At the end of September, a freak storm shut down power to the entire state of South Australia. Roads in Adelaide’s centre became gridlocked, all train services were cancelled. 900,000 homes lost power and houses and businesses were damaged by golf ball-sized hail. Further up north and, unprecedented in 165 years of weather observations, not one but two major hurricanes happened in the Atlantic. Hurricane Matthew placed 1.4 million Haitians in need of humanitarian aid – destroying homes, limiting food and water supplies and causing a cholera outbreak.
Despite the attempt by some politicians to use the South Australia incident to highlight the perils of wind turbines – claims which were disputed by a report that a fault in protection settings triggered a shutdown and not any intrinsic feature of wind power – energy experts agree that climate change is indisputably driving wetter and warmer atmosphere. If we don’t stop or drastically slow it down, this will lead to more and more extreme weather disasters.
If this is all sounds a bit like a disaster movie, think about this: you are the last generation to see the Great Barrier Reef in full bloom. For your young children or grandchildren, the reef will be a myth, a photo, or a history lesson.
But as one person, what can you really change? Well, we say you’ll do more by being conscious of your consumption, reducing your waste and educating yourself, your friends and family about sustainability, than nothing at all. The Green Villages newsletter is all about helping you do this. You may already be contributing – by choosing your bike over a car, composting your food waste, eliminating plastic and properly recycling, or researching the production processes of your clothes and furniture.
Of course, governments have the biggest role to play, as they are in charge of our emissions reduction policies. The City of Sydney, for one, has been certified carbon neutral since 2011. Last year we achieved a 27% reduction in emissions and sourced 3% of our electricity from local renewable energy sources, among many other sustainability goals.
But as well as ensuring we are on top of slow burning challenges like carbon emissions, it is also our role to ensure Sydney is prepared with an emergency response if disaster strikes. While disaster can have environmental causes, we are also at risk of food insecurity, power outages, water crises, and infrastructural failures, as well as cyber attacks and digital network failure. We call this ‘city resilience’.
On Tuesday 8 November at a CityTalks Sydney event at Town Hall, Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities, will talk about how Sydney can deal with disruptive shocks. Berkowitz will talk about his vast experience in risk management, regulation and emergency response, including the World Trade Centre disaster on 9/11 and superstorm Sandy in New York.
You can also learn how to be prepared in case a major event does happen. How well do you know your neighbours? Do you know a few different routes home? How do you and your older relatives keep cool in a heatwave?