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[Reuters]: Coastal ‘Green Belts’ Seen as Tsunami Life Savers

Barriers such as coastal mangrove
forests and coral reefs saved lives by deflecting Asia’s tsunami and
governments should protect such natural bulwarks against the wrath of
the sea, a leading environmental group said on Tuesday…. In
many areas, mangrove forests and coral reefs that once acted as
natural buffers have been replaced with hotels, shrimp farms, highways,
housing and commercial developments…. ‘What we have seen in the
tsunami crisis is that the areas that were protected naturally suffered
less than those that were more exposed,’ Friends of the Earth Chairwoman Meena Raman said…. Friends of the Earth said the natural barriers were the only long-term solution to shielding coastal populations.

Granted, developed areas will have more human and economic
infrastructure that is destroyable. But that does not dismiss the value
of buffers that can absorb and dissipate the force of sudden
perturbatiions. Diversity may or may not grant stability, but I’ll
wager it contributes mightily to resilience.

I just glanced back over some of my earlier musings on the subject:

‘Ecology teaches that industrial systems must embody the principles of
rich interconnection, resilience and tight, rapid feedback that we find
in natural systems — which after all are the successful result of
billions of years of R&D in competition and efficiency.’

‘Ecologists have long understood that the resilience of a system — its
ability to maintain its identity and well being in the face of
perturbation — seems to be correlated with its diversity, both of
constituent elements and the richness of their interconnection; that
ecosystem components display stacked functions — no element can be
said to do just one thing (as is typical for mechanistic, designed
systems); that there is an emergent functionality in ecosystems —
behavior and performance that is a function of the interacting whole,
not its individual components.’

The silver lining in catastrophe — one of the very few, another being the elusive ‘substance of we feeling
that humanity occassionally experiences — is the opportunity to
rebuild from a realtively blank slate, and thus to rebuild right. (I’ve
long held that catastrophe-certain regions — like my own San Francisco
Bay Area — would do well to have pre-positioned recovery plans, so
that the post-quake redevelopment used state of the art planning and
design, already in place, rather than the ‘slap up anything quickly’
approach that often happens. Though not always.)