Natural Hazards: Awareness and Preparedness

It would be ideal if we avoided areas threatened by natural hazards. Since that is not always possible, the alternative is to adapt by being more personally aware and prepared.

In the United States September is National Preparedness Month  (in Canada it is held during the first full week of May; in Bangladesh the last Thursday in March). Having a specific time reminds us that we certainly need to be aware of the threats posed by natural hazards. We also need to be prepared for these threats, as individuals and communities.

It was no surprise to me that the USGS’s first unofficial ‘prepper’ post was a list of resources for educators and kids. With advisories, it helps to have the end user understanding them; we might as well start young.

So, I began a series in Decoded Science on hazards preparation with what I know, from experience, appeals to students: volcanoes.

If I’d been asked to speculate, however, what natural hazard the USGS would begin its 30 days of preparedness tips with, I admit it would not have been Geomagnetic Storms. That’s something I don’t think about, although being a Canadian I love the Northern Lights. And I’m sure many others view the space between the planets as empty and therefore harmless. But I guess I should change my thinking because Geomagnetic Storms was the natural hazard they chose.

The tragedies in Colorado led to a discussion of flash flooding and landslide awareness and preparedness. The series also include earthquakes, hurricanes and collapse sinkholes. I encourage you to take a look.


Environmental Activities That Teachers Care About

Teachers care about the environment and promote environmental activities as demonstrated in a series of features in the Retired Teachers of Ontario Magazine, Renaissance.

Special Renaissance Featuring Protection of Our Planet. Image by Ray Thomas

Special Renaissance Featuring Protection of Our Planet. Image by Ray Thomas

Environmental Activities Suggested by Children

Even the RTO President’s children got into the act with wise ideas such as:

  • more large garbage cans in public areas
  • using both sides of paper
  • putting information online in a downloadable format
  • using public transportation, biking and walking
  • spending less time showering and bathing
  • keeping chemicals, paints and oils out of the water supply

Green Warriors

So called Green Warriors were also featured and a familiar quote by Margaret Mead cited:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Several types of environmental activities included were:

  • natural corridor restoration and preservation e.g. Windsor’s Little River
  • ocean conservation e.g. diving do and don’ts
  • reducing greenhouse emissions e.g. stop flying and take a train
  • education i.e. empowering grandparents (see For Our Grandchildren)

Cleaner Ecological Footprints

A related feature was entitled Cleaner Footprints and included ingenious ways to help the environment. Included were the standard tips for reducing your ecological footprint such as:

  • hanging clothes to dry
  • composting kitchen waste
  • using a rain barrel to collect water for gardening
  • requesting e-billing instead of snail mail
  • using natural detergents and soaps
  • using and purchasing Energy Star appliances

Ingenious Environmental Activities 

But the virtues of Recycling and Quilting were taken to a new level:

  • Collecting newspapers for Therm-O-Comfort and using the revenue was promoted, in this case to renovate a church
  • Promoting the re-purposing and using of old fabrics to create stashes for quilting was encouraged, an old skill revitalized. 

You’ve Got a Heart

Finally, two teachers were featured in a section entitled, ‘Walk Your Heart Out’. One contributor, in ‘Life in the Slow lane’, talked about walking as a great way to explore cities while traveling. Another contributor took walking a step further by suggesting Nordic Pole Walking as a way to enhance the experience by getting a full cardiovascular workout.

Bravo fellow teachers!!!

Preserving the Earth: The New Geography

The times, they are a changing for geography. The old geography is places and maps while the new geography is digitizing the data. The old geography pinpoints the Sudan-South Sudan border while the new geography uses satellite imagery to document violence against civilians for use by peacekeepers. The old geography describes the location of wildfires in Colorado while the new geography incorporates satellite images, photographs, videos, social media to create real-time maps for warning communities in harms way. All of this was neatly summarized in a recent LA Times must-read article by Susan Spano.

By coincidence, I penned several articles on this subject for Decoded Science. It seems to me that educators had better get tuned in. The earth’s most pressing and mystifying problems are being investigated by this new geography and creating new careers paths for our young people, all while geography is losing ground as a subject in school curricula. Come on folks, get with it!

