• 28 September 2018

Blog: Would you be able to live in a place with a high potential risk and leave your house?

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Do you remember the 2003 European heat wave that led to the hottest summer since 1540? Or the severe drought episodes that devastated the southern European crops in 2017? Well in my job I try to study these episodes and understand why they could happen.

I’m Alice Baronetti, I’m a young PhD student at the Department of Earth Science in the University of Turin, Italy. Last week I was in Pisa for a Summer School on Climate Services and I found a really “heterogeneous” group of workers and students in climate stuff, with various backgrounds and coming from many parts of Europe and Africa.

I was really surprised by the different shades that the word “climate” has.

In particular, this experience made me think about the interdisciplinarity of this topic; how the management of our actions could affect the environment and vice versa; how many people still think that climate change is something far, far away from us.

During the week-long Summer School I heard various opinions of the different participants, mainly focused on the interaction between strategies to climate change of stakeholders and public authorities, and I was really surprised about the difficulty of explaining how their activity could impact the environment, and, most important, how climate services could change their thinking and management strategies.

Professor Marino Bonaiuto, of the University La Sapienza, Rome (Italy), provided an important starting point with his talk about human adaptation to extreme environment situations.

Pedro Murara of the Universidade Federal da Fronteira Sul, Chapecó (Brazil), a visiting professor at the University of Turin in 2016, observed that in the city of Santa Catarina, Brazil, the distribution of houses is influenced by the prosperity of the population. In this city flooding events are common and are experienced once a year by people who live on the plain along the coast. People who are wealthy live in the hilly side of the city and the poor ones live on the plain. He described in two simple words the lifestyle of the people on the plain: “amphibious life”. In fact, we can say that in these conditions people adopted an “adaptation strategy” that consists of two options:

  • Live on the hilly side, if there is the economic possibility;
  • Live on the plain and try to live with the flooding risk every year.

When floods strike, people who live on the plain leave behind all their stuff and move to the hilly side until the level of water goes down and they can return in their houses.

I was surprised and shocked about this behaviour. Because, in Italy and almost each European country, the place that you call home and come back after a long day of work, is not the physical place where you live, but also where you have all your memories and you consider it like a holy-safe place. Usually we spend all our savings to buy it, and leaving it almost each year due to, for example, a flooding event, is completely unbelievable for our mentality.

So what do you think about it? Would you be able to live in a place with a high potential risk and leave your house?

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