Move over “resilience” – make room in the disaster management lexicon for “uninsurable enclaves”.
It has been recognised for nearly five decades that disaster risk is a function of hazard and vulnerability.
Our efforts have focused on supporting those at risk to be more resilient – more prepared.
This focus – I suggest – has failed to adequately map the broader, more holistic nature of risk and in so doing, we have missed opportunities to change the very interaction of hazards and communities at risk. (Here I use the term “community” to be any group with a shared association – for most people this may generally be perceived as being spatial, geographic; but it equally might be economic, social or cultural associations.)
Even if we only explore the spatial aspects of the “hazard community interface” – which are usefully readily mapped and visualised (and hence communicated) – we can see a history of neglect, if not negligence. In the “real world” of wealth and power, a “short termism” – either seeking or supporting economic returns on investment – has given us a legacy of narrow policy approaches and compromising land use decisions across a range of scales (from single sites to extensive settlements).
Ready illustrations where visualisation enhances understanding can be found with ‘fire’ and ‘water’.
Flooding (somewhat bemusedly viewed as ‘water out of place’) is set to be out of place in increasingly more places. From coastal settings subject to sea rise and more intense, if not also more frequent extreme weather events – to urban subdivisions poorly sited and under ‘runoff pressure’ from increasingly sealed catchments.
Bushfires continue to expose development which has not been strategically informed – and is too often compounded by inadequate design.
Current reactive approaches rely on governments constitutionally responsible for life and property focusing on promulgating preparedness – ‘watch and go’ – life before property.
A logical last resort. However last resorts ought not necessarily be best practices.
Let us start by drawing breath and making sure we are asking the right questions.
I suggest in our changing world we should ask – do we have the will, commitment and tools to overhaul the approaches which imposed the vulnerabilities in the first place?