Monday, December 16, 2013

Undergraduate Spotlight: Joseph Capellupo

Name: Joseph Capellupo

Hometown: Rochester, NY

Year: Sophomore

Degree tract: TBA

Campus involvement: Environmental Studies Student Organization (ESSO), Syracuse University Outing Club (SUOC), ESF Eco-Rep, ESF Music Society

Post-graduation and/or life goals: Happiness, leave the world a better place than I've found it

Interesting fact: I suffered an ACL/Meniscus tear in my left knee this summer that nearly prevented me from attending ESF.

Research interests/completed: Indigenous populations, sustainability.

Why did you choose to attend SUNY-ESF?: A high school classmate of mine exposed me to ESF and after visiting campus and researching the school, I fell in love with it. The relationship with Syracuse University is also very beneficial to me.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Congratulations Dr. Sue Senecah!

The following is a news article from the Chatham Courier and Register Star on the Department of Environmental Studies' Professor Emeritus Sue Senecah. Congratulations!

Chatham Resident Receives Honorary Doctorate in Sweden

Chatham resident Dr. Sue Senecah received an honorary doctorate from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in a formal ceremony on October 5 in Uppsala, Sweden, about 20 miles NW of Stockholm.  SLU is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the world. The honorary doctorate is the highest honor that can be conferred in academia.  Dr. Senecah was recognized for her leadership in founding and developing the field of Environmental Communication and her expertise in process skills such as dispute resolution and collaborative decision making to help communities manage natural resources in an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable manner.  She was nominated by SLU’s Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences faculty that includes natural resources, environmental communication, environment and landscape planning, agriculture, food and biotechnology.  The university board confirmed the nomination.
Dr. Senecah remarked, “To have my professional career recognized by academic peers, especially at such a prestigious institution, is such a high and rare honor.  It surprised and humbled me.  And, it was a lot of fun!”

Dr. Senecah was one of four honorary doctorates honored by SLU, one from each of the four large, main faculties.  The formal ceremony was preceded by three days of formal dinner parties; lunches; a 30 minute formal presentation by Dr. Senecah to an auditorium full of professors and students; and an evening rehearsal for the very structured ritual the next afternoon.   At the ceremony, Dr. Senecah received an inscribed gold ring, a traditional handmade academic hat, and the doctoral diploma.
 After the ceremony, a formal dinner for 400 people was held at Uppsala’s 12th century castle where key moments of Swedish history played out.  The grand hall was lined with tapestries.  Long tables were lit with large candelabras.  All the men wore tails with white cumberbunds and all the women wore floor length evening gowns.  Senecah was honored with the Chancellor’s nvitation to give the toast on behalf of the honorary doctors.

After a 17 year career as professor of Environmental Studies at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, Dr. Senecah is now professor emeritus.  She led the creation of the B.S, M.S, and Ph.D. programs in environmental communication and participatory processes at SUNY ESF and still teaches her course in Collaborative Governance.  Dr. Senecah explains that environmental communication is difficult to describe, “You can’t point to it the way you can with forestry, landscape architecture, marine biology, agriculture, or other topic-centered fields.  Environmental Communication is applicable to all other fields because it deals with the dynamic communication processes by which humans work out their relationship with each other and the environment.  This could be through inclusive public engagement, collaborative decision making, dispute resolution, awareness campaigns, and other processes to address complex and contentious environmental and natural resource management issues.”  Senecah explains that the series of community conversations that were held during the early stage of the Town of Chatham’s revision of its comprehensive master plan was one example of environmental communication in action.
Senecah calls herself a “pracademic” because she practices the theories and skills she teaches as a professor.  She has worked with just about every kind of federal and state agency, nongovernmental organization, community, business, and stakeholder to productively address issues such as forest plan revision, land use, hazardous and solid waste management, wildlife management, water quality, and heritage corridors.

