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After the Policy
China's one-child policy is over but will China be able to cope with the consequences?
Why do people still live next to an active volcano?Gavin Brent Sullivan, Coventry University and Saut Sagala, Bandung Institute of Technology
The latest eruption of Mount Sinabung in Sumatra killed seven people and injured two others. After lying dormant for 400 years, Sinabung has erupted several times since 2010 and is now Idonesia’s most active volcano. Locals have maintained a close watch as the official alert status has fluctuated, and thousands had already been evacuated long before the eruption.
But many villagers remained in the area – and outsiders may well wonder why, given the volcano’s recent history, people would not only live near the “red zone” (the restricted area within 3km of the summit) but also regularly venture into it. Surely local people know the risks of a “pyroclastic” cloud of superheated gas?
This is a question we’ve looked at in our research. The recent large eruption had an added personal component – we were leading a team that had been investigating why people continued to live near the red zone. Our researchers had been distributing questionnaires and conducting interviews in the village of Gamber and other villages bordering the red zone right up to the previous Tuesday, May 17.
On several occasions, smaller eruptions sent huge plumes of superheated gas into the sky as well as down the slopes of the mountain towards inhabited villages. We were cautious – we monitored the situation closely and were ready to evacuate quickly if we needed to. We witnessed these eruptions with a mixture of excitement, awe and fear. This contrasted with the calm and – sometimes – complete indifference of locals.
The main eruption on May 22 sent a pyroclastic flow 4.5kms down the mountain, eventually reaching Gamber. Our experience in the field and knowledge of the devastating effects of other eruptions and natural hazards in Indonesia – such as the eruption of Mount Merapi in 2010 – meant that the latest tragic deaths were, sadly, not a surprise to us.
Villagers regularly go into the red zone to farm their land, for instance. But the villages themselves can face the additional risk of “lahars”: potentially torrential flowing mixtures of water and rock fragments caused by heavy rainfall on the mountain. In the second week of our fieldwork, two children and one adult had been killed and a further child and adult were missing as a result of lahars not far from Gamber.
What next for communities around Sinabung?
While we are not yet ready to report on people’s thoughts and actions in the week prior to the latest eruptions, there are some preliminary answers. Previous research tells us the key factors explaining why people live in these dangerous situations are attachment to place and the protection of their livelihoods as well as a capacity to adapt to natural hazards and the reduced perception of risk that involves.
A recent review by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies highlighted the need for external agencies and organisations to set aside their own conceptions of risk and engage seriously with the “alternative rationalities” of local people. Considerations about whether to stay, relocate independently or be relocated by the government to other locations should reflect the priorities of villagers and their community identities.
In the case of Gamber and other villages like it, many are reluctant to leave land owned by generations of ancestors as long as they can also continue to make a living from it. And, while people may not seem to fear being injured or killed by an eruption, we heard that some are less likely to visit their land within the red zone when there are no volunteer observers from a local group watching the mountain.
Our research at Mount Sinabung also tells us that people who have been permanently relocated from the red zone to new villages far from the mountain appear to have a better quality of life and less risk of health problems from dense ash clouds, for instance. In contrast, many people who have been temporarily evacuated to shelters (known as “Posko”) are in a desperate situation. They live in poor conditions with few offers of work and concerns about the quality of government-provided food. Some have now lived like this since 2010.
Villages outside the red zone have been designated safe by authorities but regular ash falls affect their health and reduce their ability to maintain farmland. For some, the ongoing eruptions will probably mean that their status as “refugees“ will change soon.
In this context, what impact can our research hope to have? Cultural change might occur by, for example, educating young people about the risks and encouraging them to change the activities of their parents. And we hope to provide evidence of how living so close to a volcano affects the psychology, health and well-being of villagers. This will turn, allow related interventions to be developed.
Our findings may also demonstrate the importance of community-led initiatives, such as volunteer groups formed of local villagers, in facilitating communications with authorities about imminent threats and the need to evacuate. Living near the volcano is dangerous and complicated but support and solutions are possible.
Gavin Brent Sullivan, Reader in Identity and Resilience In Communities and Organisations, Coventry University and Saut Sagala, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Planning and Policy Development, Bandung Institute of Technology
How big is a billionaires carbon footprint?
The next time you do your bit to help save the environment by recycling a newspaper or an aluminium can, ask how many trips to the recycling station does it take to compensate for the carbon footprint of a billionaires private jet? To give you some idea, an hour in a private jet will pollute more CO2 than some people will emit in an entire year.
Sadly, 2015 was a record-breaking year with global average temperatures more than 1 °C higher than before the industrial revolution. 2016 is likely to be worse. Curiously, climatologists expect the global average surface temperature to fall in 2017.
