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Home » How Disaster Resilience Saves Lives: Derrick Tin (Transcript)

How Disaster Resilience Saves Lives: Derrick Tin (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Dr Derrick Tin’s talk titled “How Disaster Resilience Saves Lives” at TEDxUniMelb 2020 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


The Impact of Disasters

What goes through your mind when you hear about the latest earthquake devastating cities and killing thousands? Or about another heat wave or drought sweeping past our continent? Do you feel sadness and compassion, or perhaps a desire to help? Or perhaps you are fatigued from the constant bombardment of such devastating news.

But have you ever thought, “What if this happened to me?” I’m Derrick Tin, and today I’ll tell you how earthquakes are saving lives and how this talk might one day save yours. Now historically, when a disaster happened, the first thought we have is that we have wronged the gods. The wrath of the deities are upon us.

But science tells us otherwise, that in fact, we humans have a hand to play in the current climate crisis, which, of course, is leading to increasing frequency and intensity of climate events. Even if you were a climate skeptic, an earthquake here today will invariably affect a whole lot more people than the exact same earthquake in the exact same spot 100 years ago, by sheer virtue of population density increase. It is undeniable that disasters today are affecting more people than ever before.

Personal Experiences with Disaster Work

Now, I spent a good part of my career doing disaster work in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, doing maritime rescues and setting up disaster field hospitals. That’s me on one of the first appointments. In the bottom right corner is a little drawing a kid drew for us – a kid that we rescued – and that was part of his trauma and art therapy.

The work, as you can imagine, is extremely traumatic for those of us doing the rescues. It is extremely traumatic for the ones we are trying to help, but it is also very traumatic for the communities that have to witness and sometimes be part of the ordeal. When I set out to be a doctor, I understood that I’ll see trauma, that I’ll see death.

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