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Posts Tagged ‘disasters’

An Inconvenient Truth - the Crisis of Global Warming

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

By Al Gore

globecrackingWhat do you think about Global Warming Do you care enough about the planet to get involved? What can we do to deal with the crisis? This book shows what is happening on our planet and how it affects us. From wildfires to disappearing icecaps we learn what the scientists have been discovering. We also learn how to become part of the solution, in the decisions we make both now and in the future.

The DVD is also available.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

How much is too much?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

By William Zhang

Have you ever turned on the six o’clock news, only to tune out a few minutes later, thinking “oh, not again… another gloomy story about disaster and destruction”? If so, you’ve experienced compassion fatigue.

hurricane-tvCompassion fatigue occurs when we get tired of seeing images of suffering in the news and TV, images like the ‘millions left homeless after their homes were destroyed’ or the ‘child who now has to walk for two hours a day just to get clean drinking water’. Heartbreaking stuff isn’t it? Yet, as we see more and more of these images on TV and the news, they start to lose their impact on us.

Many people, and some aid agencies, are worried that the world may experience mass compassion fatigue following the cyclone in Myanmar and earthquake in China. Before we look into the effects of this, it’s important to ask, why exactly does it occur? Compassion overdose?

As humans, we can only tolerate so many stories about pain and suffering before we experience compassion fatigue and tune out. We aren’t capable of constantly feeling pity, sadness or empathy. Compassion fatigue is like our body’s defence mechanism to cope with a ‘compassion overload’.

We develop a resistance to these stories of suffering. We get so used to seeing them we actually DON’T see them anymore. We become less likely to react or respond to them so that we don’t become too emotionally drained.

Its too much!!un-helicopter
As these stories lose their impact on us, we become less likely to respond by giving or donating to charities and relief funds. The amount of humanitarian relief organisations like the Red Cross, Tear Fund or Oxfam, are able to provide declines as a result. Humanitarian relief is needed because many countries don’t have enough resources themselves to respond to emergencies and strife.

A striking example of world-wide compassion fatigue occurred in 2004 and 2005. Within the period of a year, the world was forced to deal with the Boxing Day tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake in Pakistan; three huge natural disasters which led to a compassion overload. As a result, “we saw a tremendous outpouring of support for the tsunami and less support for the emergencies which followed”. (Eileen Burke, Save the Children)

What (or who) is to blame?
Media coverage of poverty, suffering or natural disasters hugely influences society. They direct our attention to important events, conflicts and disasters, but they can also swamp us with information and images to the point where we switch off.

darfurmarthaObviously, a lack of media coverage isn’t too good. The media has been criticised for not devoting enough attention to the genocide in Darfur for example, so people knew very little about the situation or the amount of aid and relief needed. According to a Tyndall Report (which monitors the news in the US), in 2004 the Darfur genocide received only 18 minutes of coverage on ABC News, 5 minutes on NBC and 3 minutes on CBS. That’s the total for the entire year! In contrast, Martha Stewart (celebrity author, editor and homemaker) received 130 minutes of news coverage.

However, too much coverage can also be equally as devastating. Media saturation of images and stories about suffering and destruction is a major cause of compassion fatigue.

It’s a delicate balance
The gap between too little and too much media coverage is a very thin line, with ignorance on one side and compassion fatigue on the other. Either way, if the fine balance between the two isn’t kept, people could suffer as a result.

Control of this delicate balance is in the hands of the world’s media corporations. Pretty important job huh? Should we actually trust a few media companies for this crucial role though? Sure, they have a role to play, but in reality, we should be taking the initiative ourselves. So, the next time you see that story on TV about the relief efforts in Myanmar, don’t switch off. Just think, you might have the choice not to see images of such tragedies, but for the people involved, these images reflect their everyday reality.

Check out the Take Action section for other things you can do to fight compassion fatigue.


4 quick steps to combat compassion fatigue:

  • For a breath of fresh air and a new perspective on things, check out one of many alternative news sources like the ones mentioned in the Learn More section.
  • Chat with your friends about an important issue that’s been on the news and find out what they think.
  • Get involved! Schools often have Amnesty International groups, or you could volunteer to help collect donations for a relief fund. You’ll become informed about the issue, help out in supporting it, and have fun at the same time.
  • If you do want to donate money, do your research and choose an organisation whose work you really want to support.


Go to the Council for International Development for details on how you can help in disasters and emergencies www.cid.org.nz
Check out these alternative news sources. www.oneworld.net, www.globalissues.org, www.guerrillanews.com, www.indymedia.org.nz

    This article was originally published in the Global Focus pages of Tearaway Magazine.

    Human Traffic

    Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

    Rachael Stace, with the support of Just Focus

    Imagine being a child sold by your parents not knowing where you are going, or what lies ahead, the only thing you do know is that you will probably never see your family, your neighbourhood or anything that you have grown up with, and care about, ever again. Or imagine being a woman with no work and no money, leaving your home because of promises of a better life, just to find out that you have been sold into slavery.