Senecah is considered the key founder of the field of Environmental Communication over the past 25 years and has been recognized with several awards.  The field has been established in the US for nearly 20 years, with conferences and an academic journal.  Today Environmental Communication is a common program of study at large and small US and increasingly international universities.  However, this past June was a milestone.  The newly established International Environmental Communication Association sponsored its first conference with 34 countries represented. Dr. Senecah was honored as a keynote speaker.

Photo courtesy of: Chatham Courier and Register Star

PhD Fellowships in Genetic Engineering and Society

North Carolina State University:
We are recruiting 6-7 PhD students to participate in an NSF funded, IGERT in Genetic Engineering and Society: The Case of Transgenic Pests at North Carolina State University.  This will be our IGERT’s third year. Students of the 2012 Cohort have been examining questions linked to the genetic modification of mosquitoes while students of the 2013 Cohort have been delving into issues surrounding invasive rodents and biodiversity. We are excited about expanding our discussion to include the technical hurdles and social questions associated with genetic engineering as applied to agricultural pests. Possible applications of these technologies include offsetting losses to crop harvests and alleviating related negative social impacts of pests especially in areas with subsistence agriculture.
As in the past, the students of the 2014 Cohort will explore the social, ethical, and ecological consequences of current pest control techniques as well as those associated with a genetically engineered approach. Such impacts include (but are not restricted to) food inequality, the role of scientific literacy and local expertise in subsistence and industrial agricultures, and ideals of food autonomy.
We are looking for excellent students who are interested in pursuing an interdisciplinary approach to their graduate training.  Students may have majored in humanities, mathematics, or a social/natural science, and should be seeking broad and rigorous graduate training across these areas. We welcome students who have a either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in one of these areas and want strong interdisciplinary training at the doctoral level. 
Students who participate in the program will receive a PhD in a home doctoral program and a graduate minor in Genetic Engineering and Society. The minor will include four courses, one of which will be taught in Latin America. In addition to full fellowships, funds are available for international internships.
Please visit our website for more details on the program, including a list of participating faculty:  In addition to contacting potential faculty mentors, prospective students are encouraged to email questions to:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blog Contest Entry by Grace Frenzel

The Darker Side of Eco-Tourism
by Grace Frenzel (ES Major Class of 2016)

          On the site listing career possibilities for graduates of the Environmental Studies department at SUNY ESF, you can find Eco-tourism Specialist as one of the options. Eco-tourism is defined as vacations that bring people to places around the world with ecological significance, such as rainforests, coral reefs, or savannas while causing as little disturbance as possible. It is traditionally thought to be a valuable way to travel while simultaneously learning about conservation and sustainability around the world. I, however, have come to conclusion that Eco-tourism has many downsides for the environment and for the people living in the areas we “first world travelers” have identified as pristine natural habitats. 

          The obvious dark side of any sort of travel is the greenhouse gases produced during transportation. Many self-proclaimed environmentalists are careful with their carbon footprint, but with the eco-tourism industry growing so rapidly, it may be that they can justified the huge number of emissions they produce on their plane ride to Costa Rica. Countries have also uprooted native peoples in the name of eco-tourism. In Africa, the government is pumping money into national parks as they are predicted to be such lucrative tourist attractions that they are kicking out people living on the land that will become national park territory. Eco-tourism, in my opinion, is also likely to start as a way to respectively observe plants, animals and phenomena, but the natural succession will surely lead eco-tourists and eco-tourism companies to further and further invade natural habits, thereby damaging them. On top of that, since most of these visits take place in developing nations, there may not be an effective way to police what is named “eco-tourism.” Greenwashing is likely to follow: companies labeling themselves as eco-tourism venues for profit, when what they are doing to not fit with the principles of the industry. 

          People deserve to witness earth’s beauty, but many measures need to be taken to ensure that it is not at the expense of our home: the earth. As long as we are smart about it, there may not be need for concern over the future of eco-tourism. My solution is that this industry needs to be taken over by careful and intelligent Environmental Studies majors from SUNY ESF.

