Deserts, facts and information

Deserts are diverse ecosystems that occur on all seven continents. Learn about the four major types of deserts, the surprising amount of wildlife some of them contain, and how new desert areas are beginning to form.


Resilient Animals – Invasive species, explained

Invasive species cost the global economy over a trillion dollars each year. Find out how these non-native organisms are introduced into an ecosystem, how they impact local communities, and which measures can be taken to help prevent the introduction of invasive species.

Surviving the Storm – Life Below Zero

Life Below Zero follows six people as they battle for the most basic necessities in the state with the lowest population density in the United States. Living at the ends of the world’s loneliest roads and subsisting off the rugged Alaskan bush, they battle whiteout snow storms, man-eating carnivores, questionable frozen terrain, and limited resources through a long and bitter winter.

Some of them are lone wolves; others have their families beside them. All must overcome despairing odds to brave the wild and survive through to the spring. And when spring arrives in Alaska, rising temperatures bring mounting challenges as they work to prepare for yet another winter.

Preparedness and the Myth of Knowledge

Have you ever met someone who’s never ridden a bike, heard a song on the radio, received a piece of mail, pet a cat, eaten an apple, caught a cold or seen an ice cube? That’s because you’ve never been to North Sentinel Island, nor should you ever go.

A missionary recently learned, as many others had before him, that visitors here are greeted with spear tips. As one of the most isolated people in the world, the Sentinelese have honed an unyielding reflex for self-preservation, which is buttressed by the Indian government’s effort to benevolently quarantine the tiny island from the invasive cultures and diseases that traditionally drive traditional cultures to extinction.

On one of humanity’s darkest days, this endangered tribe emerged unscathed

But there are forces against which Sentinelese spears and Indian ships offer no protection. On December 26th, 2004 at 7:58am, a 9.1M earthquake off the coast of Banda Aceh, Indonesia triggered a tsunami that took 230,000 lives in countries throughout the Indian Ocean. The first massive wave would have struck North Sentinel Island at approximately 8:33am.

As a fishing population numbering in the dozens on an island that peeks at 400 feet, the Sentinelese’ survival seemed impossible in a disaster where casualties were rounded to the nearest thousand. Yet, on one of humanity’s darkest days, this endangered tribe emerged unscathed, and with vigor enough to fire arrows at the Indian helicopter sent to check on them. The Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and Shompen tribes similarly thrived where “civilizations” buckled.

“The Knowledge Myth: If we have knowledge, we will act in our best interests based on that knowledge. Therefore, the distribution of knowledge will save us.”

As one of the few feel good stories to emerge from the Boxing Day tragedy, the triumph of these tribes over nature’s wrath made headlines: “Traditional knowledge saved ancient tribes from tsunami.” Headlines like that, which we typically swallow without hesitation, reflect what I call the Knowledge Myth. The Knowledge Myth goes something like this: If we have knowledge, we will act in our best interests based on that knowledge. Therefore, the distribution of knowledge will save us. 

What saved the Sentinelese? “Knowledge did”, said the Knowledge Myth, as we nodded in agreement, missing half the story.

The Knowledge Myth

The Knowledge Myth is pervasive in the arena of public safety. Let’s take it for a test drive to see how it holds up. The first Model T was manufactured in 1908, the summer of which saw 30 auto fatalities in Detroit alone. I’d argue that we had a working knowledge of auto hazards almost from day one. Even so, seatbelts only became standard in 1958, and only in 1998 did the actual usage of seatbelts by people like you and me become practice among 70% of Americans, heralding a precipitous and overdue drop in needless fatalities. Knowledge Myth: busted. Why did it take 90 years to address an undisputed and universally acknowledged risk?

I’m guessing you said stupidity. They were stupid and I am not stupid, therefor past mistakes do not apply to me. The Stupidity Myth is a convenient culprit when the Knowledge Myth fails. I get that the Stupidity Myth is comforting. I hear it often and call upon it myself when I’m feeling pissy and disappointed in our collective failings. But it’s a BS answer. Stupidity is not what kept us from buckling our seatbelts in the 70s and knowledge is not what saved the Sentinelese in 2004. Culture is the answer in both cases. And culture, simply put, is the product of what we expect of one another. I concern myself with one type of culture in particular: preparedness culture.

As FEMA has confessed, you can shower the public with resources, slogans and warnings over two decades without yielding results.

One year ago, I spoke to a packed auditorium in Portland, Oregon, where I provided a well-resourced and educated audience a vivid and irrefutable picture of the massive earthquake that will one day befall the Pacific Northwest. When asked if we should individually prepare for the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, 3,000 hands shot up. When asked if they expected one another to prepare for this same earthquake, four hands timidly rose. When there’s incongruity between individual commonsense and actual societal behavior, culture is the most likely culprit. History has proven countless times that culture determines which ideas, knowledge and practices are discarded and which become our salvation.

