Blaikie, Piers, Terry Cannon, Ian David, and Ben Wisner. At Risk: Natural Hazards, People’s Vulnerability and Disasters. East Sussex: Psychology Press, 2004.
This week I read At Risk: Natural Hazards, People’s Vulnerability and Disasters by Piers Blaikie, Terry Cannon, Ian David, and Ben Wisner.
The premise of this work was that disasters caused by natural hazards are not as great of a threat to humanity as the types of risks experiences by a large number of the world’s population on a day-to-day basis. The authors state:
The crucial point about understanding why disasters happen is that it is not only natural events that cause them. They are also the product of social, political and economic environments (as distinct from the natural environment), because of these structures the lives of different groups of people. There is a danger in treating disasters as something peculiar, as events that deserve their own special focus. It is to risk separating ‘natural’ disasters from the social frameworks that influence how hazards affect people, thereby putting too much emphasis on the natural hazards themselves, and not nearly enough on the surround social environment.1
The authors go into discussion of the definition of vulnerability, the most common types of vulnerability, conventional views on disaster, and the intricate relationship between the natural and the social. While the authors make a point to say that technological catastrophes are not specifically included within the book, their analysis of risk and the reciprocal relationship between the human and the natural in disaster situations offers a great lens through which to consider my own project. As I discover more about the vulnerability in Saltville, Virginia in 1924, perhaps the definitions and descriptions of vulnerability and social structures in this book will enlighten my work, or perhaps I will find that Saltville does not fit the mold that the authors offer. Regardless, the second edition of this book appears to go one step beyond Steinberg’s Acts of God to consider an international perspective, and will certainly prove just as useful to my analysis of vulnerability and disaster.
1 Blaikie et all, At Risk, 4