Monday, July 9, 2018

Challenging disaster myths and destructive narratives

This is an English language version of an article published in Tia Sang magazine (in Vietnamese) on 09/07/2018 by Jason von Meding - original here

In the Vietnamese language, when we talk about a “disaster” we generally refer to it as a “natural disaster”. But there is an important distinction between the two. A failure to differentiate leaves us discussing people’s loss, pain and suffering in a certain way. Often, we think of it as a result of the “wrath of Mother nature”. Perhaps we even call it “the will of God”.  

When we focus on the “natural” we often neglect to discuss the social, economic and political parts of disasters.

My work investigating the root causes of disasters has led me to argue that they are actually quite unnatural. They are the result of human decisions about risk in society, about consumption, about rights and about ownership.

Sadly, disasters are inevitable in a world of increasing inequality.

Disasters aren’t natural
It is not a new concept to say that disasters are not natural. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was the first person on record to make this observation in 1756, after an earthquake and tsunami devastated Lisbon, Portugal. He argued that the casualties were due to the decisions and behaviours of people rather than nature.

Over the next 200 years, disasters were nevertheless discussed as natural or as acts of God. In the 1970s, scientists in various fields began to challenge this orthodox narrative. Since then, there have been constant challenges to the dominant position, but the terminology has only become more entrenched. There are now hundreds of thousands of references to “natural disaster” in the scientific literature.

So, what does make a disaster? Disasters often have natural triggers, and that is where we get this popular phrase “Natural disaster”. Hazards such as tsunamis, typhoons, bushfires and earthquakes do of course occur naturally. But disaster risk is determined by a combination of 2 things - 1) the hazard and 2) the vulnerability of the people in harm's way.

The truth is that around the world the victims of disasters are disproportionately impoverished, live in low-income countries and are marginalised in their society based on class, gender, religion, ethnicity and disability. And this is the way that societies are designed.

The most vulnerable suffer
Disaster impact is shaped by levels of human vulnerability. People are vulnerable for many reasons, but not because they choose to be. More often than not, someone else has made the decisions that determine their level of risk.

Injustice is built into our societies. In Vietnam we have only to look at how profoundly disasters impact on ethnic minorities. Flooding and landslides affect northwestern Vietnam periodically. In the past week, more than 20 people lost their lives, while in August 2017 dozens were killed.

These disasters cause severe hardship across provinces like Son La, Dien Bien, Yen Bai and Lai Chau. 80% of the population there belong to ethnic minorities. The poverty rate among ethnic minorities is unusually high in the region (73% - compared to a nationwide 2.9% for Kinh majority).

This is an example of how disaster risk is largely man-made. Ethnic minorities are often forgotten people in Vietnam. Attempts by the government to design policy measures to improve living standards often fail to recognise the diverse socio-economic development experience of ethnic minorities. Many ethnic minority communities have indeed benefited from development, but compared to the Kinh majority they have overwhelmingly been left behind.

Policy must therefore become more nuanced and targeted towards the specific socio-economic needs of each ethnic minority. Only then can the government start to address deficiencies in access to education, infrastructure, transportation, health care and other services. Inaction, or a simplistic and bureaucratic approach, has consequences. It is people that create disasters.

Every time a disaster occur, few people look into the role of poverty, marginalisation, environmental degradation or land use decisions in their analysis. This needs to change.

The injustices that people face define their day to day living conditions. This is how they end up living with a high level of risk. If we really want to understand the root causes of disaster, our starting point needs to be this - political, social and economic disadvantage.

These conditions are imposed on the vulnerable. It’s as simple as that. And this is where calling disasters “Natural” can be so dishonest and misleading.

Myths about disaster are commonplace
The “natural disaster” issue is not the only problem that we are facing in terms of how the public understands disasters. Society is shaped by certain prevailing narratives that are so often misleading.

