Your Disaster is Not My Disaster: Ceylon Today op-ed essay

Meteosat 7 weather satellite image of the Indian Ocean – 30 Oct 2012 at 6 UTC



As Hurricane Sandy hammered the US East Coast earlier this week, we had our own meteorological worries. A tropical cyclone — belatedly named Neelam — swept past parts of Sri Lanka’s North and East. It then headed to southern India.

The two atmospheric turbulences were not comparable. Sandy was far more ferocious. But Neelam caused enough disruption as well — it wasn’t just a passing gust of wind.

As I followed the two disasters through print, TV and web media reporting, I wondered: how come we had more about Sandy in our own media than on Neelam?

Is it because, as some argue, the global media were so preoccupied with Sandy, and provided saturation coverage? Or are our own media outlets unable, or unwilling, to cover a local weather anomaly with depth and clarity?

This is the opening of my latest op-ed essay, Your Disaster is Not My Disaster, published in Ceylon Today newspaper, 1 Nov 2012.

Another excerpt:

“In today’s networked society, commercially operating news media are no longer the sole gatherers or distributors of news. Some members of their (formerly passive) audience are now mini news operations on their own.

“What does this mean for communicating in disaster situations that requires understanding and sensitivity? In which ways can we find synergy between mainstream and new/social media, so together they can better serve the public interest? What value-additions can the mainstream media still bring to the coverage of disasters? And what to do about ‘Chicken Little’ reporters who try to link everything to a looming climate catastrophe? I don’t have all the answers, but keep asking these necessary questions.”

Here’s the full text, saved from the e-paper:

Your Disaster is not My Disaster – by Nalaka Gunawardene, Ceylon Today 1 Nov 2012

See also my March 2011 blogpost: Drowning in Media Indifference: Who cares for the backwoods?

Wiz Quiz 5: Beware, the Fury of a Young Lady!

The current spell of heavy rainfall and resulting floods is being blamed on a phenomenon called La Niña. It involves both the ocean and atmosphere.

La Niña occurs when surface temperatures get cooler than normal (by 3 to 5 degrees Centigrade) in the western Pacific Ocean. During a La Niña, the cold water that pools near the coast of South America surges westwards across the mighty Pacific, the largest ocean in the world. This flow causes a greater build up of warmer water along the eastern coast of Australia and in the South East Asia region. The contrast in sea surface temperatures across the Pacific, as well as the contrast in air pressure, produces more rainfall.

La Niña is the Spanish term for “the girl child”. In that literal sense, the current weather extremes might be called the fury of a very formidable young lady! And it’s not the first time she has unleashed such havoc on us. This week in my quiz column, I started off with some questions on freaky weather, and then moved on to other topics.

Other ladies figure in the quiz: from Nobel Prize winning Marie Curie to Harry Potter creator J K Rowling. And we ask about the lady school teacher who died in the Challenger space shuttle disaster in February 1986.

Read Wiz Quiz 5: Fury of a Young Lady