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Seeing the Future through a Hotel Window.

September 20, 2018

[Image: 'Typhoon Maria Risk Assessment July 2018' | © AccuWeather]

 

Much of 2018 has seen me criss–crossing the Asia–Pacific working on a project for Fairtrade, whilst reminding myself what a diverse, vibrant and challenged region Australia sits on the fringes of.

 

The work itself has been both interesting and challenging in equal measure, but one of the things that struck me most during my travels was how clearly other countries see that climate change is already impacting them – and how they are already adjusting to the new reality that is now in place in the region.

 

This fact was brought most vividly to life when I found myself in the path of not one, not two, but three extreme weather events in less than five months. The most extreme was 'Super' Typhoon Maria that made landfall on Taiwan when I was in the capital, Taipei, for a week, but Cyclones Josie and Keni that made landfall in Fiji while I was also there, weren't too far behind in terms of intensity and impact.

 

My overriding impression of the Fiji experience was one of relief following Cyclone Keni, as where I was based was lucky to be spared the worst of its effects when it veered south at the last minute. Others weren't so lucky on some of Fiji's southern islands however, with further destruction adding to the damage and, unfortunately, deaths that Cyclone Josie brought with it to Fiji just a week and a half before.

 

The speed and casualness with which the Fijian people responded to this latest Cyclone was also telling. Their collective shoulder shrugging and 'let's get on with it' attitude spoke more eloquently of the reality of living with more intense and, potentially, more frequent natural disasters than any number of detailed research reports from the United Nations.

 

Typhoon Maria was an altogether different experience. Watching the city's systematic preparations as the Typhoon neared the island and then seeing the empty streets below me from my hotel window in the Da'an District of Taipei, made me consider the types of systems that the region will need to develop to deal with the more extreme weather events coming our way in the decades ahead. Luckily these preparations were extremely effective and no lives were lost as the typhoon passed through northern Taiwan.

 

But whilst the way Fiji and Taiwan dealt with the weather events impacting them was different from the point of view of preparations and processes, what really struck me was the similar casualness of each country's population both during and, especially, after each event had passed through.

 

In many ways, this general accepting attitude was more terrifying than the actual events themselves. Realising that people were already becoming used to the reality of our changed climate in so many practical ways and just finding ways to go about their lives was a sobering and unexpected insight from my travels across Asia.

 

And in many respects I found myself doing the same by the time the third event crossed my path. The first saw me change my travel plans, the second at least consider a change, but by the third I was myself just shrugging my shoulders and accepting that I would be shut up in my hotel room for a day.

 

A day spent seeing the future through a rain and windswept hotel window...

 

 

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