LEARNING FROM DISASTERS:THE SYNERGY OF LAW AND GEOGRAPHY
LEARNING FROM DISASTERS: THE SYNERGY OF LAW AND GEOGRAPHY Presentation to Roundtable on Natural Hazard Risk Reduction by Dr. Rutherford H. Platt, Director Ecological Cities Project Department of Geosciences University of Massachusetts Amherst November 15, 2006
Natural Disasters Defined: “ Catastrophic or damaging events that result from the interaction of natural hazards and human presence” Connecticut River Flood, June, 1984
Major Natural Hazards of US Capricious Natural Hazards - Climate Based Hurricanes Blizzards and winter storms Drought Wildfires Tornados Lightning Place-Selective Natural Hazards - Geology Based Earthquakes Floods - riverine, coastal Coastal Erosion Landslides and mudslides Tsunamis Volcanos MAJOR NATURAL HAZARDS OF THE U.S.
To paraphrase George Santayana . . . Those who fail to learn from natural disasters are condemned to repeat them.
Learning how to learn from a disaster . . . THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON September 2-6, 1666
I saw a fire as one entire arch of fire above a mile long: it made me weep to see it. The churches, houses are all on fire and flaming at once, and a horrid noise the flames made and the cracking of the houses.” Samuel Pepys, Diary , 1666
ACT FOR REBUILDING LONDON, 1667 SELECTED PROVISIONS (Based on Royal Proclamation of Sept. 13, 1666) <ul><li>Stone or brick to be used on exterior facades in place of wood; </li></ul><ul><li>Width of streets to be established in relation to their importance; </li></ul><ul><li>Open quay along Thames to be created for access to water; </li></ul><ul><li>Nuisance and hazardous activities to be banned in central London; </li></ul><ul><li>Reasonable compensation to be paid to owners whose right to rebuild is curtailed by public restrictions. </li></ul><ul><li>Source: Rasmussen 1934/1967 pp. 116-117 </li></ul>
“ Few natural events have had a more lasting impact [than the 1927 Mississippi Flood] on our engineering concepts, economic thought, and political policy in the field of floods. Prior to 1927 control of floods in the United States was considered largely a local responsibility. Soon after 1927, the control of floods became a national problem and a federal responsibility.” Hoyt and Langbein, Floods ,1956 .
The Civil Engineer’s Solution Structural Flood Control Los Angeles River Salt River - Phoenix
STRUCTURAL FAILURE Flooding Behind Corps Levees Pearl River at Jackson, Miss. April, 1979 STRUCTURAL FAILURE
Barrows quote “ To minimize the menace of waters and to promote their greatest usefulness are objectives worthy of the application of the highest intelligence and other energies of the Nation. The problem is an engineering problem; not merely physical engineering but of cultural engineering––of planning a future civilization.” National Resources Board, Final Report , 1934, p. 260. (Attributed by Gilbert F. White to his mentor, Harland H. Barrows) The Geographer’s Solution -- “ FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT”
Gilbert F. White (1911-2006) Father of Floodplain Management With Miriam Anderson, St. Charles County, MO after 1993 Floods
Gilbert F. White, Editor, 1961 Report of Task Force on Federal Flood Control Policy, (House Doc. 465), 1966, Gilbert F. White, Chair
Law Professor Allison Dunham translated White’s research into a legal argument to support floodplain zoning in a law review article “Flood Control Via the Police Power” (107 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1098-1132, 1959) This article was in turn cited by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in: Turnpike Realty v. Town of Dedham 284 N.E.2d 891, 1972 which would be cited as precedent in dozens of state and federal decisions upholding the constitutionality of floodplain and wetland regulations over the next two decades.
<ul><li>Learning from Disasters: Some Key Issues </li></ul><ul><li>How is post-disaster learning process established and structured? </li></ul><ul><li>What is scope of inquiry (narrow, broad)? </li></ul><ul><li>What is time frame of inquiry in relation to recovery process? </li></ul><ul><li>(How long can rebuilding be delayed?) </li></ul><ul><li>4. How are findings incorporated in recovery and rebuilding process? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>mandates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>funding provisions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>incentives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>technical assistance </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How may disaster recovery promote multiple objectives? e.g., </li></ul><ul><ul><li>hazard mitigation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>water quality improvement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>habitat restoration </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>recreation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>6. How can a legal basis for intervention in private market be established? </li></ul>
Groat “ The opportunity [after Katrina] is for those who treated scientific understanding as a minor ingredient in the planning of neighborhoods, storm protection structures, drainage systems, to listen more carefully to scientists and act more responsibly as they seek better protection of lives and property.” Charles Groat Former Director, U.S.Geological Survey EOS Newsletter of the A.G.S. Sept. 20, 2005
Herbert Quote “ We need a highly respected and truly independent commission that is willing to root out all the facts, no matter how embarrassing to the people in power, and lay out a reasonable plan for the future .” Bob Herbert, “ Blood on their Hands” New York Times Op-Ed September 29, 2005
“ Right now, it appears that no one is making any of the hard choices about which places are safe, which are unsafe and which can be made safe. . . . . New Orleans should surpass what is adequate and expedient. It should be built as a model for how to protect our cities in the future, not a cautionary tale about trying to dwell in the past .” “ Houses of Straw” New York Times Editorial Page April 13, 2006
Platt Quote “ A nonpolitical expert panel, in collaboration with community representatives, must examine the levee failures, the bungled evacuation, the communication break-down, inadequate care for those stranded in the city, public health, and, above all, how and where to rebuild more safely .” Source: R. H. Platt, Op-ed, The New Orleans Times-Picayune; Monday, September 26, 2005. (Reprinted in Springfield Republican (Mass.) Oct. 2, 2005)
Lessons of Physical and Natural Science Images assembled by: David Boutt, UMass Dept. of Geosciences
Will lower-income areas be rebuilt with forethought, or will they fall off the radar scope once public attention shifts elsewhere?
Although many disciplinary and agency-specific investigations were conducted after Katrina, the Bush Administration never appointedan independent expert panel (comparable to the Galloway Task Force after the 1993 Mississippi Floods) to learn and apply the lessons of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in rebuillding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast Region
Rutherord H. Platt, NRC Natural Disasters Roundtable October 18. 2005