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Durham postgraduate researcher Hanna Ruszczyk has been awarded a PhD fellowship for her research on community resilience and earthquakes.
Hanna’s postgraduate award has been made possible thanks to a generous gift from a Durham alumnus. Hanna’s research, will investigate the role of resilience in disaster risk reduction. She will study how resilience strategies can be operationalised within urban communities vulnerable to seismic hazards in Nepal and Bihar, India. Her PhD programme is based in the Department of Geography, linked to IHRR and is supervised by Dr Katie Oven and Dr Colin MacFarlane.
For her PhD, Ruszczyk is making a comparative analysis between Nepal and Bihar, which will investigate how to build individual and community level capacity for resilience. Both have their own particular strengths and weaknesses when it comes to adapting and building resilience to natural hazards. ‘I’m looking at how they can learn from each other’, said Ruszczyk. ‘There is a clear social element of resilience, but what are the most important components of resilience to be aware of?’, she asks. Read the rest of this entry »
A little over a month ago I gave a talk at the Vajont 2013 conference on the topic of landslides and large dams. At the time I committed to making the Powerpoint file available online, so here it is:
The file is located on slideshare – you should be able to download the powerpoint file from there. The piece is also written up in an article for the conference paper – reference below. The paper can be accessed, for free, from the conference website. The other talks and papers can also be accessed from the conference website.
In this work I looked at the Durham Fatal Landslide Database to try to understand fatality-inducing landslides associated with large dams over the last decade. My analysis of the dataset suggested that in total there were exactly 500 deaths in 37 landslide events in the ten years between 2003 and 2012. Surprisingly, with one exception these were not landslides associated with the collapse of reservoir flanks (although interesting there was an event of this type in China earlier this year). Most of the landslides were either failures at the construction sites of large dams or at the sites of workers camps. Read the rest of this entry »
Dr Vincenzo Bavoso is a researcher in the Department of Law at Durham University on Work Package 2: Financial Crisis in the Banking Sector of the Tipping Points project. He is looking at the role of law and legal institutions in preventing financial crises and limiting systemic risk in financial markets. In this interview he talks about his research in financial scandals and how regulation can help make financial markets accountable to democratic societies.
In your research what financial scandals did you investigate?
When I examined financial scandals for the purpose of my research I focused on the accounting scandal age from 2001-03, along with Northern Rock and Lehman Brothers in the context of the recent global financial crisis. Financial scandals are caused, among other things, by mismanagement, and lack of understanding of certain processes. All of this is based on certain failures of regulation. You would expect there would be supervision in place and in all of these examples of large organisations with lax or flawed managerial processes, it was not.
Do you think these scandals mainly exist due to a failure of regulation or do you think something within the financial system allows some of these events to occur?
During a period of financial boom, such as the 1980s, the economist Hyman Minsky came up with a theory of financial instability. He thought the larger a financial system develops the more it will be prone to instability then eventually to crisis or a situation of default, which is something we experienced before the explosion of the global financial crisis. After that ‘tipping point’ if you will between 2006 and 2007 it went from boom to bust. The problem is that when you’re in a period of boom nobody seems capable of recognising what the limits of the system are. Nobody seems to be able to see that the system is not resilient or if an individual or institution does raise red flags they are not heeded. Read the rest of this entry »
For those of you who may not have come across the latest Tipping Points Annual Report yet, it provides the latest updates from the project. Tipping Points is now entering its fourth year of interdisciplinary research in climate change, the global financial crisis, mathematical tipping points and the tipping point metaphor itself.
Since the project started in summer 2010 it has questioned the fundamental understanding of tipping points in nature and society and has thus far produced a large body of work, with more publications to be uploaded to its website in the near future. This report includes field updates from paleoclimate research in the Arctic, historical bank failures in Britain, health tipping points and the agency of language.
Regular readers will know that the lack of attention that is paid to potential and actual landslide impacts during earthquakes in upland areas is a real hobby-horse of mine. Time and again we see the situation in which there is a lack of preparedness for landslides, causing huge disruption to the response and recovery operations, even though the threat was entirely forseeable. It is pleasing to see increased interest in the science of this issue in recent years, with a succession of good papers exploring both the mechanics of the landslide process (which is a very complex problem) and the likely occurrence of landslides.
This week, a paper has been electronically released on the BSSA website, to appear in a forthcoming edition of the journal, which examines the likely impact of landslides in the event of a Mw=7.0 earthquake of a “Seattle earthquake” – i.e. a quake on the Seattle Fault in Seattle, Washington. The paper, Allstadt et al. (2013) uses synthetic broadband seismograms to model shallow landslides in the area likely toi be affected by such an earthquake. Such an analysis is complex and computationally extremely intensive. I should also note that the technique uses the so-called Newmark method to model the slope behaviour. Newmark is basically the best technique that we have at our disposal at present, and so the team were right to do this, but in my view it is somewhat deficient in terms of the ways in which it models slope behaviour. We need a better technique; the trouble is that at the moment we do not have one. Read the rest of this entry »
Dr Elias Lopez-Romero a Marie Curie-IEF Fellow from the Department of Archaeology at Durham University introduces the ALERT app that allows users to upload information about vulnerable archaeological sites near European Atlantic coastlines.
Present climatic change and anthropogenic pressure increasingly affect the coastal zone. Hundreds of archaeological sites are currently threatened along the European Atlantic coasts by the accelerated relative rise in sea level, erosion, and various anthropogenic modifications to the environment. In spite of this situation little attention has been paid to the development of methodologies for monitoring the vulnerability of this kind of heritage. This is particularly true in areas like Western France or the Iberian Peninsula where, unlike research initiatives in England, Ireland, Scotland or the Mediterranean Basin, there have not been long-term dedicated approaches to this topic.
