More than 10,000 people may have been killed in the Philippines from one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. Typhoon Haiyan created huge waves and winds as strong as 195 miles per hour, destroying entire towns along the coast. More than four million people have been displaced, and thousands have no access to food, water or medicine. The city of Tacloban has become like a warzone, with bodies scattered in the streets and buried under buildings as the smell of death has polluted the air.
The devastation left by this typhoon is overwhelming. The impact from all of this will last for a lifetime. It was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. But at the same time it was just a glimpse of the kind of extreme weather that will only continue so long as the financial interests of corporations and energy companies are more important than the lives of human beings. There is nothing natural about this disaster.
To call an event a natural disaster means it occurs for reasons independent of human influence. That’s not the case here at all. This was not a disaster from nature, nor even a disaster from weather – this was an economic disaster. When the reason this typhoon was so powerful is because of climate changes caused from corporations continuously dumping carbon into the atmosphere, then we must call this an economic disaster.
As millions of people in the Philippines are trying to recover from this devastation, a global climate conference has just finished up in Warsaw, Poland. For years, these sorts of gatherings have been happening. Delegates from countries all over the world come together to discuss the growing problem of climate change and its impact on the planet and the world’s people. And every year, the conference plays out like political theater, and nothing changes.
Regardless of the devastating impact of these weather events around the world, the response from the world’s largest economic countries – led by the U.S. – is the same. They continue to defend their economies despite the environmental and human destruction that follows from them. And meanwhile, the world’s largest energy corporations continue to spend hundreds of billions of dollars looking for new oil reserves, new ways to drill in the arctic, new ways to blow up mountains for coal, and more ways to frack for oil and gas in our backyards. As increasing numbers of people on earth are impacted from climate change, these corporations are busy making things even worse.
The extent of the damage from this typhoon is still being discovered. The death toll keeps rising every week. The damage to the infrastructure was estimated at a minimum of $14 billion. The U.S. – the world’s largest economy, and by far the greatest contributor to climate change – has promised to provide $20 million in relief. This is an insult. Not only is it a miniscule amount, but it does nothing to address the role of U.S. corporations in forcing these sorts of events on the rest of the world. This is like destroying whole countries and then throwing money at them, hoping they will shut up. To call it relief is a joke.
Let’s let this typhoon and other extreme weather events be a wake-up call. We’ve seen enough of the type of disasters that will only continue to happen, with increasing intensity, if we allow these corporations to continue to wreck our planet. We can’t count on them to do anything differently.
If we want to see an end to the destruction of our planet, we are going to have to take control of our society, take it out of the hands of these corporations. Only then will we organize society to meet people’s needs – starting with the need to maintain a planet that we can actually live on.