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Earth Science - Lecture 38.docx

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McMaster University
Earth Sciences
Sergei Basik

December 3, 2013 NATURAL HAZARDS: CONTEMPORARY AND FUTURE PROBLEMS Problems  Problems arise when people put themselves where they can be impacted by major natural events  Simple solution would be to keep people from hazardous locations  Towns were located where suitable for earlier basic needs, but modern infrastructure is too entrenched for easy relocations  People continue to make poor choices, based on leisure, recreation and aesthetics  People understand that there are risks in life and choose to accept some of them or believe that risked event “won’t happen to me” Hazard Assessment and Mitigation  Underlying problem is belief that we can control nature  Short-term ‘cures’ are seen as solutions to nature’s rampages  Fail to see that the more we hold back the effect of large natural events, the worse the effect will eventually be  ‘Soft’ solutions: zoning to prevent buildings, strict building codes (much less expensive options)  ‘Hard’ solutions: installing levees, concrete barriers, riprap, catchment basins and landslide drains Societal Attitudes  Collective memories of disasters only go back a few years  Who should be responsible? o Seller, purchaser, developer or agent, or government o Caveat emptor: “buyer beware” o Seller often held responsible if aware o Government held responsible because they have deeper pockets than others  Zoning restrictions are often limited After a Disaster  Damage may be influenced by homeowner’s choices (scenic sites may be dangerous)  Causes and effects may be difficult to determine: o When hillside begins to slide, water pipes may break and leak into ground (did leaking pipes contribute to slope failure or were they simply caused by slope failure?) o Did levees cause river to flood higher than it would have otherwise? o Should landowners be permitted to do whatever they wish with their property?  Governmental policy has shifted to emphasize mitigation but not consistently: December 3, 2013 o Fund for rebuilding in safer ways or locations  Insurance companies refuse to renew policies Education  Anti-taxation attitudes should make people receptive to reducing costs in efforts to control nature: o Billions of tax dollars are spent to protect inherently high-risk areas for benefit of few o Solution should be to educate public about natu
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