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Using Examples, Critically Evaluate The Claim That Humanity Must Learn To Live With Environmental Hazards.

2079 words - 9 pages

Environmental hazards are an unavoidable aspect of contemporary life. Whether they peturb a region, nation or continent, their effects are nonetheless devastating to those involved. Environmental hazards lie at “the interface between the natural events system and the human use system.” (Burton et al, 1978:25), interacting with global change and sustainable development. Disrupting social, economic and political organisations, these hazards are phenomena that damage and strain human infrastructures. Differentiating between ‘natural’ (geologic, atmospheric, hydrologic, epidemic and biologic) and ‘technological’ (industrial, infrastructural and engineering) hazards, Smith (2013) provides a framework through which hazards can be categorised, emphasising their multifarious nature. This essay will argue that humanity must learn to live with environmental hazards, developing methods of prediction and mitigation in order to reduce their effects. Focussing on three key case studies, this essay will analyse Myanmar’s Cyclone Nargis, Japan’s Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, and India’s Gujarat Hepatitis Epidemic of 2009. These diverse examples demonstrate the extent to which the impacts of hazards vary across different spatial scales, and manifest themselves at differing levels of economic and political development.
Located within the Bay of Bengal, Myanmar is an area at risk of severe damage from powerful tropical cyclones (Saito et al, 2010, Bellamy, 2010 & Kishtawal et al, 2013). 2008’s Cyclone Nargis inflicted severe damage, with a 5 metre storm surge inundating 50 kilometres of Burmese territory. In some coastal villages, fatality rates peaked at 80% (Knapp, 2009). Cyclone Nargis’ high water mark is comparable to that of 2005's Hurricane Katrina (Fritz, 2009), and yet, over 120,000 more people died. This disparity can be attributed to differing levels of economic development, however, it can also be argued that a coherent Burmese response to Nargis was prevented by political obstruction.
The Burmese military junta obstructed vital humanitarian aid after the disaster, as they feared that Western intervention within the nation may lead to “alien cultural influences" and “social instability” (Selth, 2008:394). Myanmar’s resistance to aid caused great political turmoil, with former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown (2008) describing the event as: "A natural disaster being made into a man-made catastrophe by the neglect and inhuman treatment of the Burmese people by a regime that is failing to act.” Many politicians called for the implementation of the UN Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle in order to protect the Burmese people from the effects of the disaster. If an individual government will not deal with an environmental hazard, then the international community should be able to step in and provide humanitarian aid (Evans, 2009). When nation states obstruct aid, it can be argued that the most ethical course of action is to override their...

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