State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

The Hidden Stresses of Drought

“Drought affects the economy, water supply, lifestyle, and agricultural productivity. The downstream consequences on humans that are facing these threats, including loss of jobs and daily lifestyle challenges, become overwhelming. Some people are beginning to observe high rates of suicide as the result of drought. Emotional stress and its related consequences. Family dysfunction and things that haven’t really been documented yet.”

Dr. Irwin Redlener
Dr. Irwin Redlener

That’s Dr. Irwin Redlener, from the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, talking to Sarah Goodyear in The Nation this week. As she notes, he spends a lot of time thinking about disasters—and the psychological and physical effects on people, as well as the economic and environmental impacts. The Nation Q&A focuses on drought, which is stressing out Californians and exacerbating conflict in the Middle East.

“I’m going to put on the table, how are children impacted by sustained drought? When we looked at the impact of Hurricane Katrina or the BP oil spill on children, there were unexpected findings having to do with child health and children’s performance at school. I think it’s fair to ask, will sustained drought also have an impact on children that we haven’t begun to categorize or catalogue?”

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