Myths are widely accepted as truth. Here is a prime example. Around the world it is widely held that people behave negatively in crisis; selfishly, without compassion, irrationally and in panic. However, this simply does not fit with the available evidence. Disaster sociologists have been telling us for decades that we always see the best of human behaviour in such times. The reality is that communities come together in a disaster.

In the midst of trauma, we see the best of human "nature". People demonstrate solidarity. They give generously. They serve each other. They sacrifice not only for their family and friends, but for complete strangers. After a disaster there is a decline in crime. Victims do not loot, rape and murder. They come together.

Neighbours become first responders - something almost never picked up by the media as their stories follow international rescue teams. Communities organise and mobilise and utilise their incredible capacity to protect and assist and serve.

Sometimes when the authorities and so-called “experts” finally arrive, they actually disrupt a recovery process that is already well advanced. They often fail to recognise the importance of local capacity.

Importance of language
The words that we use are important. If a disaster is “natural” then nobody is accountable. We don’t have to think about uncomfortable root causes. Explaining disasters away as “natural” can actually prevent action to address the real root social, political and economic root causes.

In Vietnam, who benefits from this language? Which powerful interests would be unhappy if we were to speak more about the root causes of disaster rather than “nature”? Vietnam’s rapid development is not benefiting everyone equally. Inequality is growing, causing fractures in society, while the ecological impacts of rapid growth are profound. Disasters are often preceded by poor development decision-making.

One way to keep decision-makers accountable is to question the dominant narrative and language. Every time that we talk about any disaster we should be talking about vulnerability and injustice and rights. This rarely happens when we use the language of “natural disasters”.

Of course, there is always opposition to any suggestion to change the status quo. But in my experience, the opposition to abandoning the falsehood of “natural disaster” comes from those in positions of power and privilege. Some (for example academics and journalists) derive benefit from maintaining the language, because it is central to their vocabulary and they claim that it is all that the public understand. Others (for example politicians), because they might be challenged by any discussion of disaster root causes.

Although the public also commonly use this language, they are not invested in it. Most people are actually quite interested to discuss why disasters are not natural and they understand quickly.

Role of science communication and the media
So why are we so misinformed about disasters? The language is important, but it is only one factor. The media are also out for sensational stories and headlines. Disasters rarely make the news unless there is a large death toll. Rich countries are prioritised over poor ones. Consider the relative coverage of the impact of the Atlantic hurricane season on the United States to the 2017 monsoon impacts across South-Asia. Most of the media focused on the U.S.

Hollywood depicts a rescuer/victim dynamic in disaster narratives and focuses on the need to maintain law and order. Think of any disaster movie that you have watched. The people affected are panicking, selfish, irrational, helpless. This couldn’t be further from reality - but it serves a purpose to sell such a story.

Those in power have a lot to gain from perpetuating these myths. If the wider public believes that communities affected by disaster are behaving antisocially, they will not complain when force is used to “keep the law”. In the U.S. in particular, there is a history of authority-led violence after disasters. There is panic after disasters - but it comes from those afraid to lose power and control, rather than from affected communities.

Ultimately, what disaster science tells us just doesn’t square with the way that disasters are portrayed in the media or by Hollywood. Policy-makers know this and are not concerned. Therefore the rest of us must demand better.

So the next time you hear someone say “natural disaster”, inquire as to what the real cause of the disaster might be. If you see it in writing, challenge the author. We can all be a part of something positive here and shift the public discourse.

Most important of all, we need to be having the right conversation; one that is about root causes and shakes the halls of power.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Resilience vs Vulnerability

I recently read a very insightful paper on resilience and it stirred up a lot of thoughts like- when researchers refer to resilience as a societal trait for adaptation, what do they mean?; Is it an individual trait or for a whole group?; can it be measured objectively (can a community totally lack resilience or be 100% resilient)? And so on.

A good number of scholarly articles have pointed out the shortcomings of resilience but does that mean that the concept should be neglected? According to Barrios (2016), the use of the term has gained too much ground to be gotten rid of but what is most important is the appropriate use of the term. Some authors have argued that the widespread use of the term can be attributed to political interests in the use of the term which sometimes in literature places the responsibility for recovery on the affected communities.

