Cannon, Terry (2008) : Reducing people’s vulnerability to natural hazards communities and resilience, WIDER Research Paper, No. 2008/34, The United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), Helsinki.
This research paper from 2008 explores the concepts of vulnerability, community, and resilience in the context of natural hazards and disasters. The importance of these concepts are discussed individually as well as when they are combined. This paper seeks to get to the root of each concept as a way to better understand and prepare for processes of natural disaster. The author, Terry Cannon, points to the ways such concepts are misunderstood and the necessity for understanding the underlying contributing factors to what has been generalized as “vulnerability”. Cannon’s research has a preliminary focus on community capacity, capability, and vulnerability prior to disasters in order to better understand how to strategize during and after natural disasters. Cannon states, “There is the danger that outsiders, impressed by the mere fact of survival, romanticize the virtues of resilience. The task surely is not to marvel at this, but to create the conditions that make coping unnecessary and resilience much more than a return to vulnerability.” (1) Cannon’s research faces concepts of exploitation by addressing all factors, not just those that are visible within afflicted communities. This is helpful in my research design as the majority of the research revolves around the exploitation of vulnerable communities. In reading this research, my question still stands, but from looking at the research through what Cannon calls a framework of capacity and vulnerability analysis, I can avoid misconceptions and generalizations about the communities in which my topic is centered.
Gunewardena, Nandini, “Human Security versus Neoliberal Approaches to Disaster Recovery”, in Gunewardena, Nandini and Schuller, Mark Capitalizing on Catastrophe: Neoliberal Strategies in Disaster Reconstruction, AltaMira Press, (2008).
Using a descriptive case study logic, Nandini Gunewardena analyzes the relationships of “‘natural’ and human-mediated disasters,'” (3) to better understand destructive processes. She focuses on the after-effects of natural disasters, specifically the limitations and restrictions set against market economies and what she describes as the “neoliberal economic doctrine” (4). Documenting the paradigm shift from humanitarian aid based on genuine desire to ease human suffering to corporate, free-market incentivized “investments” in recovery, Gunewardena explores the loss of human sympathy and strategies to profit from disasters. By using neoliberal strategies to commodify developments in a post-disaster context effectively intensify underlying socioeconomic vulnerabilities for marginalized communities, increasing social and economic inequalities for overlooked communities. This work aligns very well with my research design, essentially bringing together the issues highlighted by all of my research examples and sources. Seeing the same ideas I wrote on for my extended design outline exemplified in just one chapter of this book shows the potential evidence I could draw from this literature in continuing my research design.
This publication lays out the research design and conclusions made by Susan L. Cutter, Bryan J. Boruff, and W. Lynn Shirley that looked to analyze the geography of social vulnerability as it pertains to natural disasters and other environmental hazards. They narrowed factors of social vulnerability across all U.S. counties to 11 independent variables: personal wealth; age; density of built environment; single-sector economic dependence; housing stock and tenancy; race (African American); ethnicity (Hispanic); ethnicity (Native American); race (Asian); Occupation; and infrastructure dependence. By running this data to test for social vulnerability, they found that counties in the lower half of the U.S. were the most vulnerable, stating “stretching from south Florida to California—regions with greater ethnic and racial inequalities as well as rapid population growth.” (255) are at greater risk in the event of natural disaster. The researchers declare, “The factors identified in the statistical analysis are consistent with the broader hazards literature and not only demonstrate the geographic variability in social vulnerability, but also the range in the underlying causes of that vulnerability.” (257). This research aims to drive further research and analysis of factors of social vulnerability as it pertains to preparing for and recovering from natural disasters, and wishes to be used as an index factor for other analyses such as biophysical risk data in order to better help vulnerable counties and communities affected by such hazards. This research is extremely helpful to my cause, as it lays out its own research methodology that seeks to answer social and economic inequalities of disenfranchised and marginalized communities that are put at risk more so than wealthy and homogenous communities whose wealth already serves as an additional layer of protection that many communities lack.
Comerio, Mary C. “Disaster Recovery and Community Renewal: Housing Approaches.” Cityscape 16, no. 2 (2014): 51-68.
