so simple it makes me want to cry. It's like this:
  • Formal education, specifically on preparation (as in: What to do/Where to go/What to leave behind/What to take with us when an alert comes out)
  • Regular nationwide drills. (Yes, drills. Like the fire drill at school. So simple...)
  • Political will from the highest level of decision-making down to the local communities... Communication, the key to every well functioning relationship. This allows for centralized decision-making as well as decentralized execution.
  • Meteorological forecasts (you'd think everyone knew about this, but...)
It's that simple, and yet apparently it's so hard. Good luck El Salvador... I'm so so soooooo sorry.

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