Barrios (2016) argued that the focus of disaster researchers should not be on resilience building but on vulnerability reduction. He added that the notion of resilience seeks to maintain structures that create vulnerability and risks; hence, although resilience is all about capacity to cope with risks it seems to ignore systems that create risks and force people to adapt despite the system. It is not okay to emphasize the need for resilience to a vicious cycle of risk creation when efforts are not made to change the systems that create risk.

I posit that resilience is an important term in disaster discourse, however, its usage ignores the root causes of disasters. Barrios (2016) explained that:

“If resilience in the context of climate change becomes adaptation to the atmospheric and hydrometereological conditions created by an anthropogenic process, then resilience means ignoring the root social and development causes of this particular slow disaster. Becoming resilient, in the context of climate change, then, goes hand in hand with the social production of vulnerability rather than vulnerability reduction.” (Barrios, 2016. pp 32)

Although resilience is important because the impacts of climate change are already evident in the increasing frequency of climate-related hazards and undoing this change cannot be achieved immediately, not focusing on mitigation is like postponing the onset of the disaster. A wealth of literature have stated that disasters are products of hazards and vulnerability. Since some hazards (natural hazards) cannot be avoided, our focus should be addressing vulnerability.

While some resilience literature see resilience and vulnerability as opposites, the relationship between the two does not seem that simple because building resilience can in fact indirectly create vulnerability. If careful attention is paid to the quote above by Barrios, building resilience can give the impression that the risks cannot be controlled and that we have unlimited capacity to defeat nature.

Why transformation?

To reduce vulnerability, a significant change and deviation from the status quo is required. Although transformation is concerned with building capacity but more importantly concerned with changing systems that create risk. This concept addressed the shortcoming of resilience while not totally ignoring the need for resilience and adaptation. Transformation is the creation of fundamentally new systems when ecological, economic, social, and political conditions make the existing system untenable (Walker et al, 2004). Scientific research has revealed that a significant change in consumption is necessary to stop the drastic climate change. Likewise, we need significant changes and re-evaluation of socio-economic and political systems for vulnerability to be reduced.

Transformative adaptation addresses the root causes as well as the symptoms (disasters) and it does not place the whole responsibility for change on just a particular group; in fact, everyone is responsbile for transformation. If the issue of increasing disasters is to be addressed, transformation is needed.


Barrios, R. (2016). Resilience: A commentary from the vantage point of anthropology. Annals of Anthropological Practice, 40(1), 28-38. doi:10.1111/napa.12085

Walker, B. et al. (2004). Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability in Social–ecological Systems. Ecology and Society, 9(2).

Monday, October 2, 2017

UON Disaster Research Updates

So much has happened over the last few months - it is time for a post to mention some of the highlights! If I miss anything that you would like to add, please let me know.

New grants: 

1. Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR): Disaster Resilience Education Capacity Building in Latin America - The project establishes partnerships between UON and Universidad Diego Portales, Universidad Javeriana and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina. This project will build regional capacity, share knowledge and create synergy in disaster resilience and risk reduction education/research. CI - Dr Sittimont Kanjanabootra. Project Personnel, A/P Gajendran, A/P Mackee, A/P Brewer, Dr von Meding, Dr Giggins and Dr Ahmed.

2. Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN): Understanding the opportunities and challenges of compliance to safe building codes for disaster resilience in South Asia - the cases of Bangladesh and Nepal - This project will explore the opportunities and challenges to compliance of safe building codes for disaster resilience in South Asia, focusing on two countries of the region, Bangladesh and Nepal. UON will partner with the University of Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Tribhuvan University (Nepal). CI - Dr Ifte Ahmed. Project Personnel, A/P Gajendran,  A/P Brewer, Dr Maund and Dr von Meding. 

