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Crisis Mapping Helps with Disaster Relief

Voice of America - June 30, 2011

After devastating natural disasters, mobile phone networks, satellites and other computer software are often used to help to pinpoint where help is needed the most.  They are crucial for the creation of crisis maps.

The power of the mobile phone and other social media became clear in the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan.  Just hours after disaster struck, Japanese volunteers used social media information  to create a crisis map.  The map indicated hazardous areas and emergency services.  Hundreds of people each day posted updates to the map on the Internet, including information from radio stations.

Crisis maps also helped with relief efforts in Haiti. Thousands of text messages provided information to international aid organizations about shelter, food supplies and sanitation.  A mapping team helped pinpoint search and rescue requests for people trapped in the rubble.

Sheldon Himelfarb is the director of peacebuilding at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. "The word went out that if you texted a certain short code number with your call for help, it would be captured, mapped and it would enable responders to help… We saw very quickly how the emergency responders of all sorts, from the Red Cross to the military to the NGOs started to rely on this map," Himelfarb said.

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Video - TEDxLansing-Theresa Bernardo-Save Yourself!

Uploaded by on Jun 8, 2011

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Mob Rule: Iceland Crowdsources its Next Constitution

submitted by Theresa Bernardo

Guardian News and Media - June 9, 2011

Country recovering from collapse of its banks and government is using social media to get citizens to share their ideas.

It is not the way the scribes of yore would have done it but Iceland is tearing up the rulebook by drawing up its new constitution through crowdsourcing.

As the country recovers from the financial crisis that saw the collapse of its banks and government, it is using social media to get its citizens to share their ideas as to what the new document should contain.

"I believe this is the first time a constitution is being drafted basically on the internet," said Thorvaldur Gylfason, member of Iceland's constitutional council.

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The UVA Bay Game - Global Watershed Sustainability Simulation Projects

submitted by Theresa Bernardo

The UVA Bay Game is a large-scale participatory simulation based on the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Game allows players to take the roles of stakeholders, such as farmers, developer, watermen, and local policy-makers, make decisions about their livelihoods or regulatory authority; and see the impacts of their decisions on their own personal finances, the regional economy, and watershed health. It is an adaptable educational and learning tool for raising awareness about watershed stewardship anywhere in the world; a tool for exploring and testing policy choices; and a tool for evaluating new products and services.

Developed by a multi-disciplinary faculty and student team, the UVA Bay Game combines a video game format with current demographic, economic, and scientific data to create a powerful tool with real-world applications and impact. It has been hailed by federal and state agency, NGO, and corporate and education leaders as "the first of its kind."

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Disaster Preparedness To Be Incorporated Into UK Development Programs, DFID Report Says

submitted by Mary Suzanne Kivlighan

Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report - June 16, 2011

"Preparing a country for disaster will become a core part of the UK government's development programmes around the world to ensure a faster and more efficient response to major disasters," the Department of International Development (DFID) said on Wednesday in an official response (.pdf) to Lord Paddy Ashdown's independent review of humanitarian disasters that was issued in March, the Guardian reports.

Al Gore's Critique Sparks Debate Over Obama's Record on Climate Change

 

The following video looks at the key perspectives regarding the issue of whether the Obama Administration has engaged policies that effectively address the threat of climate change.

 

http://news.google.com/?ar=1308834370

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Simulation Fukushima Reactor 4-like Meltdown in a U.S. Nuclear Power Plant

It has been proposed that there should be a serious game simulation of a Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant reactor 4-like accident in a U.S. power plant to test the U.S. public's preparedness and ability to utilize social media and government risk communication messaging to reduce health and human security concerns around U.S. nuclear plants.  Many U.S. power plants, often close to major U.S. population centers like New York City and Omaha, Nebraska, share Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power vulnerability of storing spent fuel rods on site.  The U.S. has not prepared the American public in projected plume areas for sheltering in place and evacuations that would dramatically reduce their risk in a Fukushima-like accident.  

This week's loss of power during flooding at the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant, near Omaha, Nebraska demonstrates that this problem is not theoretical.  Although power was only cut to the plant for 90 minutes, if the power shortage had continued for over 28 hours or so, a catastrophic meltdown could have threatened Omaha, Nebraska with high-levels of radiation.

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The Nation: Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency Claims a Near Catastrophic Meltdown of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska

 This unusual story from Pakistan's "The Nation" claims that there has been a cover up of a near catastrophic meltdown for the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant near Omaha, Nebraska.  Evidence from the nuclear power plant and U.S. regulators indicate that the Pakistani story and Russian claims are significantly over-reaching.  The flooding that caused a Fukushima reactor 4-like spent fuel rod cooling pond interruption of power led to a 90 minute interruption of power, but the temperature of the cooling pond and the water coverage of the spent fuel rods did not approach circumstances that would cause a meltdown, according to U.S. officials. 

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U.N./Brookings Meeting: Good Practices for Humanitarian Response in Complex Security Environments

To Stay and Deliver: Good Practice for Humanitarians in Complex Security Environments Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 9:00 am - 10:30 am The Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium, 1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC Humanitarian assistance providers have always acknowledged the risks inherent to their line of work, yet recent statistics demonstrate that this is a particularly hazardous time to be an aid worker. Within the past decade, casualty rates have tripled, reaching above 100 deaths per year. Since 2005, hundreds of major attacks have been reported on aid workers in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia and other countries, prompting aid agencies to limit their presence in areas where assistance may be most needed. In response to the growing tension between maintaining humanitarian access and ensuring humanitarians' safety, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has documented strategies and practices for upholding effective operations in high security risk contexts. On June 21, the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement will host the launch of the OCHA- commissioned study, "To Stay and Deliver: Good Practice for Humanitarians in Complex Security Environments," with a discussion exploring risk management strategies to protect humanitarian operations and personnel.

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The Earth Is Full

Thomas L. Friedman - The New York Times - June 7, 2011

You really do have to wonder whether a few years from now we’ll look back at the first decade of the 21st century — when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornados plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all — and ask ourselves: What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once?

“The only answer can be denial,” argues Paul Gilding, the veteran Australian environmentalist-entrepreneur, who described this moment in a new book called “The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World.” “When you are surrounded by something so big that requires you to change everything about the way you think and see the world, then denial is the natural response. But the longer we wait, the bigger the response required.”

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