Blog Contest Entry by Craig Lazzar

The use of Graphic Visualization in Environmental Problem Solving

            Graphic visualization can be critical to an effective discussion of environmental systems, phenomena, or problems. Graphics help to orient participants in the discussion to the various points and relationships within the system. A graphic can provide an understanding of process flow, with the advantage of helping to highlight where points of failure might occur or the circumstances and practices surrounding a failure. 

            Use of a graphic to understand an environmental issue has the advantage of helping users to define the system and the boundaries that they will draw around the issue at hand. This can have several positive effects, like helping to understand the underlying and/or existential factors that help to bring about an environmental problem, and may serve to highlight how structural change may address a problem in a better or more comprehensive way than a simple quick fix or “band-aid” solution would. Sometimes a direct resolution to a problem is only a partial solution, and a graphic can help identify the proximate or ultimate factors that help construct the situation and may be central to addressing it in totality. 

            I had a professor in my undergraduate studies that taught about communication in organizations. His class was essentially an indictment of the traditionalist “paternal hierarchy” of the majority of Western businesses, NGOs, and even governments. His critique was a powerful one because hierarchy tends to beget hierarchy; if there is a problem within a system, the traditional model demands creation of a new rule, law, structure, bureau, department, or administrator with the explicit responsibility of addressing the newly perceived problem. The crux of this critical view of hierarchy is that adding more hierarchy to solve a problem that was the result of the existing hierarchy rarely serves to actually address and resolve the issue. It demands additional costs, assumptions, structures, and efforts to address a problem that might not have actually ever been a problem if the underlying structure is the cause of contention. The bottom line is that the creation of new layers of accountability and subordination weakens the competitiveness of the process, business, or organization in question because of these extra costs. This leads to the “top-heavy bureaucracy” that is so often bemoaned for its inefficiency. This professor drew a critical comparison between Western modes of structuring organization--with sometimes over a dozen layers of subordination under a single figurehead--to Eastern modes of structuration which seek to minimize hierarchy and often operate with only two or three layers of subordinates under a central authority. The argument follows that Eastern businesses were more competitive and offered lower prices, at least in part, to this simplified structure. Graphic depiction of an environmental problem as a multi-layered structure can serve to highlight the weakness or true need for adding yet another layer of accountability to the hierarchy. 

            A graphic visualization approach can also have important inherent limits. While a conversation led without the aid of graphic depiction might wander aimlessly for a time, it may well wander into areas of observation or criticism that a graphic depiction would exclude from the discussion entirely. I think this is the most significant weakness of a graphic model approach to discussing environmental problems. Once you construct your graphic depiction or model, it will often limit the discussion within the boundaries of that model. Related to this is the danger of committing errors in building the graphic representation, and the possibility of invalidating your conclusions due to an error in the conceptualization of the model. Additionally, there are increased costs in energy, time, and expertise involved in constructing a complete graphic model and simultaneously trying to avoid the sorts of omissions or errors of attribution or causation that might have snuck into the graphic depiction of the problem.

Capstone: Xinde Ji

Xinde Ji
MS Candidate
Department of Environmental Studies
Major Professor:  Richard Smardon
December 10, 2013
1:00 – 2:00 pm
105 Marshall

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Blog Contest Entry by Maria Ordonez

This summer, Environmental Studies student Maria Ordonez was involved in making a film advocating for better policies on oil drilling in Ecuador. Maria, who attended high school in New York but is originally from Ecuador, stays in touch with friends and family there. She moved to Ecuador after her junior year, to work with different environmental groups for a year, and returned to campus this fall to finish her degree. In the class, Introduction to American Government, she has shared lots of interesting things about her country. For example, in 2006, Ecuador was the first nation to add a 'rights to nature' to its their constitution. However, that right does not automatically translate to perfect environmental policies, by any means. "The Amazon rainforest is a famously rich and complex ecosystem, and one of the most special spots there is Yasuni National Park," she explained. The massive park is home to tens of thousands of species, and many remain to be characterized by biologists. This place is the considered to be "the most biodiverse place on the world." Yasuni National Park is also home to many people. The residents of the park are indigenous peoples the Waorani, Tagaeri and Taromenane , whose life there precedes the national boundaries by thousands of years. Two of these nations are not contacted or better said, remain in voluntary isolation. 

