Shelter in a shanty?

Posted: November 5, 2012 in pOstEd WeEkLY

“MANILA, Philippines—Deadly floods that have swamped nearly all of the Philippine capital are less a natural disaster and more the result of poor planning, lax enforcement and political self-interest, experts say.”-Mynardo Macaraig, NewsInfo

In a highly populated city such as Manila, Philippines, it is expected that there be segregation among differing social and socioeconomic developments—some being inner-city dwellings, established homes in neighborhoods, and some residents of Manila live in actual boxes along the river. As we often see in situations where entire populations are devastated by natural, or man-made, disasters there are severe injuries, emotional turmoil, and loss of home and often loved ones. Looking to August 2012 the Philippines was hit with a powerful typhoon absolutely devastating much of surrounding river area in Manila as well as other locations along the river line.

 

It is apparent, however, that areas often effected by natural disasters (earthquake, flood, typhoon, etc) either rebound due to already strong underlying structure, or crumble and struggle for years to re-build not just physical structure but also socioeconomic and familial structure.

 Eric Klinenberg, a Professor of Sociology and the Director of Graduate Studies at the University of California in Berkeley, stated:

 Check out…the EndPoverty 2015 Millennium Campaign Resources: excellent for reading and resources

“Framework suggests a novel approach for using environmental events as revealers of social conditions that are less visible but nonetheless present in everyday life. The model brings to the center three social conditions and processes that are largely peripheral to or absent from both popular and scientific analyses of disasters…” (242).

 Klinenberg breaks down his model, as previously stated, into three conditions—social morphology and political economy of vulnerability to determine damage; role of the state in determining vulnerability; and how the media and political officials decide to cover the issue

 Through his approach and utilizing his model of social conditions we can use a narrower—perhaps additionally objective—scope in viewing the disaster of the 2012 typhoon causing mass devastation in the Philippines. First we see the physical damage caused: the rushing floods of contaminated water rising up to the necks of many survivors, children collected on rafts avoiding drowning in the murky waters, shanties flattened by the powerful floods and wind, children abandoned and hugging anything concrete to avoid be washed away, etc. Second, we see only pictures of small life rafts being guided through the rising water by select few rescue crews. Lastly, the flood is being slathered across a wide range of media from social blogs, news stations, even as far as political campaigns.

 The main point is to take note of the mass devastation caused by “unavoidable” and yet completely avoidable disaster on those who are already suffering from poverty and poor living conditions. It is not those who are above the line of poverty that we see wading through filthy water holding the few belongings they have left above their heads, children hanging on their hips or clinging to small inflatable rafts next to them—we see those who have survived.

 

Klinenberg, Eric. Denaturalizing Disaster: A social autopsy of the 1995 Chicago Heat Wave. Theory and Society 28: 239-295, 1999.

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