Any fall in global surface temperature is likely to be seen by some billionaires as evidence that global warming is a hoax. Obviously, if you have your own private plane, a huge yacht and a car that costs more than a house, then all that stuff about reducing your eco-footprint is very annoying. We now know that some of the planets wealthiest people have been using their fortunes to try and undermine the work of climate scientists.
Understand the balance between atmosphere and hydrosphere
Although the planet is warming, the global air temperature varies according to how much heat energy is absorbed into the oceans. The amount of heat going into the ocean is influenced by two key variables:
El Niño reduces the amount of heat going into the ocean - this causes global air temperature to rise.
La Niña increases the amount of heat going into the ocean - this causes global air temperatures to drop.
The combined effects of El Niño followed by La Niña mean that 2016 (El Niño) will likely break records as the warmest year, but 2017 (La Niña) will be cooler.
Understand atmospheric chemistry
You need to understand a bit about atmospheric chemistry. It helps if you do because some of our leaders are too busy broking deals on their gas-guzzling yachts to take a proper interest. Don't let people with a vested interest in defending a huge carbon footprint try and confuse you with arguments about past climate change. Yes, there was a medieval warm period, there was a mini ice age, and we know why Greenland is called Greenland. There has always been climate change but we're worried about something more recent - anthropocentric global warming.
To really understand global warming, we need to grasp trends in atmospheric chemistry. Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are rising at the fastest rates ever recorded – that's an amazing fact that is backed up by ice core samples that provide evidence from the past million years.
How fast the world warms depends on the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. The record rise of over 3 parts per million seen in 2015 is cause for serious concern. According to Ralph Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, CO2 is being pumped into the atmosphere at escalating rates.
Atmospheric CO2 is the single most important measure of global warming.
Co2 is the gas that causes global warming. It mostly comes from fossil fuels or from volcanic eruptions. Since there hasn't been a major volcanic eruption for over a 100 years, we can be certain that fossil fuels are largely to blame. While politicians and the captains of industry tell us they are doing everything to reduce CO2 emissions, scientists are reporting annual increases in atmospheric CO2.
Take a look at your modest carbon footprint, then take a look at the footprints left by our leaders.
It seems that the people responsible for reducing carbon emissions are talking a good game. However, it is easy to measure levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Objective scientific data about the shocking rise in CO2 in the atmosphere sits in shameful contrast to attempts at greenwashing us towards a 'brighter greener future'.
Does anybody know how big is a billionaires eco footprint is compared to a normal foot?
Global warming puts 1.3bn people and $158tn assets at risk.
World Bank - May, 2016
Every Breath We Take: how fossil fuels are killing us
Children are identified as a high-risk group and the RCP are suggesting that when air pollution reaches high levels, people's health should be protected by closing roads, especially around schools. They say we can all reduce air pollution by getting out of our cars and walking, cycling or using public transport.
Air pollution and climate change
The report by the Royal College of Physicians makes it clear that air pollution and climate change have a common cause - fossil fuels.
The report by the RCP, highlights how climate change brings about complex changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere. "Global warming increases levels of O3 in the lower atmosphere, giving rise to airway damage, reduced lung function and increases in respiratory symptoms".
Across Europe, the RCP argues that meeting climate targets (2°C) will bring significant reductions in atmospheric emissions of sulphur and nitrogen pollutants.
Air pollution from fossil fuels is having a deadly impact on our urban living spaces. Making our air safe to breath will have the additional benefit of mitigating against the impacts of global warming.
For those without electricity, kerosene lamps are often the only option. However, kerosene produces toxic fumes as well as being a fire safety hazard. GravityLight claims it's a better alternative and is cheaper than solar power which needs expensive batteries.
A 10 litre water container that uses UV light from the sun is providing clean drinking water to people in over 45 countries, mostly in Africa. Many people have access to dirty water, the problem is finding a system to create potable water for drinking and personal hygiene.
Technology to challenge poverty
If slavery were a country
If slavery were a country it would have a population equal to Canada. Its economy would be the size of Portugal. After China and the United States, it would be the third largest nation for CO2 emissions.
Tackling climate change means we need to demand a future without slavery.
The Global Slavery Index calculates that 35.8 million adults and children are slaves. The International Labour Organisation says this adds $150 billion annually to the criminal economy.
India: 14M slaves
China: 3.2M slaves
Pakistan: 2.1M slaves
United Kingdom: 8.3K slaves
Wuhan / 武汉 | schoolboy / 小伙子Tauno Tõhk / 陶诺 Flickr Creative Commons: 20/03/2016