As we know all to well, those impacted most by disasters are the poor, the marginalised and the dispossessed. Base vulnerability underpins disaster risk. The most pervasive driver of risk creation is a political and economic system that operates for the benefit of the powerful, and to the detriment of the powerless. Those that face the greatest threats in the 21st Century have no voice, no representation and no justice.
This system is inherently undemocratic. There is nothing that the powerful fear more than empowered peasants. Western democracy has become little more than a show, having been bought and paid for by special interests. In the United States we are told to choose a 'lesser evil' candidate from the ruling parties, while the dying two-party system fights to ensure that progressive change can never take any real hold. The great global institutions, the UN, the IMF and the World Bank, despite a pretence to represent democratic ideals, fight largely to uphold a status quo that enables continuing neo-imperial conquest and accumulation of private wealth at the expense of those least able to defend themselves. If we are hoping for neoliberal institutions to save humanity, we are still asleep.
The more that we invest in and perpetuate the injustice of this system, the more rapidly risk is created. The public are largely unaware or ignorant when it comes to disaster risk, particularly in consumer-driver societies where immediate self-gratification has replaced any sense of community responsibility. Politicians skirt the issue so as to avoid spending on core risk reduction solutions (may demand more health, education, welfare, science spending!), preferring to save the day in the event of a disaster rather than take any proactive action that may not 'pay off'. Re-election is generally more important than service.
The actions of a political class that has gone all-in for a neoliberal system based on economic myth, 'legal' corruption and global corporate dominance, are creating endless new risk, faster than people can be drawn out of risky starting conditions. Whether it is taking away social safety nets in Australia to 'help' people discipline themselves, or assisting developing countries with unrepayable loans that primarily serve the lender and its collaborating countries and corporations, there are few glimmers of hope WITHIN the system. It is easy to see why voters in the UK, the US and around the world are determining to 'burn it all down', whether or not they support the extremist demagogues that are leading such movements.
Will we survive the challenges that this Century will bring? It's possible. I hold out hope that we can still deviate from this destructive course, that democracy can be saved and that most people actually care about each other. We must, however, democratise disaster risk creation. No longer can we allow those in power to create risk, reap the financial reward, and socialise the losses.