    ManaclesHuman trafficking is the movement or sale of people by others (called traffickers), often through the use of force, threats and violence, and with the purpose of exploiting the victim. It affects every continent and most countries, with approximately 2.5 million people trafficked every year.

    2.5 million people, REALLY? 200 hundred years ago the British Empire put an end to the slave trade, so why, in today’s modern society, are people still bought and sold like commodities?

    Boys beggingLiving in poverty greatly increases your chance of being a victim of human trafficking. People who are struggling to survive and don’t have a lot of money are desperate for a way out and traffickers can, and do, exploit this, offering false promises of money and good jobs. Men and women who lack better options locally are persuaded by the prospect of better jobs in other regions or countries and agree to migrate. Parents may be offered a brighter and better life for their children, who they cannot afford to look after anyway, so they sell their children, hoping for a better future for them. Orphans are sold by orphanages to traffickers and sometimes children off the street are simply taken.

    Human trafficking is at its most extreme during times of hardship such as natural disasters, for example droughts, famines, floods, earthquakes or tsunamis (eg: the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami) because when people, already dealing with poverty, are distressed or in panic they are at their most vulnerable. They are fooled or easily persuaded and when separated from their families are easy pickings for traffickers. Orphaned children especially are easily kidnapped.

    TraffickingVictims of human trafficking become slaves and are forced to do things such as hard physical labour, prostitution, become mail-order brides, work in the military forces (e.g.child soldiers), become domestic workers, fish in dangerous areas or work in factories or sweat shops.

    Trafficking is worth about US$32 billion a year! The UN attribute the rapid rise in trafficking to globalisation, with the flow of information and better communications making it easier to lure poor people with unrealistic promises. Open borders in regions like Europe make it easier to move people around.

    To try and fight trafficking the UN developed the Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons which was ratified in 2003 and signed by 117 countries. It makes trafficking an international crime. But law enforcement in many countries is ineffective and the punishment quite light. Trafficking is one of the world’s most lucrative crimes, with US$32 billion at stake, unfortunately the potential gain well outweighs the risks.

    Sokha, Cambodia

    Girls as young as five are trafficked from Cambodia over the border into Thailand. Sokha’s mother was ill with a liver complaint and the family needed money to pay for drugs to treat her and to buy land to build a home. Sokha and her friend Makara were sold to a trafficker who promised good jobs for them in Thailand. But reality turned out to be very different. Sokha explains how she and Makara were given jobs selling fruit, but with their bosses taking most of the money for themselves, they were not able to survive or send any money home. Soon their bosses forced them into sleeping with men to pay their way. Sokha’s mother died within a year, and with no more resources the family still couldn’t afford to buy land.

    Fortunately their parents contacted a group, Cambodian Hope Organisation, who found and rescued the girls, bringing them back to their families and offering them support and training.

    Not everyone is this lucky.

    Source | Tearfund

    Human trafficking is a personal horror, a family’s misfortune, a community’s grief, a country’s despair and a world tragedy. All human beings are born equal, so why it is that some work and live in situations that are often too gruesome for others to even think about?

    ShoesBut we HAVE to think about it, because it affects us all. Even here in Aotearoa New Zealand. The globalisation process which makes trafficking easier, also means that products made by the victims could easily find their way onto your table, or into your wardrobe, through the chocolate you eat or the shoes you walk in. You may be contributing to the problem without even knowing it.

    Don’t despair about the problem, take action and be part of the solution!! Check out the websites below to learn more about the issues and for some ideas on how to get involved.

    Learn More


    Take Action

    • Join Just Focus www.justfocus.org.nz
    • Get involved with Trade Aid’s campaign to fight modern slavery www.tradeaid.org.nz
    • Join Amnesty International and help fight all human rights abuses www.amnesty.org.nz
    • Watch Amazing Grace, a film which follows the life of William Wilberforce, the driving force behind the abolishing of the slave trade in the British Empire
    • Talk to your friends and family
    • Sign the petition at www.antislavery.org
    • Check out the international campaign at www.stopthetraffik.org

    A version of this article was published in JET Magazine.

    Tackling climate change

    Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

    How is NZ reducing its ecological footprint?

    Storme Sen

    Global warming
    You hear about global warming everywhere nowadays; scientists and tree-huggers spout on about it and the millions of mind-boggling statistics to back up their claim at any opportunity. Yet, that phrase is never in the forefront of our minds in our everyday life, not when we take our hour long shower, not when we leave six appliances on at once, not until global warming affects our lives personally do those cold statistics mean a thing.

    Since when has the weather gone so insane?
    Mudslides, earthquakes and floods are occurring in places where they shouldn’t be at alarming rates; polar bears are actually drowning from lack of icebergs to rest on! Global warming is no longer something we can put off or disown as scare-propaganda. A recent example of out-of-control weather phenomenon are the tornadoes that hit Taranaki. New Zealand shouldn’t have global warming problems; we are renowned for our “clean and green” image, right? Wrong.