Recently, the national government has changed its policy and will be allowing oil drilling in this fragile area. If it goes forward, oil drilling in Yasuni would threaten both the natural environment as well as the communities there, and environmental advocates are urging the government to reconsider. The people that are in front of the fight to save Yasuni are mostly young people, students, and the indigenous people affected with help of other indigenous nations from various regions of Ecuador. They all have a strong natural identity in common and peaceful protests and marches have been seen by these members of society everywhere in Ecuador. The number of people protesting in the streets, reach thousands. Protests have ended in people being hurt and the national police using their force to make people leave. Already, projects related to oil are causing problems, and people are frustrated about cancer rates and more. Specially after the Ecuadorian Amazon has being dealing with what has been considered of the largest environmental disasters of the planet, due to negligence of foreign oil companies in terms of management of toxic wastes. This disaster has so far left 1400 cancer deaths and other health and economic problems. Maria takes this as a personal responsibility; going to an environmental school she knows that biodiversity is a treasure and she is a personal friend of the Woarani women leaders. They  are currently struggling even in terms of language barriers, yet fighting hard for their territory. As part of the effort to convince the government to reconsider, Maria helped make a short film about it, with Earth Soul Productions and you can watch this two and a half minute piece on Youtube.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Blog Contest Entry by Yasmeen Bankole

Tap Water vs. Bottled Water: The More Sustainable Method 
By Yasmeen Bankole 

Experts have always led us to believe that bottle water is healthier and clean alternative to tap water. Many water advertisements lead us to believe that all bottled water comes from pristine springs and alpine peaks. But in reality, bottled water is just plain, filtered water. Many people know this, and yet this has not diminished the market of water. Estimates variously placed worldwide show that bottled water sales are between $50 and $100 billion each year, with the market expanding at the fast annual rate of 7 percent. 

Consumers choose bottled water for a few reasons, including convenience, taste and quality. Bottled water can also be an alternative to other beverages when consumers want to eliminate or decrease the amount of sugar, caffeine, artificial flavors or other ingredients from their daily intake. Public water systems provides water for human consumption in most places, through piped distribution systems for specific areas or communities. The Food and Drug Administration oversees bottled water production, while the Environmental Protection Agency regulates tap water. However, they use comparable standards for ensuring safety. 

In October 2011, the Drinking Water Research Foundation published “Bottled Water and Tap Water: Just the Facts: A Comparison of Regulatory Requirements for Quality and Monitoring of Drinking Water in the United States.” The information presented in DWRF’s report supports the fact that drinking water, whether from the tap or a bottle, is normally safe, and that administrative requirements for both forms of water provide our country with clean, safe drinking water. 

So I urge everyone to stop purchasing water bottle and just drink tap water instead. Although bottled water is very large business, it is not a very sustainable market. It's costly, wasteful and distracts from the issues of public health: the construction and maintenance of safe municipal water systems. Buy a reusable water bottle and use that instead of plastic bottles. Don’t like the taste of tap water? Purchase a carbon filter that turns most tap water into fresh, filtered water and at a fraction of the cost of buying bottled water. Through individual change, we can become a more sustainable society, one reusable bottle at a time. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Congratulations Dr. Parker!

The Department of Environmental Studies is proud to announce...

 Dr. Andrea Parker has been elected as Vice-President of the Environmental Communication Division of the National Communication Association!
The National Communication Association (NCA) is a nonprofit designed to advance communication as a discipline that studies all forms, modes, media and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific and aesthetic inquiry. The NCA focuses its efforts on serving its members who are scholars, teachers, and practitioners by supporting their professional interests.
The Environmental Communication Division is a multidisciplinary effort to support a broad audience of academics, professionals, and practitioners in the sharing and building of theoretical, critical, and applied scholarship addressing environmental communication in a variety of contexts.

Blog Contest Deadline Extended!

