Exposed islands: earthquake, tsunami, volcano, cyclone.

I’m running a small strategy workshop, and a colleague is looking at his phone:

“It’s ok, its only a level one warning for a tsunami’


After the magnitude 7 earthquake this morning, everyone in the meeting seems fine, so we continue with our work.


It came to nothing, but served a very real reminder of the fragility of these islands. These exposed specks in the wine dark sea: vulnerable.


A bit of expat chatter on facebook shows some are moving to higher ground, but most just keep doing what they are doing. We continue on with our meeting.


The official emails arrive ‘level one, be vigilant’.


I hear the kettle boil, so I make a cup of tea. I’m hungry. I ask my colleague if it’s ok to walk down to the market for food.


Yes, don’t worry – just listen for the warning. If it goes, just go straight up the hill. Don’t come back to the office – go straight up.


At the market people are going about their business as usual.


And the sea is calm.

Screenshot 2017-11-21 21.26.47


The UN World Risk Index places Vanuatu on the top of the global pile:


The Index consists of indicators in the four components of exposure towards natural hazards such as earthquakes, cyclones, flooding, drought and sea level rise, susceptibility depending on infrastructure, food, housing and economic framework conditions, coping capacities depending on governance, risk reduction, early warning, healthcare, social and material coverage and adaptive capacities related to future natural hazards and the impacts of climate change.

 Screenshot 2017-11-29 10.55.16

Big things happen on (or to) these little islands. My best mates here were evacuated to Vila as the volcano on Ambae started to do it’s thing last month:


Many of the scars of 2015 Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam have yet to heal – a great deal of wonderful work has taken place, but the visual reminders of boats thrown up on the shore greets me every morning as I sit in front of cyclone shutters on the balcony to drink coffee.


So here we are. There is a special type of resilience in the people. Or is it acceptance – I don’t know. Perhaps it is normalisation. Or is it strength that comes from the necessity of extreme self-reliance and exceptionally strong community and family bonds.


I just don’t know enough about these islands, or these people, to be able to understand.

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