Realizing the danger and learning how to react
After having a look at the climate patterns and life in the valley, it became clear that people had to develop ways to protect from the dangerous elements of nature. Strong aspects of the scenery, like rivers and snow, could in a matter of time cause avalanches and floodings. So we set for a small excursion around the area of Obergurgl to spot and inspect from a close of view, some ways that people had invented over the years to protect themselves and their properties from natural hazards. We were blessed with another day of warm sunshine and clear blue sky. The nature seemed to be inviting us to show us its secrets and glory!
First thing we did in the morning was a couple of energizing games to kick the day off to a good start. We then started walking towards the village in search for evidence of structure that in any way prevents natural hazards from happening or reaching residential areas. The number of techniques that the locals have evolved were outstanding! What we found interesting is that they normally go unnoticed by everybody but when you stop and think about them (what we did as part of our tasks) you realize their significance to the daily life of the local community. Looking at the landscape we visualised many possible hazards like snow and mud avalanches, flooding and rock falling.
In the case of rock falling the results were obvious to see so looking at the mountains we were able to name all of the phases: source point, the developing stage on its way down and finally the settling point where the material accumulates. A mean for preventing rock falling from damaging human property was the installment of steel fences right beneath the source point. Another method for minimizing the force of the rocks when falling is forming densed forests that create a natural barrier that stop the rocks. Last but not least, digging up a deposit space with walls, is the last prevention method of sediment and walls crashing over the houses. All the above measures are active, meaning that actual action is taken to prevent hazards, whereas passive measures are the issue of warning and alarm notices as well as evacuation in extreme situations.
On the second part of the day, we were aksed to give information about each country’s frequent natural hazards. National hazards included floodings due to bad infrastructure, fire caused in hot regions that are mostly initiated by people in order to create fields suitable for farming and housing, as well as heat waves and dust in the atmosphere. It was fascinating to see that natural hazards were varied according to the climate of each country, i.e floodings and heavy snowfall in northern european and often fires along the southern countries.
As part of our walk we took part in a simulation game. We were divided into groups and each group was given a different scenario connected with natural hazards. What’s more, each of us had to imitate a behaviour according to the given role, i.e. mayor of a village, local hotel owner, police officer and so on. We had to act upon our roles and defend different points of view and values. It let to a lot of discussion because each of us had a conflict of interest and we were able to understand how complicated it is to react in such situations in real life because politics and money are always involved. Even though finding a solution was not easy, we managed to find measures that led to a compromise. In our opinion current politicians could learn from us!
We couldn’t help ourselves from spending some time to enjoy the warmth of the sun, however we had to return back to Obergurgl so that the evening activities could start. During the afternoon we analyzed the samples that we took the first day from the trees in Stone Pine Forest in order to determine the age of the trees! Such a serious matter required betting on the age, from bets ranging from a 150 to 500 yeards old. As it was later revealed the tree was around 400 years old!
As the sun is setting down and the stars are starting to shine we are going to follow them looking for Milky Way…
Maria Xantri (Cyprus)
Katarzyna Markowska (Poland)