Natural Disasters and Social Media

The most common natural disasters in Australia and New Zealand are floods, cyclones, bushfires and hailstorms. As the technology continues to progress and evolve at an unprecedented rate, the way we respond to these natural disasters has also evolved. This is a very interesting article in the Australian Journal of Emergency Management that looks at the way social media has been used as a tool to facilitate the recuperation of a community after it has been wrecked by a natural disaster: https://ajem.infoservices.com.au/items/AJEM-27-01-08

 

It looks specifically at the case of Cyclone Yasi, an immensely powerful cyclone that hit northern Queensland in late January/early February 2011. A Facebook page, ‘Cyclone Yasi Update’ was created on the 31st of January. It became a centre for easily accessible information – a sort of ‘masterpost’ of relevant information from official sources. People did not need to expend any effort in searching for information – it had been collated for them.

One of the biggest advantages ‘Cyclone Yasi Update’ had over official sources was, of course, that Facebook allows two-way communication. People could ask questions and get rapid responses from the team operating the page.  It is this aspect of social media that is especially useful, since it can help reduce the hysteria and panic that follows any natural disaster. For example, the page ‘Cyclone Yasi Update’ was used to correct misconceptions and prevent misinformation.

Furthermore, the Facebook team was able to personalize their responses. They could reply to comments and questions individually, and tailor their replies according to the needs of the person. This in itself can be incredibly reassuring for people during a time of anxiety and stress. It was soothing for them to be able to reach out on an individual level and contact people they saw as reliable and trustworthy. Thus, ‘Cyclone Yasi Update’ became not only a source of information for the people, but also an invaluable source of emotional support.

Psychological First Aid principles stress the importance of feeling connected. ‘Cyclone Yasi Update’ was a way for people to feel emotionally connected and supported by others – even if the others were physically millions of miles away, ‘Cyclone Yasi Update’ helped people feel less alone.

Another useful aspect of social media is that, because of its very nature, it requires people to, for lack of a better phrase, opt in. Thus people can decide to either involve themselves in social media or distance themselves from it in the wake of such disasters, depending on how it impacts their mental well-being. For some people, social media in the wake of a disaster can contribute to stress levels and anxiety, and these people can choose not to use it. For others, involvement in social media is beneficial for their mental health.

 

Obviously, as the article concludes, social media can never compare to first-aid services and official warning systems when it comes to mitigating the effects of such disasters. However, social media can be a very useful tool and should be utilized effectively to increase ‘emergency management capability’, since it can be crucial in the dissemination of information.

Furthermore, in today’s world people are very comfortable navigating social media, and, as the survey discussed in the article indicated, they often instinctively turn to it in times of trouble. The results of the studies conducted showed that a vast majority of Australians would turn immediately to social media to ask for help if the emergency contact numbers were unavailable. This makes sense because social media is the surest way to reach a wide range of people. Fifty-two percent of people said that they would post a request on a response agency’s Facebook page.

 

The article also acknowledges how trolls can plague Facebook pages and how they can detrimentally impact the operation of these community pages. The team managing ‘Cyclone Update Yasi’ was quite large and dealt tirelessly and effectively with trolls, so this was less of an issue in that particular case.

 

Until now, research literature has not really discussed how social media has changed the way we deal with natural disasters. However, since social media has become such an integral part of the landscape now, this area will probably become a hot topic for research. Social media has become so embedded in our daily life that it is inevitable that people will turn to it in times of strife. Natural hazard risk management companies such as Molino-Stewart (http://molinostewart.com.au/) will most likely start using it as a tool to reach out to people when natural disasters occur.

Scholarship Opportunities!

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    For the vast majority of us, the excitement of applying to university comes hand in hand with financial worries. Although going to university is certainly a worthwhile investment, it is also a considerably large one.

    There is far more to it than just course fees. Accomodation, especially on-campus accomodation, is rarely cheap, and textbooks are often exorbitantly priced. Furthermore, when estimating the potential total cost of university, students frequently fail to take into account the cost of transport, study materials and the various other expenses that may come up, such as the Student Services and Amenities Fees (SSAF) that most universities charge.

    However, there is no need to resign yourself to scraping the bottom of your bank account just yet. Winning a scholarship can make it so much easier for you to attend the university of your dreams, and there are more opportunities out there than most people think. It is often just a question of knowing where to look.

    One competition format involves the applicants writing essays. The writer of the best essay is offered scholarship money. This competition style is more common in USA, but while I was browsing the Midwestern State University website (http://mwsu.edu/ ) I saw some scholarship opportunities for Australian citizens being advertised.

   Smart Cleaning Solutions (https://smartclean.com.au/), an Australian commercial cleaning company, is offering five hundred dollars as prize money to the the winner of their essay writing contest. The purpose is to endorse the education of the next generation of “leaders and entrepreneurs”. The eligibility requirements of the contest are quite broad. It is open to all Australian citizens in “good academic standing” who have been accepted to university or who are currently enrolled in an accredited high school. Participants must provide evidence that they meet the above criteria when they submit their essay.

    The essay itself should be a response to one of the two prompts provided by Smart Cleaning Solutions. Its length can range from 1,200 words to 1,500 words. It will be judged based on “creativity, originality and quality”. The deadline is the 1st of May, 2019. You can read the specifics of the contest at https://smartclean.com.au/scholarship/.

