Earthquake Disaster Mitigation

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Earthquake Disaster Mitigation

  1. 1. Social, Cultural and Political Aspects of Earthquake Disaster Mitigation David Alexander University College London
  2. 2. Theorem: A better knowledge of natural hazards will contribute almost nothing to resolving the disasters problem... ...unless context is taken fully into account.
  3. 3. The Problem
  4. 4. Gertrude Stein, 1913 [adapted] A disaster is a disaster is a disaster... Its "disastrousness" is not defined by its causal agent.
  5. 5. Lesson to be learned: We will never even understand the problem, let alone solve it, unless we start being realistic about the world in which we live.
  6. 6. Analysis • registered • archived • forgotten • ignored Vulnerability maintained - • utilised • adopted • learned Disaster risk reduced + Lessons Past events The process of disaster risk reduction (DRR)
  7. 7. • colossal imbalances in power and wealth • immense but eminently solvable problems that are not solved because there is powerful opposition to attempts to do so • huge differences in the definition of what is rational • many key activities are not legitimate by any standards. What is the world actually like?
  8. 8. • community-level DRR: communities are not homogeneous or harmonious units • communities are not particularly interested in DRR • neither are governments • disasters can be explained with reference to power structures Terry Cannon's observations on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) • people, governments & communities seldom act on the basis of evidence and research • rationality can only be defined in context.
  9. 9. • corruption • political decision-making • shoddy building (often wilful) • ignorance (sometimes wilful) • seismicity. What causes earthquake disasters? - in probable order of importance -
  10. 10. Serious conclusion: there is not one reality, but there are many of them.
  11. 11. Compared to the original plans, this hospital lacked more than 500 concrete beams. In the earthquake, there was mass mortality in the maternity wing.
  12. 12. NB: Correlation does not prove causation, but....
  13. 13. • difficult to define • virtually impossible to measure • extremely pervasive, endogenous • moral and ethical frameworks vary • links with other ills (black economy). Corruption
  14. 14. www.bbc.co.uk/news
  15. 15. Justice system Rights Responsibilities Moral Ethical Legal Constitution Disaster Context of disaster
  16. 16. DISASTER Destructiondamage casualties Capital Labour (fast) reformation (slower) repopulation temporary boom in employmentReconstruction Recoverycapital displaces labour unemployment and social consequences Slump
  17. 17. EVENT (impact) Participation Governance Unclear objectives Clear objectives SOLID RECOVERY PERMANENT PRECARIOUSNESS Repeated impacts
  18. 18. Organisational systems: management Social systems: behaviour Natural systems: function Technical systems: malfunction VulnerabilityHazard Resilience Political systems: decisions
  19. 19. What is resilience?
  20. 20. Risk amplification factors Risk mitigation factors Total vulnerability Risk perception factors- +positivenegative DIALECTIC
  21. 21. Vulnerability Total: life is generally precarious Economic: people lack adequate occupation Technological/technocratic: due to the riskiness of technology Delinquent: caused by corruption, negligence, etc. Residual: caused by lack of modernisation Newly generated: caused by changes in circumstances
  22. 22. The "cradle" of resilience: Canonbury Tower London N1. Built in 1509 to survive the Universal Deluge: inhabited in 1625 by Francis Bacon.
  23. 23. Francis Bacon Sylva Sylvarum, 1625 [Are we to criticise him for using the "greengrocer's apostrophe"?]
  24. 24. RESILIENCE: as a material has brittle strength and ductility: society must have an optimum combination of resistance to hazard impacts and ability to adapt to them.
  25. 25. ResilienceResistance Risk Susceptibility Physical (including natural, built, technological) Social (including cultural, political, economic) Environment Attributes Source: McEntire 2001 LiabilitiesCapabilities VULNERABILITY
  26. 26. Diagnosis
  27. 27. • effect of heroin addiction on the reconstruction of Bam, Iran • introduction of repressive Shia and blasphemy laws in Aceh and Padang • colossal waste of public money on transitional shelter in L'Aquila, Italy • government insensitivity to cultural heritage protection in Christchurch. Reality check:
  28. 28. • widening wealth gap since 1970 • failure to divert resources from response to prevention and mitigation • half of world trade goes through 78 tax havens • one fifth of world trade is illicit (drugs, armaments, people, species) • relationship of proxy wars to aid. More reality check:
  29. 29. • resources that debilitate local coping capacity • munitions, military hardware, soldier training and some humanitarian stuff • an instrument of political influence • a means of lining certain people's pockets. What is aid?
  30. 30. • BIG concrete on poor people's land • of direct benefit to the donor countries • aid is in DEEP CRISIS. What is aid?
  31. 31. " Experts talk of "building back better", of concepts like "resilience" and "sustainability", of crisis being opportunity in the way that it was for the devastated cities of Germany and Japan in 1945. ... The practice … can be very different; piecemeal, dilatory, bureaucratic, venal even. Urban planners, it seems, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. But occasionally, just occasionally, they surprise on the upside too, and reimagine the city in ways that might have been impossible had disaster not struck." www.theguardian.com/cities/series/cities-back-from-the-brink
  32. 32. The catastrophic earthquakes that have occurred since 1999, in Turkey, Taiwan, Sumatra, Kashmir and Sichuan, demonstrate that elementary engineering guidelines for earthquake resistance in crucial civil structures (schools, hospitals and fire stations,) have been alien concepts to local authorities, or have been ignored. Roger Bilham, Nature
  33. 33. From 1703 until 2014, earthquake disasters in L'Aquila have been determined by political decisions
  34. 34. Without corruption, the impact of this earthquake would have been about 10% of what it actually was.
  35. 35. "Our research shows that the success of early warning is largely determined by politics, not science." - Chatham House, London
  36. 36. • consolidate power structures • augment profits • allow introduction of conveniently repressive measures • permit gratuitous social engineering. The economic and social VALUE of disasters
  37. 37. BENIGN (healthy) at the service of the people MALIGN (corrupt) at the service of vested interests interplay dialectic Justification Development [spiritual, cultural, political, economic] IDEOLOGY CULTURE
  38. 38. In disasters and disaster risk, how important is gender?
  39. 39. Kobe 1995 earthquake deaths by gender and age ― males ― females
  40. 40. Gender and Disasters Network www.gdnonline.org
  41. 41. Towards a cure
  42. 42. • advances in knowledge have had a positive impact • the whole problem is better known than ever before • interdisciplinary research and problem- solving have made some progress • but the balance is still weighted heavily in favour of a worsening situation. Correcting a one-sided picture:-
  43. 43. • science must not be allowed to be the justification for political malpractice • if you supply data, methods or results you have some responsibility for how they are used • accept that the primary effect of hazards is determined by vulnerability. Some precepts
  44. 44. Earthquake disaster as a negative window of opportunity But at the bottom there was hope.... "Pandora's box" theory of disasters
  45. 45. • realism helps • transparency is necessary • gross inequality is in no one's interest • national policies are needed and can work • cultivate a flexible attitude. The positive messages
  46. 46. Thank you for your attention! david.alexander@ucl.ac.uk emergency-planning.blogspot.com www.slideshare.net/dealexander

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