In her article, “Disaster Recovery and Community Renewal: Housing Approaches”, Mary C. Comerio addresses the social and economic impact of natural disasters on communities and focuses on ways to improve post-disaster recovery for and by community citizens. Using the key-term “disaster resilience”, Comerio looks at different forms of disaster recovery programs that are currently in place and asserts that the necessity of viewing resilience from an intersectional lens. By using a multifaced approach that looks at social, economic, infrastructural, ecological and community factors that are impacted by natural disasters, community resilience can be improved and made more efficient and beneficial for those in need. In preparation for proposals that support growing community resilience to disasters, she addresses existing problems within local and federal government programs for disaster relief. Noting that city governments rarely have existing policies that prepare for structural and economic redevelopment or new housing models in the event of a disaster, she urges restructuring current and outdated policies that are better prepared and funded to respond to disasters. She also notes the limitations of government funding that do not extend beyond public infrastructure to meet the needs of those who are affected by disasters and require assistance that will most likely not be covered by government programs or insurance claims. Looking at the different responses and recovery management done by private and public sectors, she emphasizes the recovery of public infrastructure which is managed by governments, as opposed to privately owned property which is often left unmanaged. She asserts, “Housing recovery, however, is critically interdependent with recovery of those public-sector facilities.” (53), meaning that while housing redevelopment is thrust upon communities of citizens and owners, their own redevelopment and recovery is tied to the (long) recovery of public structures that they are excluded from, therefore creating more obstacles for community resilience and redevelopment. Additionally, before the phases of recovery and reconstruction, many shadow renters, those who reside in short-term and/or single-room rentals that may be low income, squatters or undocumented immigrants are put in more danger during disasters as many of them are not granted status in government programs. For many, this leaves churches and NGOs as the only other options for disaster relief and aid. She emphasizes the threats for those at risk, “in what has become a highly urbanized society, multifamily losses will leave many renters homeless while builders make investment decisions that may not include replacement housing.” (54). She concludes by reiterating the importance of restructuring government relief programs to provide adequate assistance to communities and individuals who are the most affected by the damage of natural disasters, transparency of recovery goals and information to citizens, and using the National Disaster Recovery Framework to better serve the needs of disaster victims. This article is relevant to my research in that it addresses many existing government roadblocks to disaster and community recovery, and looks closely at community citizens as the forefront of disaster recovery, rather than casting them aside in favor for new developments and gentrifying processes.
Gould, Kevin & Magdalena Garcia, M & A.C. Remes, Jacob. (2016). Beyond “natural-disasters-are-not-natural”: The work of state and nature after the 2010 earthquake in Chile. Journal of Political Ecology. 23. 93-114.
This article deconstructs the idea of a ‘natural disaster’, reframing natural disasters as only part natural and the remainder as a political play. The authors Gould, Garcia, and Remes focus their research on the natural, socioeconomic, and political impacts of the earthquake that hit Chile in 2010 under the Bachelet administration. They reframe natural disasters as something to be managed and place the State as the manager, embodying what they call the Managerial State and Manageable Nature. They state, “The critical disaster scholars were not denying the existence of natural hazards such as earthquakes and hurricanes, but they argued that it was the social, political and economic relations that made people vulnerable to such events.” (95). The researchers also look at historical systems of oppression, including permitted force and violence against civilians who were stripped of rights in “states of catastrophe” as done under the dictatorship of Pinochet. While they state that such extreme uses of militarized force and rule have not been used since Pinochet, similar tactics of authoritative—and often violent—force are used against indigenous Mapuche communities, especially in the chaos that the earthquake and tsunami brought. Much like the disproportionate force used against indigenous communities created a militarized, violent atmosphere, the role of the media aided in framing specific narratives to elicit sympathy and patriotism from Chileans, pitting them against communities that were shown to be “disrupting”, rather than seeing them as people in need. Beyond that, they look at economic data and funding proposals in response to the earthquake, namely the ways in which economic systems are often laid out in times of natural disaster to best benefit economic institutions. They assert, “In this scenario, companies and markets are ideally positioned to respond to disaster, because according to natural laws of the market, when companies respond to disaster, they build the economy rather than contributing to inflation.” (106) While such a statement could be seen positively as working to stabilize the economy, further policy details expose the exploitation that underlays such political and economic tactics. The researchers call this strategy a ‘neoliberal approach’ that enables the growing term ‘disaster capitalism’. They declare that such approaches “permitted private firms to accumulate profits by reconstructing houses with shoddy materials and locating replacement housing on low-value land.” (107). Indigenous and lower-income communities were systematically pushed out of areas that did have higher land values in areas that were central to larger centers and cities in order for them to be reclaimed and reconstructed by companies that saw their displacement as opportunities to develop real estate and tourist facilities. While this research is very helpful in confirming exploitative actions by governments and companies in the wake of natural disasters, and further demonstrates their priorities of land development over fellow citizens, it did not provide the amount of raw data that I had been hoping to find. Nevertheless, the impact and actions taken by both governments and corporations seem to align seamlessly with other instances of natural disaster and development that I have found prior, setting what seems to be an unfortunate baseline of naturalized exploitative action.
Saltman, Kenneth J. “Capitalizing on Disaster: How the Political Right Is Using Disaster to Privatize Public Schooling.” JAC 28, no. 1/2 (2008): 11-27.
