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  1. Greenwich Academic Literature Archive - Vulnerability analysis, livelihoods and disasters
  2. Disaster Risk Management
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Procedia Engineering Volume , , Pages Under a Creative Commons license. Keywords Built Environment. Recommended articles Citing articles 0. From to she coordinated the PhD-programme and studied risk communication and social vulnerability. She developed and administered the evaluation procedures of the German Council of Science and Humanities for the recommendations of funding of nationally important research facilities including large-scale facilities.

Greenwich Academic Literature Archive - Vulnerability analysis, livelihoods and disasters

Hackenbruch, J. Schipper, Factors of subjective heat stress of urban citizens in contexts of everyday life, Natural Hazards and Earth Sciences, 16, , doi Wenzel, B. Khazai, T. Kunz-Plapp, J. Daniell, S. Kunz-Plapp, C. Daniell, B.

Risk, vulnerability, and resilience

Khazai, F. Wenzel, M. Vannieuwenhuyse, T.


Comes, F. It intertwines with the resilience and climate change adaptation agendas. It also responds to the imperative of sustainability. The world is consuming at least 50 per cent more resources than it can produce or find, and, moreover, it will have to adapt to warmer conditions and rising sea levels, as well as potentially more extreme natural phenomena that cause disasters UNISDR, These are some of the motives for advocating a sustainable response. For instance, in Nicaragua it was estimated that Hurricane Mitch in did enough damage to retard development by 20 years Wisner, Hence, disaster risk reduction is part of the sustainable development agenda.

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However, sustainability is a controversial issue and there is no single definition of what is sustainable. There is, however, a consensus that sustainability requires a degree of harmony between humans and nature, and some level of conservation of the natural resource base Saunier, Disaster risk reduction can contribute to the processes involved.

Disaster Risk Management

In addition, there are questions of sustainability with regard to DRR in its own right. Programmes have failed because of lack of consistent funding, unclear or inappropriate objectives and lack of political or social support. In synthesis, sustainable programmes of disaster risk reduction are built upon governance , defined here as a participatory form of democracy in which institutions have public support and stakeholders are empowered such as to have direct involvement in decision making.

Governance is at the root of vulnerability reduction, disaster preparedness and the development of coping mechanisms Ammann, However, there is a need for new theory. Much of the existing body of theory stems from the ideas of cultural ecology, or human ecology, promulgated in the s and developed most fully in the s White, Since then there have been momentous changes in society, economy and the environment of life.

Moreover, the accelerating pace of global change shifts the parameters of theory yet more. For example, the information technology revolution has been compared to the effect of the invention of printing Quarantelli, It has had a profound impact on many different forms of human activity and social relations. If we are to understand disasters in the 21 st century, it will be necessary to look for new sources of explanation, new models that are capable of unravelling the complexity of a rapidly changing milieu. The theory developed in the s and s is no longer able to do that.

Misuse of resources and excessive emphasis on economic development without taking into account the full costs may exacerbate these disequilibria. New theory needs to be able to describe and interpret this situation, as well as respond to the profound changes in global interconnectedness that are occurring. In the original work, the model is based on the work of Herbert Simon on the rational man who makes economic decisions as an optimiser, by maximising opportunities to gather information, or a satisficer, by choosing rationally from a limited range of options Simon, Evidently, this model allows no room for cultural or ideological variations and only the most limited opportunity for perception to govern choice.

In reality, there is a constant dialectic between factors that increase risk for example, stronger hurricanes, building new settlement in vulnerable areas, water management that increases downstream flood risk and those that diminish it, the actions of disaster risk mitigation. The dialectic is further modified by risk perception, which can either increase or decrease vulnerability, depending on its level of salience and accuracy.

Hence, in schematic terms:.


The term can be defined as an assemblage of shared beliefs, opinions, social characteristics and attitudes. Culture is extremely difficult to measure in any social scientific way Brislin, One reason is that it is an elusive and multi-faceted concept, one that changes with social context. Another is that culture is, like Chinese boxes or Russian dolls, a set of nested phenomena: we respond to different cultures related to national, regional and local settings; peer groups, families and workplaces; ethnic and social groups; gender and race; and interest groups.

