Earlier this month Typhoon Hiayan, one of the strongest storms ever recorded, wreaked havoc across the Philippines, claimed thousands of lives, and caused incredible amounts of physical damage. Typhoon Hiayan has been spoken of as a “once in a lifetime” example of extreme weather by politicians and the press. However, such extreme acts of nature are becoming increasingly common and scientists are increasingly finding reasons to link these occurrences to climate change.
This week the latest round of UN climate talks has been taking place in Warsaw, Poland. The representative from the Philippines claimed that climate change was to blame for the strength and destruction of Typhoon Hiayan and that such disaster was man-made. This leads one to the question: if greenhouse emissions from wealthy countries are causing natural disasters abroad, how should those who suffer be compensated? This morning representatives from most of the world’s poor countries walked out of the meeting after the EU, the US, and Australia all insisted on postponing the discussion of compensation for extreme climate change until 2015 at the earliest. African countries are many of those believed to be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
The discussion happening in Warsaw at the moment highlights how intertwined the world is; environmental destruction is an international problem, however the burden falls mostly on the global poor. This brings to mind the painting by Jerry Buhari Fall and Spill History. This painting has two main narratives: one is the beautiful autumnal colors of trees in North America, and the other is the twisted beauty of oil spills in the Niger Delta, which exist in order to heat homes in the United States. Buhari’s piece expresses the importance in understanding that our modern way of life is not without consequences.
b. 1959, Nigeria
Fall and Spill History
Acrylic on canvas
Collection of Linda Lawrence, Salina, Kansas