Natural Disasters and Development: In a Globalizing World

By Mark Pelling | Go to book overview

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Paradigms of risk

Mark Pelling

Introduction

Court disaster long enough, and it will accept your proposal.

Mason Cooley (1927, in Andrews et al. 1996), made this statement referring to social risk, but Cooley's observation can be applied equally well to highlight the self-destructive tendencies of recent past and contemporary human development. A cursory review of the rising numbers of people living in absolute poverty, of growing gaps between the rich and poor, of ongoing environmental degradation, globalizing consumer culture and of the global environmental impacts of industrialization, all set against the seeming lack of political and popular will for change, certainly makes it look like humanity has been courting disaster. That the average number of natural disasters reported world-wide per annum has doubled every decade since the 1960s (Pelling 2002a), suggests our proposition has been warmly accepted.

This book hopes to open up academic and policy discussions that link together local disasters and development with the processes and pressures of global change. This responds to rising economic and human losses to natural disaster, and the uncertainty of future risk scenarios under globalization (IFRC/RC 2001; IPCC 2001). The global scale of contemporary risk processes challenge disaster management in two ways. First, the motors of global change (e.g. past industrialization in North America and Europe) are often distanced in time and space from its impacts (e.g. contemporary sea-level rise and flooding in Bangladesh). Second, mitigating disaster requires co-ordination at the local, national and global scales. In this introductory chapter those elements of global change of most salience to the disaster-development relationship are identified, and two complementary schools of disaster analysis that have begun to examine the disaster-development relationship under global change are reviewed. Finally an outline for the book is presented.


Natural disaster, development and global change

Work seeking to elaborate theory and develop good practice for disaster mitigation needs to take account of the interaction of natural hazards with

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