Journal of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning: January Editorial
Extinction Rebellion, Yellow Vests, Pro and Anti Brexiteers, Dump Trump Campaigners, Hong Kong Protests
By Lyndon Bird
Chief Knowledge Officer
Nowadays, it seems that the response to anything you don’t like is to come out on the streets and demonstrate. Of course, Hong Kong is the odd one out in this frenzy of activism. They are the only demonstrators that are really putting their lives and futures at risk for a cause – the right to limited democracy and freedom. What unites the rest of the protesters is that they are allowed to protest because they have all the rights denied to those in Hong Kong. Put simply they already have democracy and freedom, but with that freedom comes a responsibility to use it in a grown-up and sensible manner. It is correct that those who do not like the way their country is being run have the right to protest. However, how far they should be allowed to cause injury to people, damage to property and general disruption to business and people’s lives is a different question.
Readers of this journal have cause to reflect on this state of affairs, whether or not they believe strongly in any of the issues being raised by protesters. Ultimately it is the emergency services that have to deal with wide-spread civil disruption and casualties. However, businesses also suffer as office workers, train operators, airports and road transportation are stopped from carrying out their legitimate activities. I know many Business Continuity managers who are now treating this type of disruption as a priority issue.
In reality, the political activists who take to the streets in London, Paris or Washington are following a traditional path – essentially they want their governments to change direction. However, the climate activists who occupy iconic streets in the richest countries of the world create new and unique challenges for the authorities. They do not want just local political change but a global, cultural and behavioural revolution. It seems obvious to me that the vast majority of people now accept that climate change is happening. Few dispute that it is a serious problem and that the reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is crucial. Thus, the protesters might have actually achieved one objective already by raising awareness of many climate issues.
They have also been indirectly successful in getting some governments to take action, such as targeting a zero carbon future for the UK by 2050. However, regardless of the rights and wrongs of their case, there seems little point in alienating the wider general public through disruptive actions which simply cause inconvenience and anger. Do they really expect all the governments of the world to respond to what are largely childish stunts? I am sure that people in China, Russia, India, Turkey and most of the developing world are bemused by the protests – seeing them as yet another example of the privileged rich, western economies indulging themselves.
For me, any weather related disaster (which I accept might be made worse by climate change) puts the naivety of such protests into perspective. In The Bahamas, a country I know quite well, hurricane Dorian has virtually destroyed the infrastructure in several islands and caused chaos and economic ruin for many families. At one point the Prime Minister indicated that at least 60,000 people had no food, shelter or clean water. It was he said “the worst incident that had ever happened to his country”.
Given these figures and with such incidents on the increase, we as emergency and continuity experts need to keep our focus on where we can make a difference. Our skills are in helping mitigate the loss of life and livelihoods through better planning and management. Although highly desirable, global carbon reduction to any realistic level over the next 25 years will not help island nations like The Bahamas in the short-term. For me, disaster risk reduction is the one climate change related issue that resilience professionals can meaningfully contribute to today.
Once again, I thank all our authors for a wide range of interesting and challenging papers and our readers for their continued support.
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