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Geo Lec 2 .docx

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Western University
Geography 2152F/G
Bharat Punjabi

Lecture 2 Disasters & Hazards: Some definitions • A large scale disaster is an event that adversely affects a large number of people, devastates a large geographical area, and taxes the resources of local communities and central governments. Hurricane Katrina is an example • Hazards are products, processes and other conditions that potentially threaten individuals and/ or their reproduction(in all senses). The presence of a chemical industry in a city or the use of pesticides are examples of hazards Disasters: What do we Include? • The most important point about a large scale disaster is that disasters are not clearly confined to clearly defined events such as earthquakes and cyclones. Industrial disasters such as the Bhopal gas event is an example • Disasters resulting from events that are more diffuse in space and time are also incorporated, such as droughts and epidemics. Disasters and Disaster like Conditions • Longer term processes could also be termed as disaster conditions in contrast to disaster events. • For instance, the deadly seepage of arsenic into groundwater poses disaster like conditions for rural communities in developing countries like Bangladesh. • However, some scholars include both disaster events and disaster like conditions into their definition of disaster. The argument is that this classification should not be binary, but, rather a continuum from rapid-onset, spatially and temporally well defined events through to ongoing, poorly defined challenges without fixed start or end points in time and space. Disaster-Wider Definition • Thus the term disaster includes event/processes that range from slow onset phenomena, such as droughts and toxic exposures, to rapid-onset events, such as earthquakes and nuclear accidents. Disasters are Multidimensional • Disasters are multidimensional because they are both physical and social event/processes • Both natural and technological phenomena produce or trigger disasters and create a wide variety of physical impacts. • In this course, we will be examining disasters as they occur at the intersection of nature and culture and illustrate, often dramatically, the mutuality of each in the constitution of the other Disaster Agents: Technological and Natural Disasters • In Kenneth Hewitt’s view, disaster agents include natural hazards ( atmospheric, hydrological, geological and biological), technological hazards ( dangerous materials, destructive processes, mechanical and productive), and social hazards ( war, terrorism, civil conflict and the use of hazardous materials and technologies) Disasters Unfold as Complex Events • Disasters disclose in their unfolding the linkages and the interpenetrations of natural forces or agents, power structures and social arrangements, and cultural values and belief systems • Disasters disclose fundamental features of a society and culture, laying bare crucial relationships and core values in the intensity of impact and the stress of recovery and reconstruction. Disasters as they Reveal Nature-Society Relations • As disasters develop and occur, all dimensions of a social structural formation and the totality of its relations with the environment become involved, affected and focused. • All disasters are articulated through the operation of physical, biological and social systems and their interactions among populations, institutions and practices. There are few contexts in which the mutual constitutionality of the physical and the social are so starkly displayed as in a disaster. Western constructs of nature-society relationship • Why do we look at this relationship for understanding disasters? • For geographers ( and anthropologists) to understand the vulnerability of populations and societies to disasters, the relationship between society and nature is of fundamental importance • The model of society-nature relations in the West therefore merits special attention • Human beings were seen (until the 18 and 19 century ascent of Utilitarianism) as being the creation of God and being one wit
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