Crucibles of Hazard: Mega-Cities and Disasters in Transition

Crucibles of Hazard: Mega-Cities and Disasters in Transition

Crucibles of Hazard: Mega-Cities and Disasters in Transition

Crucibles of Hazard: Mega-Cities and Disasters in Transition

Synopsis

As a result of repeated experiences with devastating earthquakes, storms, floods, and wildfires, places like Tokyo, Mexico City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are already identified with catastrophe in both scientific literature and popular culture. Similar prospects face less obvious urban candidates like Dhaka, Miami, London, Lima, Seoul, and Sydney. In this collaborative study of environmental risks in ten of the world's major cities, geographers, planners, and other experts examine the hazard experiences of case study cities and analyze their future risks. They conclude that the natural disaster potential of the biggest cities is expanding at a pace which far exceeds the rate of urbanization. In addition to tracing hazard trends and arguing in support of management reforms that can be implemented quickly, Crucibles of Hazard directs attention to long-term issues of safety and security that must be resolved to sustain urban areas. Opportunities for such innovative policymaking include: capitalizing on the role of hazards as agents of urban diversification; broadening the scope for employing hazard-based contingency planning models in other urban governance contexts; and mobilizing hazard myths and metaphors as unifying sources of inspiration for diverse and sometimes fractious metropolitan constituencies. This study was led by the International Geographical Union's Study Group on the Disaster Vulnerability of Mega-cities.

Excerpt

Tokyo is one of the world's largest and richest mega-cities and also one of the most hazard prone (Alden, 1984; Cybriwsky, 1993; Fujita, 1991; Geographical Review of Japan, 1990; Sassen, 1991). Since being founded over 400 years ago it has been repeatedly devastated and rebuilt after fires, earthquakes, and aerial bombings (Busch, 1962; Hewitt, 1983; Scawthorn et al., 1985; Seidensticker, 1983, 1990). Usually the urgency of reconstruction frustrated attempts to redevelop a formally planned city (Williams, 1993: 447). Tokyo has also undergone a different kind of transformation with equally profound consequences – first from provincial capital to pre-eminent national urban centre and then to co-leading global city (Douglass, 1993; Harris, 1982). Now, at the end of the twentieth century, as it awaits the possibility of another major earthquake (Katsuhiko, 1987), Tokyo has had to cope with the vicissitudes of high land costs, cramped living quarters, substandard housing, lack of open space, severe traffic congestion, air pollution, and a rash of terror gas attacks. In the face of these ills, as well as for other reasons, there are strong pressures to relocate the national capital outside of Tokyo.

To confront its various threats the city has deployed an arsenal of engineering technologies that far surpass in scale and sophistication those of most other places. Indeed, Tokyo provides a striking example of the use of . . .

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