Writing any end of the semester papers? 
Shorten them to less than 850 words and submit them to the blog contest!
Want an opportunity to win a $50 gift card?
Enter the blog contest!

The deadline for the Environmental Studies Blog Contest has been extended until Friday, December 6th! Increase your chances of winning by submitting more than one post.

Topics can include:
  • A pressing environmental studies issue
  • Why you chose to study Environmental Studies at ESF
  • An update on your personal research
  • Photo submission with description of location/event
Please send all items to Megan O'Connor at OR drop a copy off with Rebecca at the department office.

Note: Photos and blog posts will be randomly drawn by department faculty. By submitting material you agree to allow the department to use the material in their blog, website, and publications.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Marvin Montefrio: Blogging on Typhoon Haiyan

There are events in our lives that need to be engraved more permanently in history to always remind us how they influenced and changed our lives. There are also those moments we feel like sharing with the world, in the hopes that others will also remember and do something about in the future. The wrath of typhoon Haiyan is one of those moments in my life, and in everyone else’s who witnessed this tragedy as either a victim in an afflicted town in the Philippines or as a sympathizer from a distant community abroad. This tragic event clearly defines our times, not just as members of the ESF community who are passionate about environmental issues, but also as global citizens of a changing planet. I share this blog post not just to provide my version of this piece of history, but also to tell a story that would, hopefully, inspire others to act now and to remember (and act more) in the future. I sincerely thank each and every one of you for taking time to read this post. I hope this story will linger in you and inspire you to think of ways to do something in the immediate future and in many years to come.

Ominous Clouds Above

It was the afternoon of November 6 (Wednesday) when Yasmin (my wife) and I heard about super typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda) in the news. We were in Metropolitan Cebu to do interviews for a research project when news erupted about a super typhoon brewing in the Pacific and set to take a path across where we were at. Born and raised in the Philippines, Yasmin and I are used tropical cyclones. On average 20 typhoons visit the Philippines every single year, most pass by quickly while a few leave a more lasting impression. But there was something about super typhoon Haiyan that worried us. Yasmin was set to fly to Manila the following day, but I had plans to go to a nearby province (Iloilo) to continue my data gathering. I could tell she was uneasy about my plans and was constantly reminding me to check with my contacts if the event would still push through. At the last minute my plans got cancelled and I had to rebook my flight back to Manila. While waiting at the boarding gate, flights to and from neighboring provinces were quickly being cancelled. We flew off away from typhoon Haiyan’s destructive path in the nick of time. We were lucky to be in Manila, away from harm.

Early morning of November 8 typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the province of Eastern Samar with sustained winds of 315 km/h (195 mph), making it the strongest tropical cyclone to ever made landfall in history. Haiyan’s strength is equated to a category 5 hurricane, 1.5 times more powerful than Katrina, a category 3 hurricane (at landfall) that caused the loss of at least 1800 lives in the United States in 2005. Haiyan remained a powerful storm when it struck the province of Leyte and gradually weakened when it made four additional landfalls in central Philippines. Haiyan left the Philippines area of responsibility on November 8, 2013, more than 12 hours after it made its first landfall.
Typhoon Haiyan’s Path. Source:

Size of Philippines and Typhoon Haiyan relative to the United State. Source: American Red Cross

The Calm After the Storm?

It was not as bad as we expected, at least from where we were in Manila. We were expecting torrential rains with harrowing winds, just as how we experienced super typhoons before. But it was surprisingly weaker that we imagined. The last typhoon that hit Metro Manila, we thought, was several orders more powerful. Apart from a few hours of power outage, the day Haiyan came was largely uneventful for us, Manileños (people living in Metro Manila.)

The calm we experienced in Manila did little for us to understand what it is like to be in Haiyan’s path. On November 9 (Saturday), a few news clips made their way to the giant television networks in Manila. Indeed, the images were very different from what we experienced. Winds were much stronger and there were flying debris and flooding. However, the first images shown did not reflect the damages we imagined a super typhoon would bring to a development country like the Philippines. Even a local news anchor was amazed how the first estimated death toll did not even reach 20. Yasmin and I breathed a sigh of relief, saying, “thank God we were spared,” but at the back of our heads we knew it was too soon to thank our lucky stars. Come the following day we realized that we spoke too soon.

