The Disaster Risk Reduction Conference

October 12-13, 2017, Warsaw, Poland


KEYNOTE 1: José Manuel Palma-Oliveira

Professor of Environmental Psychology and Risk Perception and Management – University of Lisbon, Portugal

Professor of the University of Lisbon is past-president of SRA- Europe; Fellow since 2012, and 2016’s recipient of the Society of Risk Analysis Presidential Merit Award “for his humanitarian and scientific contributions … a distinguished educator and mentor to international students and a leading member of Society in thought and action”.  Also is a Distinguished Visiting Scholar of University of Virginia, Department of Systems and Information Engineering. He made significant contributions to environmental and risk policy in Portugal and in the EU. He was the President of Quercus, the most active environmental NGO in Southern Europe. He was President of the Board of the Foundation for the Protection of the Salinas (wetlands) Samouco between 2001 and 2008, and a Board member of the European Federation of Transport and Environment (Brussels–EU advocacy group) from 1997 to 2010. Invited expert in EU policy working groups (air quality, noise). He works currently as a consultant in Portugal, Tunisia and Brazil within conflicts with local communities and/or governments over some type of projects. His unique approach to risk communication is based in an attempt of constructing a shared knowledge base and grounded of this profound knowledge of the logic and the pay-off perceived by the different groups at the different decision levels. He works actively in resilience in EU projects and just published an edited a book with Igor Linkov titled, Resilience and Risk: Methods and Application in Environment, Cyber and Social Domains. Springer.

TOPIC: Predicting Community Resilience in a Changing climate and in a Disaster Prone World

José Manuel Palma-Oliveira, University of Lisbon

Data will be presented to show that,  particularly since the systematic use of agricultural practices (around 6000BC), not only there is a radical change of the ecosystems throughout the globe, but essentially a change in the human societies and their organization. Until now the consequences of the societal changes (i.e., higher chronic stress, total absence of perceived control in a high percentage of the population, power imbalances between genders, etc.) are underestimated. We will present research that shows the negative consequences those changes for human health and well being, particularly when associated with pollution, urban life, and badly designed “places”.

This combined alteration where of particular -negative – importance in moments where climate change is a major threat. It will be predicted that communities’ resilience depends upon two main factors: a) the degree to which the ecosystem is dependent of the Human action and b) the degree to which stress and inequality abound. The consequences of that context in predicting resilience to disaster (less time and effort to recover) will be stressed and some avenues for action will be highlighted.

KEYNOTE 2: Sharon Moran

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, State University of New York – Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, New York, USA

Professor Moran is a social scientist (geography) who focuses on the human dimensions of environmental issues, especially water resources management. She is currently working on a book exploring the ways that stream and river restoration projects support environmental justice goals (Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group). She is the leader of an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Environmental and Natural Resources Policy (ENRP). Together with faculty from Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, she co-leads a graduate certificate program in Sustainable Enterprise. In addition to her academic  research, she has worked as an environmental advocate and policy consultant, and served on the boards of several non-profits in education and community development.

TOPIC: Defusing Disasters – Exploring Preparedness and Coastal Storm Warnings  

Sharon Moran, State University of New York

My talk will explain how researchers are essential to the practice of disaster management and risk reduction, especially social science researchers. I will mention some recent disasters, but my main focus will be what we learned from my own study about Hurricane Sandy (NYC area) and the people who *did not* follow directions to evacuate when the coastal storm approached. My comments will explore this in connection with a specific topic: emergency preparedness, coastal cities, and people with disabilities (PWDs).. I will present findings from a case study, and explore what this means concerning critical perspectives on resilience. Many coastal communities cope with the threat of flooding and storms; in the context of climate change, with sea level rise and projected increases in the number and severity of storms, planning efforts have become much more urgent. When storms threaten, managers typically issue warnings and evacuation orders, yet in one recent event (Hurricane Sandy, NYC area) record numbers of people disregarded orders. Also, the data show that people with disabilities (PWD) and elders bear disproportionate harms during disasters. People who do not evacuate and instead remain in place, frustrate managers, who label them ‘noncompliant.’ To help unpack the dynamics of the situation, we studied perceptions of New York City area residents who did not evacuate as Hurricane Sandy loomed. By interrogating people’s non-responses to evacuation orders, we looked for insight into ways that larger phenomena are shaping what happens on the ground and how disabilities are produced. Our study revealed that the experiences of people with disabilities include: misinformation, shelters that fail to accommodate, abandonment, and being left out due to inaccessible communication practices. This case study engages several quintessentially geographic concerns: perceptions of the environment, bodies, space, and movement in the context of a political struggle for more accessible spaces. While institutions have powerful incentives to reinscribe disparities and injustices, new perspectives on the role of design may help animate movement toward more functional and inclusive spaces.

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