3. SABE Research Impact Acceleration Grant: Resilience and Resistance in the Upper Hunter Valley - This project will engage directly with communities in the Upper Hunter Valley (primarily Muswellbrook and Singleton) around themes of resilience and resistance in the post-carbon future of the region. Focussing on issues of resilience, post-industrialisation, land rehabilitation and social equity, we will host a series of events in partnership with Upper Hunter communities that are under threat; a community workshop, a public seminar and a research exhibition including creative practice and traditional research. CI - Dr Jason von Meding. Project Personnel, Prof Chapman,  A/P Brewer, Dr Tucker.

Science journalism:

In Vietnam poverty and poor development, not just floods, kill the most marginalised, The Conversation, Jason von Meding & Hang Thai

Religion is not the only reason Rohingyas are being forced out of Myanmar, The Conversation, Giuseppe Forino, Jason von Meding & Thomas Johnson

Vietnam’s typhoon disaster highlights the plight of its poorest people, The Conversation, Chinh Luu & Jason von Meding

Show Up, Stand Up and Step Up: Bold Action in the Wake of Storms, Common Dreams, Jason von Meding & Heidi Harmon

Why natural disasters aren't all that natural, openDemocracy, Ksenia Chmutina, Jason von Meding, JC Gaillard & Lee Bosher

In the media:

Jason on BBC World Service and Morning Marketplace Report speaking about vested interests in Myanmar.

Jason speaks about Typhoon Doksuri on 2ser radio, Sydney, 21st Sept.

Jason interviewed by Aya Bayrawy at the Associated Press for this article about the Rohingya, 21st Sept. 

Jason on 2ser radio, Sydney, discussing the Rohingya, 18th Sept. 

Jason on WMNF, Florida, to discuss the political aspect of the recent hurricanes to strike the US, 14th Sept. 

Jason on 3 CR radio Melbourne talking about the Rohingya crisis, 13th Sept. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Grenfell Tower fire exposes the injustice of disasters

Jason von Meding, University of Newcastle; Giuseppe Forino, University of Newcastle; J.C. Gaillard, and Ksenia Chmutina, Loughborough University

Decades of gentrification in London and other European cities (including Paris, Barcelona, Rome and Istanbul) have enacted a form of social cleansing. This has pushed away low-income and marginal residents, divided the rich from the poor, and generated inequalities among citizens.

The Hammersmith area, where the Grenfell Tower is located, has been gentrified. This previously working-class area has been transformed into a vibrant middle-class neighbourhood. Just a few residential social housing tower blocks remain.

As a cosmetic measure, the Grenfell Tower was refurbished in 2014. The choice of cladding material that appeared to fuel the fire is now subject to scrutiny, but with no understanding of the social dimensions of the building’s design regulation and safety measures.

Repeated warnings from the Grenfell Tower residents that this was a disaster waiting to happen were ignored.

There has been an outpouring of grief and anger from the affected community and beyond and tensions remain high. While certain elements of the media rebuke those seeking to hold the ruling class accountable, it is important to emphasise a simple truth: disasters are socially – and politically – constructed.

Root causes of disaster

Disasters are often misunderstood as “natural”, or simply assumed to be extreme and tragic events.
This view draws on a century-old paradigm that puts the blame on rare and inescapable natural phenomena, an “act of God”, or technological breakdowns that lie beyond the everyday social fabric.
But there is nothing natural about disasters; disasters usually have root causes of vulnerability that we don’t speak about and that reflect the day-to-day make-up of society – inequality, poverty, political ideology, class and power relations.

These root causes are similar in London, New York, New Orleans, Port-au-Prince and Manila – a few of the world’s cities that have been stricken by major disasters in recent times.

The Grenfell Action Group couldn’t have been clearer in its warnings of disaster – this one is from November 2016. Grenfell Action Group

Disasters as experienced today are often rooted in the historical development of societies. The impacts of colonialism, slavery, military conquest and discrimination based on class, gender, race and religion are visible today.

