Quite a few years ago while participating in an international conference in Kyoto, Japan, my wife an I had the opportunity of attending a concert by the Japanese Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. What a wonderful experience it was, so marvelous that we remember it to this day. There on the stage in front of us was a full orchestra consisting of young Japanese girls and boys, some of them mere children, some already in the midst of adolescence and a few ‘experienced’ teenagers. The conductor was a world-known British maestro who, before the concert, explained to the audience that while some of these young musicians spoke English and many of them were also studying it in school, a large number of them did not speak English. Yet, all of them knew the nomenclature of music; they all could look at a sheet of music and read the same notes that any formally trained musician could read anywhere in the world.
Silence fell upon the audience as the conductor raised its baton, and we sat there mesmerized and in awe as the magnificent sound filled our senses while the young musicians regaled us with pieces from Mozart, Elgar, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. A standing ovation and cheers of bravo! and encore! erupted as the concert came to an end; some in the audience had tears of joy in their eyes.
As much as we had heard that English was the universal language of the world, at least in such fields as business, science and technology, that day in Kyoto many of us realized that the notation of music is by far more of a universal language than any spoken method of communication is. When the famous Beethoven’s Fifth is played anywhere in the world it will be recognized for what it is regardless of the language spoken in the country, or the language of the musicians playing it, or whether or not the person hearing it speaks English or the language of the musicians. In summary, the language of music knows no boundaries, it is truly universal.
Along the same line of thought, most will recognize that Nature also knows no boundaries. Natural processes take place driven by forces beyond our control affecting various regions of our planet, the whole Earth, and even beyond into our solar system and the galaxy. When a natural hazard is generated and it strikes, national boundaries, the name of countries, or the language spoken in a given place mean nothing. The only things in common under the impact of a hazard are the damage caused and the human suffering that results. From this we can conclude that the language of Nature as communicated through the impact of natural hazards is also universal and, as such, it should be understood by all regardless of place or of the language spoken.
An important benefit that we derive from the universality of the language of Nature is that we can learn from others. A natural hazard may impact one specific community, but the empirical knowledge gained from said impact can be shared by all regardless of nationality or language. When it comes to the impact of a hazard Nature neither recognizes nor respects political or geographical boundaries, but the experience and knowledge derived from the event can be shared across national boundaries and through language barriers.
It is in the spirit of seeking ways to communicate across boundaries and barriers that I am pleased to announce that as of today mitigat.com is going bi-lingual! We are going to be sharing ideas, news, knowledge and opinions by posting some materials in Spanish for the benefit of the many speakers of that beautiful language in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and here in the United States who are vulnerable to many of the natural hazards we have addressed on this site, and who could benefit from the practice of mitigation and the assessment of vulnerability in their own communities.
In support of this initiative please notice the mitigat.com banner below the picture on the home page now includes a new choice: ESPAŇOL, which you can find at the left on the bottom menu line.