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Sri Lanka Landslides Kill at Least 73 with Scores More Missing

By: Jamie Grierson

Men push a trishaw through flood waters in the Kolonnawa suburb of Colombo. Many people have volunteered to provide food and clothing to those affected. Photograph: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images

Landslides and heavy flooding have killed at least 73 people in Sri Lanka, with scores more missing and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes.

Torrential rains have deluged the island nation since last weekend, triggering huge landslides that have buried victims in up to 15 metres (50 feet) of mud.

In the capital, Colombo, thousands of homes remained inundated, though there were signs that the waters were receding, according to AP. About 243,000 people remained in temporary shelters nationwide.

As the heaviest rains in a quarter of a century battered Sri Lanka, cyclone Roanu barrelled into the Bangladesh coastline leaving six people dead and forcing the evacuation of 500,000 as it unleashed winds as strong as 54mph and heavy downpours.

Soldiers looked for bodies in thick mud deposits in the central district of Kegalle, where landslides swallowed up three villages on Tuesday.

Major Gen Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is coordinating the search, said one body and parts of another were found on Saturday. From the landslides in the three villages, 21 people have been confirmed dead and 123 others are missing. Ranasinghe said another part of the same mountain crashed down Saturday, but there were no casualties because residents had been evacuated after the first landslides.

As civilians volunteered to provide food and clothing to the affected people, foreign assistance was arriving after an appeal by Sri Lanka’s foreign minister. India and Japan sent relief items including medicine, tents, tarpaulin sheets, generators and water purifiers. Japan will also send disaster management experts to help expedite relief efforts and look at ways to reduce landslide risks, the Japanese embassy in Colombo said. The US has announced a three-year project to help Sri Lanka maintain supplies of safe drinking water even during times of drought and flooding.

As aid began to arrive on Saturday, Sri Lankan authorities said their priority was now preventing diseases such as diarrhoea, with many areas still under water. “We have sent a large number of doctors and nursing staff to ensure there is no outbreak of waterborne diseases,” the health minister, Rajitha Senaratne, told AFP.

The accommodation booking website Airbnb listed at least 29 places offering free lodging for anyone affected by the floods in Sri Lanka. Disaster management officials said there had been a huge outpouring of sympathy for victims with donations of food, clothing and dry rations.

The meteorological department said the rains were caused by a depression in the Bay of Bengal, ahead of the arrival of the south-west monsoon.

About 22 of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts have been affected by the rains, according to disaster officials. Almost a third of residents have been moved from the low-lying capital, which has a population of about 650,000.

Full story available here.

Somewhere in the world, a disaster occurs each day. Sometimes the impacts are felt locally, such as the recent wildfires near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colorado, that destroyed 605 homes. Other times, the event reaches across state and national boundaries, such as Hurricane Sandy along the east coast, and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Globally, the number of natural disasters has increased fourfold during the past three decades—from about 120 per year during the 1980s to roughly 500 per year now. These disasters, which claim tens of thousands of lives each year, exert a disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable individuals.

At the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis (CDRA) at Colorado State University, we engage in interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach activities for the primary purpose of reducing human vulnerability to disasters and increasing individual and community capacity to prepare for and recover from hazard events.

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The Katrina Bookshelf

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SHOREline Recruitment Video

Are you a high school student during the 2013-2014 academic year? Do you see challenges in your community that young people could address if they had the chance? Would you like to make a difference and meet new people from across the Gulf Coast and beyond? If you answered "Yes!" and you attend one of the following five high schools in the Gulf Coast areas, get an application at today. Grand Isle School, LA; Benjamin Franklin High School, LA; South LaFourche High School, LA; Gulfport High School, MS; and Bryant High School, AL.

Youth Creating Disaster Recovery

Brett Blair is a master's student in intercultural and international communication at Royal Roads University. Through a compelling video piece, Brett showcases the work of SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship-funded colleague Robin Cox, who studies youth empowerment as part of disaster recovery. Emphasizing the research's model of participatory, creative engagement, Blair's video also explores the increasingly-vocal youth demographic and its impact on shaping disaster policy and practice.

Gulf Oil Spill Research Goes Mobile with AT&T

August 23, 2012 - Following disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health deploys a field team to collect research on the health, social and economic impacts on people who live within disaster zones. Under an agreement with AT&T, the NCDP uses the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 on AT&T's network to conduct surveys in the field and instantly share feedback with their team in New York.

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After six months of filming in the Gulf in 2010, our first project, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The Dispersant Experiment” draws from local residents, a variety of experts, and an in-depth lab experiment to exposes the truth about BP’s cleanup in the Gulf.

Please help share our piece as we aim to spread this truth and combat the multi-million dollar PR campaign that claims all is well.  As legal battles continue to play out, it is not too late to bring justice to the people of the Gulf.