The Devastation Unfolds

More news started to trickle in on November 10 (Sunday) when communication lines were being reestablished and more media personalities made their way to the affected areas. The first few images on the newspapers and television screens were shocking. Cities and towns reduced to rubble, remains of those who perished lie on the streets, and survivors scramble to find loved ones. A few towns were constantly featured, including Tacloban City, a once vibrant economic center of Leyte and the Eastern Visayan region. At least 90 percent of the city is believed to be destroyed, with very little man-made structures and trees remaining standing. Public infrastructure has been severely compromised: electricity and fresh water services indefinitely suspended; roads and bridges leading to the city impassable due to serious damages and large debris; the airport completely wrecked; and all communication lines down. The local government has been completely paralyzed, as civil servants, such as medical workers and police, have become victims themselves, with quite a few injured, missing or confirmed dead. Even the media could not find the right words to describe the magnitude of devastation in Tacloban City. But one correspondent did say, “this place is like a war zone, as if a bomb had been dropped here.” One survivor cried out loud to confirm, “there’s nothing left here. Tacloban is no more!”

The human drama narrated on the ground was too heartbreaking to watch. Local government officials burst into tears as they described their peoples’ traumatic experiences of surviving the powerful winds and storm surges. The mayor of Tacloban City recounted how he and the people in his home had to punch holes in the ceiling and climb to the second floor to avoid being swept away by the ravaging waters. Many detailed how they grabbed on to whatever they could as they watched family members being engulfed by the monster storm. Others did not even have to talk to news correspondents – the lifeless bodies they carried vividly conveyed their tragic encounters with Haiyan. I still cannot forget that Sunday when we saw the local paper’s front page photo of a father carrying his lifeless child on the streets of Tacloban City. It was a melancholic Sunday for me, my Dad, and Yasmin, and for every Filipino family across the nation.   

Extent of destruction in Tacloban City, Leyte. Source: Associated Press

Ships dragged inland by the storm surge in Tacloban City. Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

A resident in Tacloban City carrying his lifeless daughter. Source: Reuters

The Tragedy Continues

After the clouds cleared up to reveal the devastation in hard-hit towns and cities, the situation on the ground seemed to have gotten worse day by day. The absence of basic public and commercial infrastructure in afflicted towns and cities has triggered confusion, panic and despair. It is chaos on the ground. Survivors have rushed to leave their towns, only to find out that most of them are unable to do so. Some have anxiously waited for military planes to take in evacuees, while others have attempted to walk to other towns hoping for a better situation in those places. Meanwhile, communication has been down and victims are constantly findings ways to let their loved ones outside of their communities know of their situation. But it is not the inability to move out of afflicted areas or communicate with loved one that describe the seemingly worsening tragedy on the ground. It is the lack of food, fresh water and medical attention. 

Supervisors have become desperate as they scramble to find food, water and medical assistance. In Tacloban City, survivors amass outside the airport to cry out for basic aid to be delivered. The rush for food and water has also caused deadly stampedes, adding to the already growing number of casualties. Those injured have flocked to nearby hospitals and wrestled with others to get the attention of the already lean medical staff and to secure the remaining medicines. Victims in Tacloban are becoming increasingly frustrated, as the flow of relief goods and aid barely keep up with the incredible number of people who suffer and perish because of dehydration, starvation, and infections. Many resorted to “looting” grocery stores and supermarkets in frantic attempts to feed and save their families and friends. On top of the chaotic atmosphere is the horrific stench of decaying remains of people that are still lying uncollected on the streets and under the debris. Even those who have food could not bring themselves to eat because of the overpowering smell of decaying flesh.

