Learning by design or by disaster

A few days ago the city of La Plata, in Argentina, suffered an unprecedented monster storm, the worst rainfall in La Plata’s recorded history. Almost the entire city tumblr_mkpciqNuMW1rf9hn3o1_1280  was flooded, more than 3oo mm of water fell in less than three hours, in some parts of the city the water raised up to 2 meters high. 51 people died drowned trapped in cars or houses (the number is still rising, people is still missing). A few hours before, another storm hit Buenos Aires, the capital city leaving another 8 fatal victims. After the storm, thousands of refugees were  temporarily relocated, many hundreds still remain away from their houses, entire families with children and elderly. Many schools and public services will remain closed for days, and hospitals in state of emergency. Ruined cars were spread everywhere. Hundreds of houses and stores remain inhabitable and material lost is still incalculable.

This is not a distant climate change story or a catastrophe movie for me. I was born in this city, I have relatives there, and my childhood memories are still attached to the place.

Five years ago, when I was teaching a design project about Climate Refugees, I wouldn’t believe if someone would tell me “this is going to happen one day to La Plata”. In order to give my students a picture of what I was trying to describe back then, the places I mentioned in my lectures were closer to Bangladesh or the Marshall Islands, nothing close to Argentina.


Here in Canada, there in Argentina, pretty much everywhere I go, I observe the same difficulty to make connections between new natural disasters’ patterns and anthropocenic causes. Politicians blame each other, people blame politicians and nothing else change, except for the lives of those who suffer more and pay the real cost of ignoring the source of the problem. Climate change is a real threat, not an invented one. A friend of mine living in Buenos Aires posted a comment in FB “What about connecting these abundant rains with cutting trees at the Argentinian rain forests or the Amazon? Why our presidents don’t take care of the real problem?”

Unfortunately our elected governments are a clear reflection of our misled societies, they learn by disaster and not by design. Nature does not care about borders or human rules. This happens in Canada as well as in Argentina.

The changes in climate events today are the product of anthropocenic changes introduced in the past. Some scientist suggest GHG emitted 60 or 70 years ago, others suggest since the aftermath of the industrial revolution. So, what we do (or keep doing) today is going to be inherited by our children and grandchildren._GER5418.JPG

As a designer I’m an rational optimist, I still see hope building resilience to cope with future natural events and consequent human changes. I thing we will face more problems of design and less of management. But I’m afraid this is just the beginning of a new challenging era.


Images retrieved from clarin.com.ar
  1. July 23rd, 2013

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