    If we measure the average emissions produced per capita (individually), New Zealand comes in at a shocking 12th place in the world for the highest carbon producing countries in 2006. As a country that thrives on showcasing its natural resources for the tourism industry and production of biological products for export, New Zealand’s economy is particularly vulnerable to climate change

    Cars FloodSo what is global warming?
    The suns rays have always penetrated our atmosphere, warming the earths surface, enabling life to inhabit our planet, then been reflected back off the earths surface out through our ozone layer. But now, the pollution we emit traps the harmful rays in our atmosphere so that they cannot be reflected back out of our ozone layer, causing global warming. This changes our weather patterns, causes droughts, melts our ice caps, provides warmer temperatures for disease carrying vectors and pests, such as mosquitoes, to breed, and changes the conditions for crops to be grown in, to name a few examples.

    We know a lot of these facts and that global warming is a problem of epic proportions, but now the time has come to do something about it. It was not caused by my generation but it is up to us to carry the burden and we can no longer just say our great great grandchildren will have to deal with it. New Zealand has ratified the Kyoto Protocol named after the Japanese city the environmental summit was held in. The Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries to 5% below the level they were in 1990 from the period 2008-2012. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are currently 25% higher than they were in 1990 and New Zealand is in danger of not achieving its target.

    Global Warming VisualThe Bill
    At Youth Parliament 2007 a Legislative Bill was put forward for debate amongst the Youth Parliamentarians. This bill was mainly aimed at reducing household carbon gas emissions and lowering the energy usage of individuals. The bill enables a household to open a voluntary carbon account that will monitor their energy consumption via a Smart card system. There would be a fee to open an account and the amount of energy deemed reasonable for consumption would be individually analyzed in accordance with the needs of each different household. The account would also introduce carbon credits (in the form of tax credits), rewarding a household that makes energy savings of 10% (with $500) and penalizing those that overreach their amount of calculated energy use. In addition, the bill stated that the government will pay up to 50% of the costs of converting to more energy efficient means such as solar power.

    This bill was greeted with a plethora of criticism. Youth MP Katherine Steel felt that the bill did not go anywhere near far enough and proclaimed “this bill is proof that the government is f!*king with our futures”. Many Youth MPs pointed out the several flaws in this bill. Namely, if it is voluntary with a sign-up fee no one will do it and making it compulsory is out of the question because it will be “perceived as a state intrusion”. It doesn’t offer enough of an incentive and why would you want to sign up for something that would actually add extra cost should you use too much energy. Additionally there is the cost of performing individual energy usage evaluations, which would be astronomical.

    LiveEarthThe ironically heated debate over this environmental bill also produced talk about whether New Zealand should revoke its strong Anti-Nuclear policy. Youth MP James Barnett stated that “70% of the world already use nuclear power, I say we follow.” Some Youth MPs thought that this was worth the hypocritical label because nuclear power would more than meet our energy requirements and produces no greenhouse gas emissions, stating that we are “famous for Do as we say and not as we do’ anyway” (for example, it is illegal for us to cut down native trees and yet we import the native trees of other countries).

    The more idealistic and positive of the Youth MPs were for the passing of this bill, arguing that while this bill was definitely not perfect, it was still a step in the right direction. Others weren’t so sure it was the government’s job. How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb?” asked Youth MP James Walkinshaw. The answer? None, the people need to do it themselves.

    An Inconvenient Truth


    Flooding in New Zealand and Around the World: A Comparison of Environmental Extremities

    Monday, August 1st, 2005

    Kate Thompson

    In February 2004, Wellington and the Manawatu region were affected with the worst flooding in recorded history. Then in July of the same year, the eastern Bay of Plenty region was hit even harder. They were subjected to severe flooding and they then had to cope with a consistent attack of earthquakes that lasted for a number of days, adding insult to injury. flooded house

    In comparison to the natural disasters happening around the world, the New Zealand floods and earthquakes appear insignificant. Although there were two women who died in the Bay of Plenty region, the Bangladesh floods claimed the lives of at least 628 people and 1,627 died in South Asia in 2004, according to the English newspaper the Independent. The devastation that covered nearly two thirds of Bangladesh in water left Bangladeshis desperate for food and shelter.

    This is not to say that people in the Bay of Plenty didn’t also suffer from the harsh blow of rain and earthquakes that was inflicted upon them. Around 2000 people were forced from their homes and had to receive emergency accommodation after they were evacuated. The situation in South Asia, however, far outstripped our own again in this department. There were literally millions of South Asians who had their homes destroyed, were exposed to water born disease (such as diarrhoea) and were quite simply living in poverty.

    Just like in New Zealand, transport paths in Bangladesh were closed because of the sheer extent of flooding that occurred. The worst was in the capital, Dhaka where sewage systems collapsed and boats became the dominant form of transport.

    It is in these moments of comparison that we can truly appreciate just how well off we really are in New Zealand when it comes to enduring the extremities of the elements.


    The Bay of Plenty Council information on Tsunamis and flooding
    Flooding in Bangladesh