Perspectives

Devastation is Horrible But it Can Foster Resilience, says Expert


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The devastation in Puerto Rico, as a result of two major hurricanes – Irma and Maria, is beyond most of our comprehension. Half of the population, or 3.4 million people, lack drinking water and 95 percent are without electricity – after two weeks. Additionally, 80 percent have no phone service so outreach to friends and relatives is nearly impossible.
Natural disasters drain resources from Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands suffering from major infrastructure and structural damage, according to Roger-Mark DeSouza.
He is the director of population, environmental security, and resilience for the Wilson Center in Washington DC. He currently heads the Global Sustainability and Resilience Program, Environmental Change and Security Program, and Maternal Health Initiative.
But, not only are the islands threatened but mainland coastal areas of the United States also are facing elevated environmental threats, according to DeSouza.
DeSouza spoke with WOUB’s Spectrum podcast about the multiple factors facing areas of both the mainland and U.S. islands as a result of the recent hurricanes. He claims what we have experienced is not just an island issue or a Caribbean problem but instead natural climate change disasters face all coastal areas of the United States – areas that have expanding populations and deteriorating infrastructures.
Although DeSouza believes our country’s infrastructure is in terrible disrepair, he thinks that the increase in natural disasters forces us to have national resilience and gives us an opportunity to repair and replace with better and stronger systems.
Resilience is a main focus of DeSouza and he says that truly to be resilient a people must plan on ways to prevent devastation, engage communities and work together.
Prior to joining the Wilson Center in 2013, DeSouza was vice president of research and director of the climate program at Population Action International. From 2007 to 2010, DeSouza was the director of foundation and corporate relations at the Sierra Club.
For a decade earlier, he directed the Population, Health, and Environment Program at the Population Reference Bureau.