Billions of people around the world, in both wealthy and less affluent countries, are at this moment suffering under structural injustices. As demonstrated at Grenfell Tower, this is a recipe for disaster.

Structural injustice creates vulnerability

This disaster is quite a shock to British society. Although the contributing sociopolitical drivers (while sometimes not explicitly discussed) are perhaps more visible on this occasion, having struck a centre of wealth and power in London, we need to recognise that injustice lies at the core of almost all disasters.

At the Grenfell Tower and around the world, the poor and the marginalised suffer the most from disasters.

This injustice is not an accident – it is by design. There is no disaster that kills everyone in a particular locality nor one that knocks down all buildings in a single place.

Normally the resources to overcome the impact of natural hazards are available locally. The privileged have access to these resources while those at the margin do not.

Vulnerability to hazards, and related disasters, therefore mirrors how power and resources are unequally shared within societies. More often than not disasters affect people not because of a lack of knowledge about disasters, but because this knowledge is not applied.

Political decisions also put lives at risk. MP Chi Onwurah summarised appropriately when she wrote:
The residents of Grenfell were poor in a rich neighbourhood. They were those the market rejected, a burden on a borough apparently determined the rich should not pay to lift the constraints of the poor.
The British political class has failed to adequately represent the interests of its most vulnerable citizens for decades. That people are consigned to live in such conditions in a wealthy country is at best a betrayal of the vulnerable by the state. Some would call it criminal. It is not only the Tories who must swallow this bitter pill.

Cities are battlegrounds

Cities tend to greatly magnify inequality. The Grenfell Tower disaster is a product of a deep societal divide in Britain, where wealth is increasingly concentrated among a small minority.

Gentrification is pushing already marginalised people out of sight and out of mind. This kind of urban development is a boon for housing market profiteers and supports the ruling class agenda, but neglects the needs of the most needy in society. Marginal people become resourceless, invisible to public policies, and disempowered in public life. This increases their vulnerability.

If cities are to reduce the risk of disasters like the Grenfell fire, we must focus on social justice in urban development. The benefits of development or redevelopment should prioritise the have-nots and provide dignity to people regardless of income or background. Cities that are able to provide opportunities for all citizens are also able to appreciate diversity rather than homogenisation.

The ConversationThe Grenfell Tower fire exposes the injustice of disaster, and this terrible moment must be learned from and acted upon. Pushing people to the margins and deeming them worthless is ultimately what causes them to perish.

Jason von Meding, Senior Lecturer in Disaster Risk Reduction, University of Newcastle; Giuseppe Forino, PhD Candidate in Disaster Management, University of Newcastle; J.C. Gaillard, Associate Professor, School of Environment, and Ksenia Chmutina, Lecturer in Sustainable and Resilient Urbanism, Loughborough University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sacred Cows of Cancun (and some elephants in the room)

The Sendai Framework for DRR, like the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, represents a successful global negotiation leading to a commitment to address pressing issues for humanity. This week we gather at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun to talk about the move from "commitment to action."

While we should appreciate the goals that are aspired to, and the intention behind them, it would be remiss of us to exclude the promoted strategies to achieve success from critique. Shouldn't we be willing to listen to and respond to criticisms, particularly with such vital outcomes at stake?

We have heard a lot about action this week. Have we really taken action though? Is it the right action? Private sector engagement. Innovation. Technology. Entrepreneurship. Growth. 

Certain assumptions and voluntary blind spots are required in order to promote this approach to "taking action" with little or no debate. Therefore I have put together the following (slightly tongue in cheek) list of issues that I feel a) are simply out of bounds in polite DRR conversation or b) we ignore for convenience.