A third reason is that culture undergoes a constant process of metamorphosis as it adapts to the changing circumstances of the modern world and how we are able to interpret it. As a result, there are very few reliable measures of culture. It is nonetheless highly important. If one wants to promote change, success is more likely if it is compatible with the prevailing culture, while if it runs against the culture, the adaptive process is likely to be blocked for apparently illogical reasons.

We spend our lives accumulating cultural characteristics by processes of learning and assimilation. These are the emic components of culture — those that are specific to a particular cultural context. The etic aspects are related to universal traits and are the source of much cultural metamorphosis. In the present age they are mostly the result of the diffusion of mass culture and the technology that propagates it.

Hence, modernism fuses with ancient cultural traditions: symbiotically, the former is interpreted in the light of the latter Figure 1. Nevertheless, we should not be beguiled by its dynamic aspects, namely the mass-consumer culture inherent in the etic, or universal, aspects of modern life. Figure 1. The architecture and metamorphosis of human culture. The next section will show that the response to the 6 April earthquake in L'Aquila, central Italy, demonstrates a sudden, almost spontaneous desire for modernity, as evinced by forms of reconstruction that show a distinct break with traditional urban form.

In contrast, the political power relations that conditioned the choices made in the reconstruction process reflect more the weight of history, the emic processes of a social fabric that is slow to evolve, than the etic ones found in modernism. Thus we understand disaster through a perceptual and cultural filter that has many levels, from individual, through family, peer group, organisation, community, region and nation, right up to the international, etic forms of popular culture.

By way of example, community-based forms of disaster reduction should take account of the ways in which people in the community associate with each other, including forms of meeting and debate the socialisation of the problem and community power structures and sources of authority.

All of these elements are to some extent culturally determined.

Yet they have been important throughout history and are no less relevant today, albeit in a radically different context Alexander, Once upon a time the appearance of a comet in the sky might have been interpreted as a portent of doom and destruction. Nowadays symbols are the simplest form of model of a reality that is increasingly complex as more and more information becomes available. Symbols and symbolism are a natural response to the domination of communication by electronic representations of reality, many of which are severely reductive.

Sixty years ago to be involved in disaster was, in many cultures, to be subject to a form of disgrace that could hardly be talked about. Nowadays such involvement has been radically transformed by mass media attention. To be a victim of disaster may even be a route to celebrity. This has to do with the interpretation of disaster — symbolically — as a form of moral outrage Horlick-Jones, in which the victim gains the weight of moral authority simply by being involved.

All three branches of semiotics could be involved in this process. First, semantics , the relationship between signs and the denotata , the things which they endow with meaning, can help us understand the gap between how people perceive hazard, risk and disaster and how these phenomena are in scientific terms. In previous works I listed up to 47 common misconceptions about disaster and analysed how some of these influence the judgement of people involved in managing emergencies.

Secondly, syntactics , the relationships among signs in formal structures, can help us understand how the representation of disasters is codified by the groups and cultures involved. This is the shorthand interpretation of risk and impact for the purposes of rapid reaction, the language of response to hazard. Thirdly and finally, pragmatics , the relationships between signs and their effect on people who use them, can help us understand the feedback between the symbolic representations of disastrous phenomena, risks and extreme events and the meanings that both result from and generate these models.

They are akin to friction, a quality that does not exist until it is mobilised. Students of disaster will have noted that the 'hard' science interpretation of risk is fundamentally different from the social science interpretation Slovic and Gregory, Engineering risk usually involves calculating the probability of failure of a built structure under specific conditions of loading.

Social science risk brings into play factors such as perception that cannot easily be quantified, or when quantification is attempted the result is less than satisfying Purchase and Slovic, Thus risk and its dominant component vulnerability are in essence hypothetical concepts.

Paradoxically they are no less real for being hypothetical. However, once they are mobilised they are instantly transformed into impact. It is thus hardly surprising that risk and vulnerability remain elusive — though not illusive — concepts that defy holistic measurement or assessment.