1-DRR and modernity: From hazards to the/ClipID:3172 next clip

Recording date 2013-07-11





Organisational Unit

Professur für Geographie



It seems the incidence of disasters and losses in them continue to grow. Various explanations are proposed, typically about more dangerous environments or more vulnerable populations. Few invoke late modern culture as a militating factor, rather than the source for diffusion of techno-scientific, managerial and rights-based improvements. However, in the wealthiest ´homelands`, DRR is embedded within very broad security complexes and subordinate to systems for war preparedness, border security, international migration and trafficking. It is associated with ever expanding carceral systems. Disaster zones are treated like war zones or crime scenes. Supporting this is a resurgence of conflict and hazards determinism in the language of disasters. ´Militant humanitarianism` is an obvious manifestation. Rather than a balanced, ´all-hazards` approach, these full spectrum security systems promote aggressive crisis management, and elbow aside long-term DRR and preventive measures. Their institutional cultures favour top-down hierarchies, centralized control, and secrecy. All this seems contrary priorities established by HFA and agencies like UNDP and IFRCRCS and four decades of social vulnerability research. DRR principles or findings go in one direction, organized response systems in another. I explore explanations in the genealogy of disaster management in civil defense, and in the growing treatment of disasters as opportunities rather than tragedies. The early Cold War years gave the civil defense approach unusual impetus. Nuclear readiness was a first priority, but other disasters offered ways to use ´assets` awaiting nuclear Armageddon. More recently, security and emergency preparedness have spawned huge and profitable industries. Investment in security systems and catastrophic risk insurance show exponential growth. Official and charitable humanitarian funds offer unusual opportunities for all sorts of enterprises. The question arises of whether disasters grow mainly because they outstrip response capacities, perhaps due to climate change, or because they increasingly benefit some key actors? What Klein calls the "shock doctrine" and capitalizing on disaster are widely evident. In the popular culture, disasters are rarely presented as sober reminders of the failures of public safety, of avoidable losses, let alone threats mainly to the disadvantaged and wretched. Rather, spectacles of destruction, humanitarian giving, heroic rescue and relief prevail. Recent events in New Orleans, Haiti, and Fukushima fully illustrate the consequences of disaster seen as security challenge and opportunity. Disaster management as practiced seems increasingly connected to politics, globalization, and modern enterprise. As a social construct, it needs to be critiqued and assessed in such terms.

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