As FEMA has confessed, you can shower the public with resources, slogans and warnings over two decades without yielding results. If the soil isn’t there, the seeds won’t grow.

What can we learn from the Sentinelese – an isolated, spear-wielding, pre-industrial tribe whose way of life is utterly divorced from our own experience?

1.      The messenger of knowledge is at least as important as the knowledge itself:
Everything the Sentinelese knew about tsunamis they learned from someone they knew and trusted, a community member with a shared experience. Like the Sentinelese, you are influenced most by those whom you know, love and trust, and you have the most influence over those who know, love and trust you.

2.      Culture isn’t found in what we know, it’s found in what we expect of one another:
The Sentinelese clearly expected one another to run for high ground when they saw signs of the tsunami’s approach. I doubt they were mocking anyone’s paranoia. This is particularly remarkable as none of them would have personally witnessed those signs before 8:30am on that fateful day.

3.      Culture is a survival mechanism:
“Preparedness” is too small a word for the Sentinelese – they are living in a state of adaptation, like gills to a fish. Their adherence to their culture and its transmission from generation to generation – even through the generations that never saw a tsunami – has allowed them to continuously inhabit this remote corner of the world for 70,000 years.

Many of us are waiting for a disaster event that we have never personally experienced

Like the Sentinelese before the Boxing Day Tsunami, many of us are waiting for a disaster event that we have never personally experienced. Unlike the Sentinelese, we have not taken ownership of the cultural practices that might save us. Fortunately, our culture is not locked and isolated in time. Culture can and does change quickly when regular people make a conscious and courageous effort to stand as counter-cultural ambassadors of commonsense.

Those ambassadors influence those who know, love and trust them best, who themselves can become examples for others, and so forth. As the dominoes of social influence tumble, our perceptions evolve. Weird becomes normal, normal becomes expected, and somewhere along the way a tipping point is reach when the expected becomes cultural. Preparedness is too small a word for us.

This is about adaptation. It’s time for us to grow our own set of gills.

Why do businesses and society need smart cities? To survive…

The notion of smart cities is often perceived in popular culture as what the future will look like. Unrecognizable cities where buildings reach high into the clouds, and flying cars navigate almost virtual motorways.

With this also comes the often-portrayed widening of social classes and inequality; the elite residing at the very top, and the rest left on the ground – in the past. In reality, a smart city is one that uses technologies to improve and transform the lives of its citizens and the environment, while closing the digital divide and allowing businesses to thrive and innovate.

It’s an idea of inclusion rather than division, a collaboration between citizens, and the public and private sectors for sustainable transformation and growth.

Smart cities will have a transformative effect on every aspect of our daily lives, such as better healthcare and the effective provision of public services,” said Sean Collins, regional director for UKI and Benelux, Extreme Networks.

> Read entire article Why do businesses and society need smart cities? To survive… | Nick Ismail | InformationAge

Resilient Animals – Top 10 most resilient species

With the earth being over 7 billion years old, it’s no surprise that it has been through its fair share of changes.

Much of survival is resilience or ability to adapt to changing conditions. Animals have been around even longer than humans, and, although there are some species that are more resilient than others, some can be used as good examples for how resilience is the key to longevity.

There are impressive animals living in the world around us. Every species is unique and each has their own set of adaptations to survive. From microscopic animals that can live in space, to camels living in the desert, there is one thing that we all have in common: our world is constantly changing and only the fittest will survive. In order to live for another million years, we all have to continue to adapt and be as resilient as the animals on this list have been.

> Read entire article Top 10 most resilient animals | Greentumble

I don’t care what it means; I just survive

Last week I checked through the clothes we have stored away in the attic at home for the UK winter ahead. I rescued the coats we needed and then I noticed another perfectly good jacket I hadn’t used for ages.
I tried it on and as a result of being a bit more healthier these days (#spin), the jacket was just too big. Awesome I said to myself. But the jacket was a really good quality water & windproof one; I loved it when I bought it and used it all the time until eventually, (somewhat a sad reflection of materialism) I forgot about.

Cutting to the chase, it wasn’t that the coat was old or unwanted; I just didn’t need it anymore!


Paul suggests listening to this song to accompany reading this post!

Mrs K and I are big believers in recycling and we give more than our fair share of clothes and other items to the charity shops. But early last week I saw a homeless man not a million miles away from where we live and I happened to notice his coat, or more importantly, that it had seen better days.

