The lesson of Tambora? Climate change changes everything, and fast. The disaster of 1815-18 draws localized attention to a unique, physically vulnerable region of the world, while also forcing us to think about climate on a global scale. In Tambora’s case, the pulse of climate catastrophe rippled outward from a single mountaintop in Indonesia. The world never knew what hit it, and traumatic memories lived on only in local histories and folklore. The challenge in writing my book was to weave these local narratives into a global story, a task that only modern climate science makes possible.
Today, climate science, with its global mindset, is doing the same to shape the Typhoon Haiyan story. As extreme weather disasters multiply in the tropics and beyond, at what point will international humanitarian institutions be overwhelmed, and victims by the millions left to fend for themselves, as in the global climate crisis of 1815-18?
Closer to home, how soon will we no longer be mere spectators of disaster news, but feel the creeping chill of our own vulnerability to an imminent Super Sandy or Super Katrina?
Naderev Sano refuses “to accept a future where super typhoons like Haiyan become a way of life” and asks us to stand with the people of the Philippines in this time of crisis. As a global story, the Haiyan challenge is far greater: to make a stand for humanity’s future on a livable planet.