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The Brooklyn-based nonprofit "Care for Sandy" has emerged as one of the critical grassroots groups helping residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy save some of their most cherished memories. For more:




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SoGES Names 2015-16 Global Challenges Research Teams and Resident Fellows

The 2015-16 SoGES Global Challenges Research Teams and Research Fellows (front to back, starting at left): María Fernández-Giménez, Michele Betsill, Thomas Borch, Demitris Stevis, Craig Trumbo, Tara O’Connor Shelley, Charles Davis, Sonia Kreidenweis, Yury Desyaterik, Jens Blotevogel, Stephanie Malin, Colleen Duncan, Jane Choi, Arathi Seshadri, Marilee Long, Jennifer Cross, Brian Dunbar, Jennifer Peel

The School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES) has announced seven diverse Global Challenges Research Teams and three Resident Faculty Fellows. The awards, which were selected from a competitive field of proposals submitted during the winter of 2015, are intended to encourage interdisciplinary understanding of complex global environmental issues, foster collaborative cross-campus partnerships, and support sustainability research at CSU.

The School funds innovative and interdisciplinary research that addresses sustainability to grand challenges, involving faculty members and researchers from across colleges. Selected projects target all six of the Research Focal Areas:

  • Climate Change and Energy
  • Food Security
  • Environmental Institutions and Governance
  • Sustainable Communities
  • Land and Water Resources and
  • Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management.

“We are very excited about this year’s awards,” says Diana Wall, director of SoGES. “We had a very strong pool of proposals, which shows the breadth and excellence of sustainability work here at CSU. I was particularly pleased that many of the proposals were aimed at improving the connections between scientific research and societal decision-making which is a key need for enhancing global sustainability.”

The 2015-2016 Global Challenges Research Teams
  • Food Systems Research Group. Principal Investigators: Meagan Schipanski and Arathi Seshadri, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences; Cini Brown, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management; Michael Carolan, Department of Sociology; and Robert Duffy, Department of Political Science. This research team will facilitate systems-based research to address the challenge of improving global food accessibility while reducing agriculture’s environmental impacts.
  • Environmental Justice CSU. Principal Investigators: Tara O’Connor Shelley and Stephanie Malin, Department of Sociology; Dimitris Stevis, Department of Political Science; and Melinda Laituri, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability. This research team will work to deepen and broaden the environmental justice community within CSU, establish networks within the region and globally, and demonstrate how and why equity and environmental justice are necessary elements of the study of the environment, public health, and sustainability.
  • Hydraulic Fracturing. Principal Investigators: Thomas Borch, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences; Yury Desyaterik, Department of Atmospheric Science; Jens Blotevogel, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and William Hanneman, Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences. This research team will study the potential groundwater and human health impacts of surface spills containing chemicals used for unconventional oil and gas exploration.
  • Social Sciences in Air Quality, Climate, and Health Research. Principal Investigators: Marilee Long, Department of Journalism and Technical Communication and Department of Community and Behavioral Health; Sonia Kreidenweis, Department of Atmospheric Science and Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere; John Volckens, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Center for Energy Development and Health; A.R. Ravishankara, Department of Chemistry; and Jennifer Peel, Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences. This research team will study linkages between pollution and other aspects of air quality, climate change, and public health, with engagement from the social sciences to better understand human choices and behavior, improve communication of risks associated with poor air quality, and devise solutions to improve human health.
  • World Wide Views on Climate Change and Energy. Principal Investigators: Michele Betsill, Department of Political Science; Tony Cheng, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship; David McIvor, Department of Political Science. Following the June 6, 2015, World Wide Views on Climate and Energy ‘Day of Deliberation’ event, this GCRT will convene an interdisciplinary team to discuss results from the event and to conduct academic research projects on citizen engagement and public opinion on climate change and energy issues.
  • EcoDistrict Urban Resiliency Metrics. Principal Investigators: Brian Dunbar, Institute for the Built Environment; Jane Choi, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture; and Jeni Cross, Department of Sociology. This research team will develop standardized measures and collect baseline data to create a scientifically rigorous set of metrics for the EcoDistrict Framework, which will eventually be tested in the City of Fort Collins to help the City realize its climate neutrality, resource reduction, and healthy community goals.
  • Adaptation to Alternating Weather Extremes. Principal Investigators: Craig Trumbo, Department of Journalism and Technical Communication; Lori Peek, Department of Sociology; Melinda Laituri, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability; and Russ Schumacher, Department of Atmospheric Science. This research team will study the ecological and social impacts of rapid “whiplash” among droughts, wildfires, and floods as a consequence of climate change and work to identify strategies to better prepare communities for sustainable adaptation to this increasing threat.

“The support from SoGES will help us cultivate relationships among social, biological, and physical scientists across CSU who conduct research in these areas.” said Long, PI of Social Sciences in Air Quality Climate and Health Research. “Interdisciplinary research is vital to us understanding the key issues and developing effective solutions to problems of air quality, climate change, and public health.”

Resident Fellows

Three Resident Fellows also receive support from the School to advance studies in global environmental sustainability:

  • Charles Davis, Department of Political Science. Charles’ research will address efforts by federal and state agencies to deal with air quality impacts associated with the production of shale-based oil and gas resources in the U.S.
  • Colleen Duncan, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology. Colleen’s Fellowship will explore the concept of health as a unifying theme through which to promote conservation and sustainable use of public lands.
  • María Fernández-Giménez, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship. María plans to explore how art and sustainability science intersect, and specifically how poetry, storytelling and music can be used to discover, analyze, and communicate about human-environmental relationships.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in the SoGES Resident Fellowship program for 2015-2016,” said Duncan. “I’m interested in learning how to better integrate sustainability into my own research and outreach projects, as well as how to share this information with veterinary students and other animal health professionals in our college.”

Original story available here.