Disasters should no longer be viewed in isolation
When we recognize common root causes and emerging risks resulting from disasters like these and become aware of the interconnectivity between them, we will understand them better. This will also enable us to take collective actions at the global level that will change the larger, systemic processes behind them and ideally prevent similar events from occurring in the future.
Interconnected root causes call for interconnected solutions
As the interconnected nature of events and their underlying root causes are increasingly creating emerging risks at all scales, it is time to recognize the shortcomings of fragmented responses. Ideally, the solutions we implement will have benefits across different dimensions. Cutting our greenhouse gas emissions, for instance, could eventually prevent a further increase in the frequency and severity of hazards linked to atmosphere and ocean warming (such as the Central Viet Nam floods, driven by a series of tropical storms and cyclones), thus reducing risk in vulnerable areas. Additionally, slowing down and ultimately holding climate change is beneficial for biodiversity and ecosystems as it gives more time for ecosystems and species to adapt to changing conditions. This would not only help to protect biodiversity, for example in the Great Barrier Reef, but would also allow us to maintain the benefits a healthy reef provides to society such as coastal protection, recreational value and fish for consumption. These types of solutions use interconnectivity to our advantage to reduce risks and the severity of impacts, and they also help to avoid a cascade of disastrous events and therefore the emerging risks they contribute to.
Solutions that address the tip of the iceberg rather than the underlying root causes are not only bound to be less efficient, but they also bring with them additional risks. Actions designed to reduce risk in one system can have negative impacts on another. For example, one solution to reduce disaster risk is to build sea walls or river dams that come with negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem health. A better solution would be to integrate ecosystem-based measures along with built infrastructure that can help reduce disaster risk, while also protecting biodiversity. Addressing any potential trade-offs is important to ensure that implemented solutions don’t become part of a further problem.
We as individuals can be part of the solution
While many of the solutions require actions on international, national or regional scale, individual actions or inactions also matter. Because disasters can be connected to individual and collective human behaviour, we can be part of the solution if we take actions, which support solutions or avoid further risk creation. We can be agents of change if we learn about risks and adjust our own behaviours at the individual level, while also demanding change and action from the society we live in.