    The other available scholarship is also for five hundred dollars. The prize money is being offered by Stuart Hayes (http://leadershipcoach.melbourne), a leadership coach who works directly with business owners and CEOs, teaching them how to improve their managerial style. He is offering the money to promote the higher education of “rising students in the business arena”.

    The eligibility requirements are the same as for the Smart Cleaning Solutions competition. The essay length is only 1000 words, and it is also due on the 1st of May, 2019. More details are provided at this link (http://leadershipcoach.melbourne/scholarship/).

   This next contest is open to anyone who has been accepted or is currently enrolled in an accredited college or university. Dendra Accounting Group (https://dendra.com.au), an organisation that works with small business owners, is offering five hundred dollars to the writer of the best 1000-word essay, the topic of which is “What Financial Obstacles Do College Students Face”. The deadline is the 15th of October, 2019. Further information can be found here: https://dendra.com.au/500-scholarship-from-dendra-accounting-group/

If you are planning to go to university in the United States, Great Engineering (https://www.greatengineering.com) has an exciting opportunity for you. To be eligible, you must be sixteen years or older and either be about to receive or already have a GED/high school diploma. Applicants need to submit a 1000-word essay by 31st May, 2019, for the chance to win seven hundred dollars to put towards any education-related expense. The topic of the essay, and submission details can be found at this link: https://www.greatengineering.com/scholarship-from-greatengineering-com/

    These are all excellent opportunities for Australian students. I strongly encourage everybody who fits the criteria to apply for all of these scholarships. Even unsuccessful candidates will benefit, since just participating in these contests is a good chance to practice essay-writing – and honing your essay-writing skills before university is an absolute must.

    Unfortunately, many students seem to feel that applying for scholarships is an exercise in futility, since there is bound to be a better candidate. This (https://mwsu.edu/donor-services/scholarship-apps.php) is a link to quite a comprehensive list of scholarship databases. Look closely at all the resources out there, and don’t let self-doubt let you miss out on golden opportunities to alleviate the financial pressure of higher education!

World’s Largest Fence Being Made in Australia

When I think of my furry friend back home I never think predator. In fact, Paws, my two year old cat, is the most loveable and docile creature I have ever met.  So you can imagine my surprise and shock to read that cats are the predators responsible for the fast extinction rate of Australian mammals!

I recently came across a very interesting article online that talked about how the world’s largest fence is being constructed in order to protect these mammals from feral cats. In fact, it was immensely astonishing to find out that 320 million of the bird population is made extinct by these feral cats. This article also mentions how these cats are mostly responsible for the extinction of 20 mammalian species in Australia- a huge number considering how delicate we consider these feline creatures!

In comparison to the United States, Australia has lost 29 more species and so dire action needs to be taken to address this problem. The construction of this fence is a step taken in the right direction. This fence is in an ideal location at the tip of the Great Sandy Desert which is an area which suffers a lot of losses because of cats.

However, this is a long term project as a lot needs to be done in order to construct this massive fence which is 185 kilometres long covering 70,000 hectares of land. There is also the question of it destroying the natural beauty of the land itself so all of this needs to be taken into account before building. In addition, in order to holistically solve the problem of extinction in Australia, more smaller fences will need to be built in other places.

Another aspect of concern is disturbing the natural ecosystem, as this will lead to diminished food for the cats which can perturb the energy cycle in this habitat. Furthermore, a lot of collaboration between New Haven Project Management and indigenous rangers is required. While this fence is being built, an increase in firepower in the area to drive of cats and protect wildlife would be a good idea.

It is expected, that when this area is safe as many as 11 species can be released in this region and can then hopefully flourish. I’m very optimistic about this project and I can see how it is an important step in conserving the natural biodiversity in Australia. Australia is world-renowned for its biodiversity and I was relieved to read that steps are being taken to preserve it.

Give this article a read – http://www.environmentaljournalists.org/worlds-largest-fence-being-constructed-in-central-australia/ – if you’re interested in learning more about this landmark initiative!

Welcome to my blog

Hi! My name is Amman Bari and I am a medical sciences student at UWA. Welcome to my blog! 

 

I’m looking forward to using this platform to develop myself as a writer and a blogger, since these are invaluable skills to have in today’s world. A blog is an excellent way to record my own personal growth. I am interested in exploring different opportunities for students to work with businesses to earn money while studying, which could open up post-graduate business opportunities in different industries. I will also be using this blog to comment on anything that catches my eye online or in the news. 

On that note, I was watching the 7.30 news report about animal trafficking in Western Australia and in following up the story online I found the TPWwest.org website which goes into more detail about the issue. I found the story incredibly interesting, especially since it included testimony of somebody who was involved in that very industry. Reformed animal smuggler Niall Cooke’s ideas about how to counteract the rise of the wildlife trade were also interesting, even though they have not found favour with the government. The TPWwest website is worth a look, it really drives home the shocking cruelty of the animal trade. The details of the way they are treated by the smugglers is sickening. I was glad to read that the government was planning to take action and increase penalties for anyone caught trafficking animals. Give this a read if you haven’t heard about the animal smuggling operation in Kimberley!