Risk transference and related trends: driving forces towards more mega-disasters David Etkin*

By January 21, 2013news
credit yorku.ca

credit yorku.ca

In recent decades, the global cost of natural disasters has increased substantially. There are several trends in society and nature
that suggest this pattern may continue, with more frequent mega-disasters occurring in the future. In particular, risk perception that
is at odds with the `reala risk underlies the process of risk transference which encourages development that increases long-term vulnerability. ( 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Natural disasters occur when a natural event such as an earthquake or a storm triggers social vulnerability (Fig. 1 * top box, after Blaike et al., 1994) and the resultant damage to the physical and social fabric ex- ceeds the ability of the a!ected community to recover without assistance. Occasionally `greata or `megaa disasters occur, when the need for recovery becomes truly national and/or international. Society responds to a disaster by means of three overlapping activities: `Response and Recoverya, `Mitigationa and `Preparednessa (Fig. 1 * bottom box). These activities alter future vulnerability (and therefore the construction of future disasters), reducing risk if they are done wisely, or not if they are done otherwise. Berke and Beatley (1997, p. 2) for example, note that `disaster responses in the form of emergency relief often do not support sustainable development and, worse, sometimes subvert ita* perhaps reducing self-reliance by encouraging victim mentalities. The relationships shown in Fig. 1 depict a dynamic, interactive system, composed of both natural and social forces. People use a variety of mechanisms or adjustments to reduce exposure to natural hazards (Burton et al., 1993). Many of these, such as dams and levees, are structural in nature, and are designed to keep natural hazards `at baya. Building codes designed to withstand unusual loads from snow, wind or ground shaking are an important component of hazard mitigation. Other measures, such as restricting development in #ood prone areas, are non-structural. Yet other approaches involve sharing the risk and impacts of disasters, through insurance, NGOs such as the Red Cross, or government disaster assistance programs. The past few decades have seen increasing global costs as a result of natural disasters (Fig. 2, Munich Re, 1999), and increasing loss of life in many developing countries (e.g. Hewitt, 1997; Burton et al., 1993). These trends have occurred in spite of the stated goal of the United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction
(IDNDR) that the costs of natural disasters be cut in half by the year 2000.1 They seem particularly curious because much of the world has put large and increasing resources into mitigating natural hazards. What explains these trends? The answer is complex and * though more frequent extreme events in nature may play a role*a large part of the answer certainly lies in the realm of increased social vulnerability.

Complete version : Etkin_RiskTransference and driving forces of disasters

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