is there a problem?
In the 21st century we appear to be far better prepared to deal with the impact of natural disasters than previous generations were. After all, we have the benefits of technology and science – we should know what to do. But in reality, this progress means little.
For the first time in human history, our societies are also manufacturing disaster risks faster than we’re capable of mitigating them. How? From decades of making unplanned and unregulated decisions about where we live, what kind of houses and settlements we live in and how unprepared we are to deal with the growing uncertainties of a changing environment.
The 2010 mid-term review of the internationally adopted Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015) reveals consistently weak progress on national efforts and local results related to the Framework’s priority on reducing underlying risk factors. This includes actions for regulating rapidly expanding urban settlements, enforcing building codes and assessing the impacts of major development projects and plans, among other measures.
The mid-term review’s finding is far from surprising. In fact, if the review were to be compiled from surveys taken on a street in New Delhi, Beijing or New York, the findings would demonstrate even weaker progress than that reported by governments.
Few people can list the different kinds of natural hazards we are exposed to around where we live and what we can do to keep safe. Even fewer consider the implications of what happens if a new nuclear plant or city bridge is not built to withstand an extreme earthquake or what the catastrophic potential of a failed levee or dam burst some miles away from our home could be.
These are risks we live with daily. Yet, there simply isn’t enough public conversation around how or why we’re manufacturing risks of such magnitude.
This could possibly be due to:
1. Ignorance: lack of publicly understood information and accessible messages on the different kinds of socio-economic processes that could create and reduce disaster risk;
2. Apathy: lack of infrastructure regulations (or poor enforcement) that makes bad drainage result in urban floods, for instance;
3. Intent: adoption of risk-generating policies/ practices to support unsustainable economies and lifestyles;
4. Denial: the belief that we will somehow find ways to better our response to the next big disaster so we need not waste limited resources to reduce risks from a probable disaster.
5. New, emerging risks: unprecedented levels of urbanization, declining ecosystems and an uncertain climate are brewing unforeseen, new and emerging risks that we have not yet developed frameworks to recognize or sufficiently address.
How are we placed to cope with this glocal challenge?
We are at a crossroad in choosing how our societies will live in the next 40 years. Change is occurring at a pace we have never experienced before. Our response cannot be slow and outdated. We must find more and more ways to be agile, highly adaptive and collaborative, as communities in transition.
How can we do this? Read some initial ideas on the project page.