Over weekend I decided to give my coat to that man, if I could find him again that was; but it wasn’t that hard to come across him once more at the same place, same coat, same situation. I knew (thought) what he wanted and needed; my amazing coat.

‘I don’t care what it is’

When I approached him and said I had a coat and asked would he like it, without any hesitation, he said ‘what’s it like?’ To some that might surprise you. But to me it did not.

I didn’t expect him to be just grateful for any old thing. He knew he needed something that was useful to him; his situation. Not me just giving him anything that I think is right for him. I don’t live in his world. I can only try to make sense of it.

I showed him the coat and he said yes please, if I didn’t mind he would have it? Why would I mind anyway? I thought I was doing him a favour but his decency came across and he was helping me to get rid of my coat.

Now I will talk to anyone me; I can communicate as I’ve done so all my professional life. So, in the few seconds that seem like an eternity as I handed him the coat and he was pleased at the prospects of using it, for some reason, I thought of the resilience word.

To me this would help him be a bit more ‘resilient’ in his circumstances. So, I asked him a question…

“What does resilience mean to you?”

He looked at me and said “I don’t really care what it is, I just survive from day to day”.

Life is for living

In the few seconds of (slightly) uneasy silence, I reflected on his answer. He was right. He didn’t need to know what resilience means. He just needed to be it; to survive.

It was a real moment of connecting my business profession with a real-life situation.

I’m in a current phase of trying to demonstrate and influence the need for some change in the business continuity world. Some sense of reality.

I don’t proclaim to know fully, what the moral of this real-life story was, but the bottom line is, I guess the man was going to be resilient with or without my coat. My coat just helped him be, (perhaps) a bit more resilient. Gave him some further security, confidence and capability to do his own thing.

I suppose my coat could be a metaphor for somethings in the resilience industry and profession; but in the end, does it really matter? It was about what he needed, not what I wanted him to have. The coat in its simplest form will help him along the way but his survival matters the most.

He thanked me and I thanked him and I parted with ‘you’re welcome’.

Survive and thrive

I normally end my articles with a standard paragraph about resilience and my previous posts. But on this occasion, I would rather just say, if you do have any clothing you don’t need anymore (rather than thinking they are unwanted), please consider giving them to the homeless or to charity.

Paul Kudray

A truly down to earth, grounded individual who is a resilience professional. Helping people and organizations to build and maintain their capabilities to respond to and recover from, crisis, emergencies or disasters. Paul is the ‘resilience maverick’ because he is not like the average resilience professional. Paul wants to help everyone be a bit more resilient because they can!

How to survive a disaster?

In a catastrophic event, most people fail to do the one thing that would save their life.

John Leach, a military survival instructor who researches behaviour in extreme environments at the University of Portsmouth, has studied the actions of survivors and victims from dozens of disasters around the world over several decades (and as it happens he was present at one of them, the fire at King’s Cross underground station on 18 November 1987 which killed 31 people).

He has found that in life-threatening situations, around 75% of people are so bewildered by the situation that they are unable to think clearly or plot their escape. Just 15% of people on average manage to remain calm and rational enough to make decisions that could save their lives. The remaining 10% are plain dangerous: they freak out and hinder the survival chances of everyone else.

Stories about survival often focus on the 15%, and what is so special about them that helps them stay alive. But Leach thinks this is the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking, why do so many people die when they need not, when they have the physical means to save themselves? In most disaster scenarios, he says, you don’t need special skills to survive. You just need to know what you should do.

Emergency exit

Check your exits beforehand – you may not have the sense to in a crisis.

We haven’t always had a clear picture of what people really do in emergencies. Yet as cases in recent decades began to show, the real challenge is getting people to move quickly enough. On 22 August 1985, 55 people died in a Boeing 737 on the runway at Manchester Airport in the UK after the plane suffered engine failure during take-off. The government’s Air Accident Investigations Branch reported: “Perhaps the most striking feature of this accident was the fact that although the aircraft never became airborne and was brought to a halt in a position which allowed an extremely rapid fire-service attack on the external fire, it resulted in 55 deaths.”

Rather than madness, or an animalistic stampede for the exits, it is often people’s disinclination to panic that puts them at higher risk.

Survival mode

In a crisis, people are more likely to help each other than be selfish.

The prevailing psychological explanation for these kinds of behaviours – passivity, mental paralysis or simply carrying on as normal in the face of a crisis – is that they are caused by a failure to adapt to a sudden change in the environment. Survival involves goal-directed behaviour: you feel hungry, you look for food; you feel isolated, you seek companionship. Normally, this is straightforward (we know how to find food or companions). But in a new, unfamiliar environment, particularly a stressful one such as a sinking ship or a burning aircraft, establishing survival goals – where the exit is and how to get to it – requires a lot more conscious effort.