Sacred Cows of Cancun
  1. Economic Growth - we are still attached to the idea that economic growth is essential. Should we measure success differently? Particularly when we consider 2.
  2. Limitless Consumption - we deny the reality of a finite planet and put all of our eggs in the "decoupling" basket.
Elephants in the Room
  1. Absolute Corporate Power - we have seen a great transfer of power to the private sector. Is this the world that we want to live in? We will see some gains through philanthropy perhaps, but is it worth it? 
  2. Neoliberalism is Failing - 2016 showed a dramatic loss of trust. The public can see that mooted solutions require magical thinking. The rise of reactionary politics is putting more people at risk.
  3. Usually, the Powerful Simply do Not Care - By and large, those in power demonstrate over and over that they do not care if people die, starve or suffer. This is not changing, as much as we might like it to.
We frame our collective action as a force to reduce the impacts of disaster; and more broadly to fight against poverty, hunger, inequality and climate change. But what if we are still not getting to the root causes? The structural injustices? Why are people poor, hungry, marginalised and vulnerable to disasters? 

We might approach these problems with the assumption that our solutions must honour the Sacred Cows and ignore the Elephants. We might double down on failed strategies because we are afraid of challenging the status quo. The academic community has become as inept as the political class at working for the common good, when it demands radical thinking. That cannot continue.

This week we should be having a frank discussion about the uncomfortable issues. Everything is NOT going great. We do NOT have it under control. Radical thinking IS required. 

We need to resist before it is too late. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Christchurch, a Man Made Disaster?

In April this year, I was member of a group from UoN, looking at the impact on and recovery from the disasters of 2010 and 2011 that impacted Christchurch, New Zealand.

My interest was why a modern vibrant almost sister city, could be unexpectedly laid flat by a series of earthquakes, and how it handled the post-disaster recovery and reconstruction.

On the first morning, I stopped in my tracks outside my hotel viewing the desolate scene, my previous experience with hazards had been on TV.   I did feel numbed wondering what happened to the people who had worked in the invisible buildings.   They would still have their families, mortgages, ideals and aspirations but no workplace.

And that was my first handshake with Christchurch!   The people of Christchurch we met did not complain about losing their jobs, they did comment about: no community consultation; the Red Zone; the stressful insurance negotiations, and the inadequate settlements; the escalating cost of rebuilding, (where is a builder when you want one).

Christchurch had found “the eternal elixir of job creation”, it was called “post disaster building boom”.   It also unfortunately found “upper middle class poverty”.   Family, mid early forty’s; kids at Uni; good jobs; manageable debt, ---The DISASTER --- house deemed unsafe; alternative accommodation; office demolished, got job???; home site acquired unilaterally; home insurance under half expectations, takes 4 years; depression; anger; hopelessness; no assets; bank wants its money, takes insurance and government money; kids university fees???; divorce expensive; admittance to mental health facility.   The Newspapers continued to publish wellbeing surveys (the traumatised are the surveyed), all is well, Christchurch is rebounding.   Which is the truth?

Sorry for that side-track into Christchurch’s real world.   Back to our itinerary, the Anglican Cathedral, its carcass lies in the heart of Christchurch, having been struck a solid blow by the 2010 hazard, suffering a more severe blow through the bishop of Christchurch initiating and then staying demolition early in 2011, in the intervening years suffering an almost fatal blow by dereliction.   Whilst the bishop wants to pull this grand historic building down, the community and the government are fighting her decision in the courts.   Lets all hope that she is vanquished.

We then visited the beautiful Christchurch Art Gallery, reopened in December 2015 after a NZ $ 58 millions refit, including the implementation of a base loading mitigation facility.   A mitigation strategy against the impact of horizontal acceleration during an earthquake.   Unfortunately, it did not address the vertical acceleration that also impacts Christchurch during earthquakes.   Does that mean that the art gallery is half resilient?

Onward to The Exchange (EXCH), a great example of resiliency evolving from a community drop-in centre, a pleasure to visit and to experience such a successful resiliency program in action.

Then to Cultivate Urban Farm, ‘a saint in sheep’s clothing’, offering a sustainability program selling herbs and vegetables to local restaurants and collecting their green waste.   Its real objective, being to nurture and make better troubled youth by engendering self worth whilst they are employed in the gardens.   The unusual method of achieving this goal is to treat their charges as peers, with dignity, respect and purpose, strange isn’t it!

