As a Filipino, discussing Haiyan (or Yolanda in the Philippine naming system) and the destruction it brought to the Philippines brings a tear to my eye. The death toll is rising every day. Infrastructure is ruined. Looting and crime has become rampant and commonplace. Rebuilding will take years, maybe even decades. Thousands of families are forever broken. And however much the aid is appreciated, the help is still insufficient to alleviate this grave disaster.
The Philippines suffers catastrophic disasters as frequently as it is cold in New York City. Although not on the same magnitude, the Philippines constantly experiences a slew of different but still devastating natural disasters. Tsunamis, typhoons, tropical storms, floods, landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts, wildfires, all in seven thousand islands of almost 100 million people. Every time, they hit hard, and every time, there are hundreds of thousands of affected citizens.
Typhoons are not the singular cause of the widespread destruction. Most carnage relates back to unstable infrastructure, and especially in the Philippines, logging has catalyzed the number of fatal landslides. From an outsider’s point of view, it easy to simply say that logging must be prevented or infrastructure should be improved, but in a country with so little wealth and unfortunately, so much political corruption, there is little hope in the people for change. Many activists have tried to instigate change in the country, but with the top officials catering their own needs instead of the peoples’, creating policy that would positively affect the whole country is a dream very far off from reality.
Environmental policy has not been met with great optimism, in the Philippines as well as around the world. The world today focuses on short term gains, because losses seem too far into the future to think about. The logging, for instance, brings short term economic benefit to a handful of citizens, most of whom do not suffer the consequences of the weak soil and catastrophic rains causing landslides that displace hundreds of thousands of people. But to corporations and corrupt officials, the fatalities are not accounted for in their finance books. They do not see it as a direct consequence, but rather collateral damage. Something that simply occurs but is not necessarily their fault.
That is the plight of today’s society. It takes a huge disaster like Haiyan to prove that those actions have grave effects. And I fear that after this disaster is a relic of the past, the benevolence and understanding in this moment will just disappear, that people will forget that the typhoon did not cause buildings to collapse or landslides to fall, but the recklessness of businesses and corrupt politicians wanting to make quick cash.