This research by Keneth J. Saltman uses a correlational research logic to analyze the harmful impacts of educational policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the Renaissance 2010 project in Chicago schools, “educational” restructuring in Iraq by U.S. companies, and the privatization of New Orleans Public Schools after Hurricane Katrina. While the research focuses on four different educational case studies, I was able to gain more information on corporate, for-profit responses to natural disasters that exploit communities with high poverty rates and residents of color. In describing the actions and policies used to make corporate profits Saltman calls such actions systems of “urban cleansing”. These systems operate off of high-pressure models that pose threats to educational opportunities and teacher’s job security even in the wake of a natural disaster that blocks many students from returning to school without buying into new privatized, for-profit charter schools at rates they cannot afford. While a large proportion of the privatization of public schools in New Orleans was seen as a response to the damage by Hurricane Katrina by private companies, the threat of privatization of school systems was felt at smaller rates prior to the disaster. Board members and politicians, especially the Louisianna Governor, held the threat of turning over “failed” schools to the economic market to be privatized and restructured when in reality they were “failing” due to inadequate funding and resources. However, when Katrina hit, the governor used the opportunity to bring in notorious for-profit companies like the Edison Schools to restructure many New Orleans school systems, destroying public education systems in order to profit off of the control of privatized education. For-profit companies such as the Edison Schools used the disaster of Hurricane Katrina to expand the reach and profits of dominantly white businesses and right-wing conservative politicians through educational privatization that further ostracized and displaced poor and black communities in the wake of the hurricane. The privatization of public schools is eerily similar to the privatization of for-profit prisons, further solidifying oppressive systems of for-profit control the feed the school-to-prison pipeline.
Waugh, William L., and R. Brian Smith. “Economic Development and Reconstruction on the Gulf After Katrina.” Economic Development Quarterly 20, no. 3 (August 2006): 211–18.
In William L. Waugh and Brian R. Smith’s 2006 article, they address potential concerns for rebuilding and recovering from the social and economic impacts of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. They analyze the potential impacts of various restructuring proposals and look at the limitations that come with abiding by federal policy proposals due to the large scale disaster that requires more than mere local government funding and redevelopment. They discuss the consequences of federal involvement such as restructuring maps that would force local planning to follow mapping and planning regulations that would further disenfranchise communities that were home to low-income, people of color, and elderly communities. Federal planning would restrict and (re)development in the floodplains, following FEMA policies that would not allow residents of the floodplains to be eligible for flood insurance if they did not follow the regulations of official federal map planning. Even so, with areas that did adhere to federal mapping regulations, residents would still be at risk from displacement even during the recovery process. Federal policy proposals would force residents of recovering neighborhoods that did not attract a certain quota of new residents after a period of twelve months to vacate their neighborhood. Furthermore, more policy proposals would see traditional coastal areas redeveloped and replaced by clusters of new residential areas with more amenities at skyrocketing prices as well as a law that was signed by the Louisianna governor that permitted the construction of new tourist catching casinos with fewer local land restrictions. This article gives me more insight into the organizational data that I should be looking out for and looking for government records and FEMA involvement, in both speculative proposals and the aid that they were actually able to provide. With this information, I will also see if I can compile permissible data from the offices of various governors and local governments in times of natural disaster.
In this article, “Applying Geography Course Projects to Issues in City Resilience and Global Connectivity” by Ronald V. Kalafsky and Helen M. Rosko, the authors present the findings of a course project for upper-division undergraduates that explored the impact of geography, city resiliency and global connections. One of the missions of the course project was to bring different intellectual perspectives from varying fields and apply found knowledge to real-world problems in an engaging application of geographic knowledge. The students were prompted to analyze many different factors and risks that cities face and use critical geographic planning to best prepare and plan for long term socioeconomic and global impacts. The authors found that creating opportunities for students to think and engage in spatial and geographic terms can lead to an increased interest in geography and geographic impacts such as social welfare and environmental health. Each student was assigned a different global city and engaged in a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis to ask central questions to the project including the strengths, weaknesses and global connectivity of a city; whether it benefits from external opportunities/obstacles; the external threats to the city as they relate to global economic networks. I was able to relate this to my topic by looking specifically at the results students found in terms of city resilience in cases of natural hazards and disasters as well as the role of human capital and (inadequate) infrastructure in cities like Dubai, Bristol, and New Orleans. Although the results of the analysis for the related topics focused largely on opportunities for redevelopment in the hopes of designing a “global city” stray from the perspective of my proposed research, it provides an opportunity to gather more organizational and economic data as I explore other sources of information and perspective.
Kalafsky, Ronald V., and Rosko, Helen M. “Applying Geography Course Projects to Issues in City Resilience and Global Connectivity.” Journal of Geography 116, no. 2 (March 4, 2017): 67–78.