Onward to Resilient Organisations, an enterprise established on the extensive research by academics at Christchurch University into resiliency.   The resiliency referred to, being the resiliency of businesses to survive systemic hazards, a completely different definition of resiliency then we would use in the DRR context, but essential for sustainability.

Then The Lyttelton Project, a community organised and supported project with sustainability the driver of each individual program, we experienced their Saturday farmers market, our support and enthusiasm well demonstrated by the extra kilos we carried back to the bus (and not in carry bags).

Enter the Twilight Zone, in Christchurch called the Red Zone, I had never been in a ghost town, where there were no houses, or any other indication other than the drives across the footpath, that there were once over 8,000 homes in what was a major liquefaction area of Christchurch.   Everyone was somewhat suppressed after our stroll through “nowhere”, Christchurch.

A quick walk around the city area, showed construction, and also the lack of construction.   After six years I thought Christchurch would be a mini Dubai, with cranes everywhere.

My observations 

Was Christchurch a disaster waiting to happen, has it stopped: pre-disaster, irrefutable advice that mitigation was required was ignored; post-disaster, it ignored the community and their reconstruction, another disaster?   A man-made disaster?

Hazards: unpredictable in occurrence and scope; indiscriminate in the social structures they impact; do not adhere to their human assessed “return” periods; leave devastation in their wake; but they do not cause disasters.  

Humans: predictable in their pursuit of profit and self-interest; discriminate towards those who are vulnerable; respond rapidly after a hazard; leave confusion and desolation in their wake; and they do cause disasters.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Special Issue "The L'Aquila earthquake ten years on (2009-2019): impacts and state-of-the-art"


I am very happy to share with you this call for paper for the Special issue "The L'Aquila earthquake ten years on (2009-2019): impacts and state-of-the-art", which will be edited by me, Giuseppe Forino (University of Newcastle, Australia,, together with Fabio Carnelli (University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy,, and will be published on the journal Disaster Prevention and Management in December 2018.

Please feel free to contact us in case of interest and to distribute the call among your networks and peers.

Here the call for paper (also available on the journal website)


Due to the recent occurrence of disruptive earthquakes in Italy (Emilia, 2012; Central Italy, 2016 and 2017) following the L’Aquila earthquake in 2009, both disaster scholars and social scientists (sociology, anthropology, geography) communities show a growing interest in understanding the medium and long term impacts of such earthquake and the related controversial recovery. Furthermore, in both national and international journals there is a growing interest on issues related to other Italian earthquakes. Nevertheless, while a number of publications exists about the short-term impacts of the earthquake in L’Aquila, evidences are still necessary for providing a clear understanding of the long terms impacts by the recovery and reconstruction management on local communities, their everyday life, and their surrounding environment. 

Accordingly, this special issue aims to add to the existing body of knowledge on the L’Aquila earthquake a socially-centred perspective able to investigate issues broadly related to impacts on, and response by, the socio-cultural systems and its functioning. Theoretical and methodological findings for disaster research are also welcome. The call aims to collect perspectives from, but not limited to, disaster studies, geography, anthropology, sociology, political ecology, environmental history, and urban studies.

Submissions on topics relating but not limited to;

Long-term reconstruction impacts
Politics and policy in disaster recovery
Political ecology of recovery
Culture, local knowledge and recovery
Social Vulnerability
Disaster governance
Emergency/recovery and socio-psychological aspects
Land-use and land-use conflicts
Space, place, and urban planning
Community and urban resilience
Social/spatial/environmental justice
Risk communication
Housing studies and political economy
Social movements and recovery
Folklore studies, religion and recovery
Methodological and epistemological issues in disaster research

Submission deadline; 31st December 2017
Expected Publication Date: December 2018
Submission Information

Special Issue submissions should be made through ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system. Registration and access is available at