Incidences of “looting” in Tacloban City. Source: EPA

Conflict and violence on the ground have also escalated. There have been reports of aid operations being attacked by rebels and even armed starving survivors. During relief operations, the Philippine Army has also been reported to engage in firefights with the members of the New Peoples Army, the militant armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Conflict has also reached areas unaffected by the typhoon. Sympathizers from Manila and other unaffected provinces have become frustrated and angry. Lately the social media has been inundated with “hate messages” towards the government because of the perceived slow delivery of aid. Even the news media is now rife with finger pointing and blaming. Unfortunately the tragedy has been reduced to ugly politicking, polarizing debates and coercing people to choose sides between anti- and pro-government. As one commentator said, “either you defend this man [the Philippine President] or you defend the people that this man is ignoring.”

Signs of Hope

The first five days after Haiyan struck the Philippines were disheartening and frustrating for many Filipinos, especially those directly affected by Haiyan’s full fury. Just when many of us are about to lose hope, stories of encouragement have started to reach mass media. Government agencies, religious groups, non-government organizations, schools, and home owner associations in Manila and elsewhere in the country have mobilized to get as many relief packages prepared and delivered to afflicted areas. This has included 24-hour repacking of relief goods in both governmental and non-governmental institutions. Evacuees from afflicted areas are also being attended by volunteers in several centers in Manila. Many creative endeavors have also been organized, such as the “art for a cause” and “dine for a cause” programs to rally the support of the elite. School organizations have also come up with novel ways of helping by building on their strengths. The National Institute of Physics, for example, recently started Project Lightline to make emergency mobile phone chargers out of donated electronic wastes. The organizers hope that Project Lightline would help survivors contact relatives and friends to let them know of their situation. Medical schools are also sending volunteers to assist in beleaguered hospitals and do forensic work for bereaved families.     

Support from overseas is likewise uplifting spirits here in the Philippines. Countries all over the world have begun pledging and donating funds for immediate response and reconstruction. Countries like Japan, Canada and the United States have sent their disaster experts and military forces to aid in distribution of relief goods. Even non-governmental organizations and private citizens abroad have made efforts to raise funds for the typhoon victims. A case in point is the story about a six-year old Japanese girl who gave up her savings to donate 5,000 Japanese Yen to the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo. The messages of concern Yasmin and I receive from friends and colleagues in the United States and Singapore are testament to the overwhelming support Filipinos receive from across the world.

An even inspiring set of stories is that of the courage and support that survivors share amongst each other. For some time, narratives of survivors “looting” shops and robbing other typhoon victims permeated media. These narratives conjured images of chaos and desperation, with some observers unfairly judging the character of Filipinos in these affected areas. There are now stories vividly recounting the resilience of families and communities and the kindness and compassion they share with each other. As recalled by one survivor, in the height of despair a stranger offered to her the food and water he “looted” from a nearby grocery store. There are also numerous reports of how some families have taken in their shelter other survivors and how many have risked their own lives saving those of others.

Relief repacking centers in Metro Manila. Source: DSWD

Mobile clinics provided by corporate foundations. Source: Rappler
Japanese Relief and Medical Workers in affected areas. Source: Associated Press

The Empire State Building shining the colors of the Philippine flag to raise awareness about typhoon Haiyan’s destruction.

More Help Needed

Although the delivery of food, water and medical supplies has recently hastened and the influx of aid and donations continue, the survivors of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines still need more assistance in the next months and years to come. It will definitely take time for survivors to get on their feet, recuperate from the trauma they experienced, and rebuild their lives. In disaster management, the assistance given months and years after a tragedy is just as important as the immediate response. Although we have been receiving generous assistance locally and abroad, we hope that help will continue to be available in the future. Certainly there is still a lot of work to be done.

Thank you for the concern and support you have given us these past few days. Please do not hesitate to contact me ( should you want to know more about the Haiyan disaster and/or offer some help. Yasmin and I will organize a short forum to talk about Haiyan, its aftermath and its implications when we return in Spring 2014. I will be posting a few more follow up blog posts in the next few weeks. Once again, thank you for your kind support.