For anyone interested in a short book that examines the skills of the geographer and what is happening in the subject, The Geographer’s Toolbox- Volume One is available as a .doc file from Teachers Pay Teachers.


Protecting the Earth: Religions and the Environment

Back in September of 2011, the first witness for the prosecution in the Dr. Murray manslaughter trial was Kenny Ortega, the co-director of the ‘This is It’ tour, the tour that never happened. Mr. Ortega expressed how excited Michael Jackson was about the relevancy of his songs on the subject of protecting the earth’s environment and its people.

It should be noted that Michael Jackson’s faith was Jehovah Witness, a religion that believes environmental destruction is an offence to God, and that he will intervene to destroy despoilers and ensure the survival of his handiwork; a religion that believes that the earth is here to stay and that the meek will inherit it; that God’s creation will never be destroyed. Continue reading

Preferred World Teaching Tool

Here is a teaching tool for you educators out there. It looks at a preferred world. If you use it please let us know how it worked out.

Part A: Global

Pose the question: What would a preferred world for all people consist of? Then list suggestions for all to see. e.g. blackboard

Note: set criteria

  • short e.g. no starvation
  • technologically feasible

When description is finished, point out that the group has done two things simultaneously:

  1. defined a preferred state
  2. defined the problem state. e.g. simply put a negative sign in front of all the qualities of preferred state

Number the items in the list in terms of priority (Rank Order).


Stress the following points:

  • emphasis on defining where we want to go rather that what is wrong;
  • everything listed can be achieved with present day know-how and current technology


In groups of 2-3, discuss the following questions and have spokespersons report their ideas to group:

  • what alternatives are there for getting to the preferred state (list best)
  • what plans, strategies, and tactics can we design for getting to the preferred state (List all; pick one)
  • what needs to be invented or done to get to the preferred state?

Looking forward to feed back.

The Management of Assets and World Catastrophes defines an asset as “something valuable that an entity owns, benefits from, or has use of, in generating income.” Webster’s dictionary defines assets, the plural version, as the “entire property of a trader or company of traders.”

The management of assets is essentially tracking in order to optimize the use and value of the assets, from the personal to the global level. As Robert Michael points out in his article “The Definition of Asset Management” on, asset management is “not something you can buy, but rather a discipline you must follow in order to maintain your assets.” Continue reading

Climate Change: Who is Watching the Earth?

This site is all about the Earth: how to preserve and sustain it; and how to respond, for example, to its processes including climate change.

My alma mater, as mentioned in other posts, is the University of Waterloo: Their geographers are actively watching the Earth: Ellesworth LeDrew has his sights on coral reefs; Daniel Scott is observing the effect of climate change on international tourism (impact of submerging coastlines), particularly in the Caribbean; and Johanna Wande; is researching how the homeless (a vulnerable population) deal with ‘weird’ weather patterns and large scale climate change. Then there is ‘ice cube’ (IC3).
  Continue reading

Environment Friendly Garden Tools and Services

Our backyard is small, but filled with lilac trees and evergreen bushes. Squirrels abound while birds nest in the trees and bird houses. Pine barked and grassy areas each share a portion of the yard. With water usage getting expensive we have become zeroscapers, and with new regulations against chemicals on the lawns we spend time weeding by hand. To compound things, there is always waste from my building projects to be disposed of.

But we don’t complain. Being ecologically responsible is the new norm in many gardens and around many homes, and there are easy and environment-friendly alternatives to the old ways as suppliers get on board. Continue reading

Planning Sustainable and Green Communities

Planning sustainable and green communities is vital with a large percentage of the world’s population living in cities: If we want these burgeoning urban areas to add value to their residents now and in the future their city plans need to incorporate green and sustainable principles and this usually means change. In my community, Steve Green of Windsor  Essex Community Supported Agriculture (WECSA) is inviting people to sign a petition for presentation to Windsor’s city council. He wants his community, Windsor, to be a Gateway to a sustainable and green community. Continue reading