Voices from the Future | Sylvia Watchman
The Dry Land
The Event: Since 2017, extreme draught has ravaged Canyon de Chelly, on the Navajo Nation in Northeastern Arizona. In normal years, the area receives an average of 12 inches of rain. That’s not the case recently. What’s more, the draught became worse when, in early 2019, the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife declined to release water from a 5,500 acre-foot reservoir thus making traditional farming in Canyon de Chelly even more difficult. The agency’s reasons are still unknown — and unexplained to farmers in Canyon de Chelly.
Sylvia Watchman is a farmer and Navajo woman from Chinle, Arizona, a town of fewer than 5,000 inhabitants on the outskirts of Canyon de Chelly, where Watchman has lived all her life. Chinle is a Navajo word meaning “flowing through,” a phrase that once referred to the water that cruised down from the mountains to fertilize the valley.
Voices from the Future | Kolby Skidmore
The Hurricane Florence
The Event: Hurricane Matthew was considered a 500-year flood, which means it had a 0.2% chance of happening in any given year. Hurricane Florence was deemed a 1,000-year flood and broke rainfall records set by Hurricane Matthew. Many residents of coastal North Carolina were still rebuilding from Matthew when Florence hit in September 2018, dumping more than 30 inches of water on some parts of the state and killing 53 people.
When the floodwater receded, it left behind scores of fish — not just on streets, but also in people’s homes. They were everywhere, and they reeked.
Voices from the Future | Henry Red Cloud
The 100-Year Flood
The Event: In March 2019, overflowing creeks and raging riverbeds flooded the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Caused by a sudden, unusual blizzard that created snow piles as much as 5 feet high. Two days later, that snow melted, causing a 100-year flood. The water destroyed structures, homes, roadways and bridges, and the flooding stranded thousands of the reservation’s 20,000 residents in their homes and shelters for two weeks. Two lives were lost.
In early March, Lakota Sioux tribe elder Henry Red Cloud and his family returned home to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation after five days in an emergency shelter. He was sure the annual flooding season had passed — after all, the muddy waters had risen only knee high — and that it would be safe to return to his compound, which is comprised of five houses occupied by his and his children’s families. But this time, Red Cloud was wrong.
Voices from the Future | Glorynel Ojeda Matos
The Event: Maria began as a tropical wave. But by September 16, 2017, she had gathered steam, swirling into a tropical storm east of the Lesser Antilles. From there, she roared. On September 20, Maria screamed over Puerto Rico with winds that reached 155 miles per hour, making her a category four hurricane, and one that would nearly decimate the island.
Glorynel Ojeda Matos is a scholar. A researcher. A student of sustainability. She’s also Puerto Rican. And when hurricanes ravaged her island home in the fall of 2017, she knew it would never be the same.
Voices from the Future | Rezza Aji Pratama
>The Event: On December 31, 2019, torrential rains pounded a swath of Jakarta. More than 400,000 people fled their homes, and 65,000 were relocated to damp evacuation centers in the greater Jakarta area. The intense rain and flooding killed about 60 people, out of which 17 were swept away by the waters, five were buried by landslides and five were electrocuted.
The river runs 650 feet behind Rezza Aji Pratama’s house in the greater Jakarta Depok neighborhood. It is a comfortable, middle-class area with single houses lining the streets. On New Year’s Eve, Pratama and his wife invited people over to celebrate the new decade. Continue reading
Voices from the future | Jake Curtis
The Event: In 2004, a sudden and powerful earthquake rocked the Earth beneath the Indian Ocean. The 9.1 magnitude temblor triggered a tsunami whose power measured 550 million times stronger than the atomic bomb and devastated parts of Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. An estimated 230,000 to 260,000 people lost their lives.
American Jake Curtis was just eight when the tsunami washed over Phuket, Thailand. He was on Christmas vacation with his family, away from China, where his father worked for an international company. Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Faradilla Fajrin Al-Fath
The Jakarta Floods
The Event: On December 31, 2019, torrential rains pounded a swath of Jakarta. More than 400,000 people were affected, and 65,000 were relocated to damp evacuation centers in the greater Jakarta area. The intense rain and flooding killed about 60 people, out of which 17 were swept away by the waters. Landslides buried five people, and five people were electrocuted.
When Faradilla Fajrin Al-Fath left Jakarta to attend Arizona State University in 2018, she thought she could leave her hometown floods behind. But she was wrong. Being in America revealed to her how serious an issue the floods actually are. Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Anjali Ponni Rajkumar
The Chennai Floods
The Event: In 2015, the winter monsoon season brought torrential rains to Chennai, in southern India. Unprecedented floods followed, and some parts of the city of 6 million residents experienced floodwaters as high as 8 feet. About 130,000 people were evacuated to relief shelters, 347 people died, and 3,889 cattle perished in the floodwaters.
The government warning came too late for many Chennai residents. The torrential monsoon rains — the heaviest recorded in more than a century — had overwhelmed the dam. Photographer and artist Anjali Ponni Rajkumar was at home with her family in the affluent Purusawalkam neighborhood when the rains came, but she left immediately to help other residents. Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Reija Nykvist
The Event: In early March 2019, a tropical disturbance was building over the Indian Ocean, close to the southeast coast of Africa. As it traveled, the mild storm grew, and by March 5, it reached its full power as a tropical depression with winds as high as 35 miles per hour. The storm moved inland, pummeling Malawi and producing heavy rains that spawned deadly floods in the southern part of the country. The rains and rapidly rising floodwaters affected more than 45,312 Malawian households, and 226,560 people were displaced, according to the spokesperson for Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management. The country lost 28 people, and 124 people were injured.
“The heavy rains started on Monday,” Reija Nykvist explains. Her family lives in a suburb about 4.5 miles outside Malawi’s second biggest city, Blantyre. The heavy rain was increasing as the days went on, but she thought that was normal. “But there was no mentioning in the news that something unusual was going on.” Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Ntombi Makuyana
A Devastating Storm
The Event: Tropical storm Idai struck the southeastern Chimanimani and Chipinge districts of Zimbabwe on March 14, 2019. The torrential rains caused massive floods, washed away roads and bridges, submerged around 20,000 houses and completely destroyed 700 homes. An estimated 268 people died, and another 200 people were swept away by floods to neighboring Mozambique and into the Indian Ocean. Those flood victims still haven’t been found.
Ntombi Makuyana, a graduate student at Arizona State University, lives 9,686 miles away from her African grandparents. But she has kept in touch with them and her extended family. Recently, Makuyana’s sense of disconnection grew when her grandparents faced the worst — their house was destroyed and washed away by muddy floodwaters in the small village of Chimanimani, at the southeastern edge of Zimbabwe. Continue reading