Since 2006, the ALERT project has brought together researchers involved in coastal archaeology. This group quickly moved toward developing an interdisciplinary approach aiming at the construction of a vulnerability model for coastal heritage, developing assessment and monitoring maps, and assessing the strategies for research and action adapted to the local and regional scales. Read the rest of this entry »
Dr Andrew Baldwin, a Co-Director of IHRR, is Chair of a major multidisciplinary project at Durham University on climate change migration called COST Action 11011 Climate change and migration: knowledge, law and policy and theory. COST Action 11011 is studying the many facets of climate change migration from a legal, political and theoretical perspective. In this interview Andrew explains the racial context of climate change migration and how migration is part of a strategy for adaptation.
What is a climate change migrant?
The obvious answer is that there is no way of identifying a climate change migrant or at least that’s what the existing literature tells us. The most common explanation is that migration is a complex phenomenon.
People migrate for all sorts of different reasons and several reasons at once, so to isolate climate as a determining variable is impossible. You can’t disaggregate climate change from all the other variables that explain why an individual migrates.
Similarly you could say, ‘well, this particular climatic event displaced x number of people’, but then to attribute the event itself to climate change is obviously problematic. That further affects our ability to identify whether someone is a climate migrant.
Wednesday of next week will mark the 50th anniversary of the Vajont disaster, which occurred on 9th October 1963. This was of course the worst landslide disaster in European history. In addition it marked a watershed in a number of areas, not least landslide management and the development of large dams. On Thursday Michele and I will set off from the UK to attend the conference to mark the anniversary – the organisers were kind enough to invite me to give one of the keynote addresses, which will be on the topic of fatal landslides and large dams over the last decade. I will make it available online in due course.
In the meantime, I thought it would be useful to provide a list of some of the key resources that are available on the dam and the landslide disaster: Read the rest of this entry »
4th October 2013, 14:00 to 15:00, Seminar Room 010, Dept of Geography, Dr Md. Nadiruzzaman, United Nations University (MRF-UNU) Project
Population movements following an environmental stress can be a huge development challenge if we do not know where people are going and at what number. Without knowledge of the locations of affected people, relief assistance is compromised. No rapid and accurate method exists to track population movements after disasters. This research learns lessons from Haiti and plans to use CDR (call data record) from the Grameen Phone, the largest cellphone operator in Bangladesh, to estimate the magnitude and trends of population movements following the Cyclone Mohasen, which swept across Bangladesh on the 20th May 2013.
Geographic positions of SIM cards were determined by the location of the mobile phone tower through which each SIM card connects when calling. We will follow daily positions of SIM cards for Barisal and Chittagang Division from 01 April to 30 June of 2013. To exclude inactivated SIM cards, we will include SIM cards that made at least one call during the time of our study. Results from the Haiti study suggest that estimates of population movements during disasters and outbreaks can be delivered rapidly and with potentially high validity in areas with high mobile phone use. This research would offer new ways to understand population movements and climate change threshold.
Professor Ranald Michie tells the story of banking in Britain within the context of the Global Financial Crisis, starting with the failure of Northern Rock and other highly interconnected banks in the UK.
In September 2007 rumours began to circulate in Britain that the Newcastle-based bank Northern Rock was in financial difficulty. As these rumours gained in credibility, retail depositors rushed to withdraw their savings fearing that they would be lost if the bank collapsed. What these depositors were doing in public, as they formed queues outside the bank’s branches, had already happened behind the scenes throughout August. In the wake of the sub-prime lending crisis in the US, banks had become weary of lending to fellow banks in case they would not be able to repay them. That created problems for banks like Northern Rock as it had adopted a business model that made it dependent upon short-term borrowing from other banks to finance its aggressive expansion of long-term mortgage lending. As new funds provided by other banks dried up and the date on which many existing loans had to be repaid, Northern Rock had no alternative but to seek assistance from the Bank of England, the traditional lender of last resort under these circumstances.
The ‘run’ on Northern Rock
It was while the required assistance was being negotiated, involving a protracted delay because responsibility no longer lay with the Bank of England alone but was shared with the FSA and the Treasury, that the story broke that Northern Rock was in difficulty. Faced with panic among the depositors, and the possible spread of their actions to all British banks, the UK government was forced to intervene and guarantee bank deposits. In many ways Northern Rock was unfortunate as the timing of its borrowings from other banks put it first in line to require assistance when these funds dried up. It could equally well have been any of the other ex-building societies and even a number of those that had not de-mutualised, as they were all operating the same business model.
If the crisis had ended with the collapse of Northern Rock, and its belated nationalisation early in 2008, then it would forever have been associated with that single bank and its cause blamed on poor management. Even if the crisis had stopped with the disappearance of all those building societies that had converted into banks, as did happen, then the story would be about a failed experiment and attributed to the transformation of the British financial system begun by Mrs Thatcher’s Conservative government in the 1980s. However, even in Britain the crisis went much further than a set of specialist mortgage lenders, as these were not too big or interconnected to fail as none played a major role in the provision of short-term credit or were central to the operation of the payments system. With hindsight the need for the government to intervene might have been subject to serious questioning along with the scare tactics used by the media in pursuit of a scoop. Instead, the near collapse of the two largest Scottish banks, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and HBOS, and the massive intervention required by the government to save them, is what really brought the crisis to a head in Britain. Read the rest of this entry »