“In emergencies, quite often events are happening faster than you can process them,” explains Leach. The situation outruns our capacity to think our way out of it.

>>YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY: What not to do in a disaster

This explains why in emergencies people often fail to do things that under normal circumstances would seem obvious. So the only reliable way to shortcut this kind of impaired thinking, most survival experts agree, is by preparing for an emergency in advance.

Commentators often highlight the supposed stupidity or madness of crowds during disasters – a stampede of pilgrims, the crush of a football crowd, the blind scramble for the exits in a burning nightclub. In reality, this is rarely what happens. “In emergencies, the norm is cooperation,” says Chris Cocking, who studies crowd behaviour at the University of Brighton. “Selfish behaviour is very mild and tends to be policed by the crowd rather than spreading.”

Source: BBC

Read entire post grey

What not to do in a disaster

Survival is less about heroic actions than avoiding mindless mistakes.

“I’ll never forget the sound. The sound of metal crunching,” says George Larson, a passenger on Indian Airlines Flight 440 from Chennai (Madras) to New Delhi in 1973. It was 22:30 – pitch black outside. A storm was raging, and the plane was flying low. The rear end slammed into the ground first. Larson was thrown from his seat.

The next thing Larson knew he was awake, lying on his back on some wreckage. He tried to move his legs, but he was stuck. Soon there was an explosion as the heat ignited fuel tanks by the wings. As debris rained down all around him, Larson realised he’d have to save himself. With one last breath – “it seared my lungs, the air was so hot” – he pushed off the wreckage and rolled down onto the ground. Then he clawed his way to safety. Of 65 passengers and crew on board, Larson was one of just 17 survivors.

Surprisingly, plenty of other people in deadly scenarios don’t act fast enough to save their own lives. From arguing over small change while a ship sinks into stormy water, to standing idly on the beach as a tsunami approaches, psychologists have known for years that people make self-destructive decisions under pressure. Though news reports tend to focus on miraculous survival, if people escape with their lives it’s often despite their actions – not because of them.

YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY: Emergency management in a ruled-based culture

“Survival training isn’t so much about training people what to do – you’re mostly training them not to do certain things that they would normally think to do,” says John Leach, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth who survived the King’s Cross fire disaster in 1987. He estimates that in a crisis, 80-90% of people respond inappropriately.

During the 2011 earthquake in Japan, people ran to save bottles of alcohol from smashing in supermarkets while their lives were in danger.

So, if faced with a life-threatening scenario, what behaviours should you do your best to avoid?


During the recent stabbing at London Bridge, an off-duty police officer who tackled the attackers reportedly described members of the public nearby as standing “like deers in the headlights”.

The reaction is so universal, psychologists now talk of the fight-flight-freeze response.
Though it looks passive from the outside, when we’re paralysed with fear the brain is actively putting on the brakes. As adrenaline surges through the body and our muscles tense, the primitive “little brain” at the base of our necks sends a signal to keep us rooted to the spot. It’s the same mechanism across the animal kingdom, from rats to rabbits, where it’s a last-ditch attempt to stop a predator from spotting us. But in a disaster, fighting this hangover from our days out on the savannah is vital to survival.


The first clues that our brains tend to go into meltdown under stress came from an alarming discovery.

Even at the best of times, our brains are disconcertingly slow – while disasters are rapid. As part of the certification process, aeroplane manufacturers are required to show that the entire plane can be evacuated in just 90 seconds, since studies have shown that the risk of the cabin being consumed by fire sharply increases after this time. Meanwhile, most of us are still fumbling with our seatbelts.

Like in chess, the speed of decision making in a crisis is limited by working memory.


In a crisis, it’s reassuring to think that we’d respond by creatively thinking our way around the problem. But – you guessed it, it’s the opposite. A typical response to disaster is so-called “perseveration” – attempting to solve a problem in a single way, again and again and again, regardless of the results. This happens so often, it’s informed the design of seatbelts in light aircraft.

Because people are used to looking for their seatbelts around their hips, in an emergency that’s the only place they look. Previous designs used to involve a buckle higher up, but in the panic of a crash-landing, people just couldn’t handle it. Other incidents have shown that in a crisis, pilots tend to become obsessed with one item of equipment or response.

Intriguingly, this tunnel vision is also seen in those who have permanently damaged their prefrontal cortex, suggesting that the brain’s stress response switching off this region might be to blame for inflexible thinking in moments of crisis.

Source: BBC

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