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Climate change poses seemingly insurmountable obstacles for the human species, not to mention all other species on the planet. It is not the only environmental pressure that humans are putting on planet Earth, but seems to be intricately tied to all others including the shrinking availability of natural resources necessary for survival.

Whatever you may think of TED, these talks help define the climate conundrum people are in at the moment and speak about ways of cultivating resilience by preparing for environmental change, such as extreme weather events.

The speakers talk about climate change in terms of ecological systems as well as personal impacts to homes and livelihoods. Relating the big picture of ongoing environmental disasters like climate change to the small, individual lives of communities seems one of the best ways to communicate its impacts and to encourage people to ready themselves for when they occur.

Elena E. Burgos-Martínez is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University writing from her field site on the Celebes Sea in the province of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Here she is living amongst the indigenous Bajo people who live a nomadic lifestyle on the sea, making them highly attune to environmental change.

In my last post I offered a brief summary of the main environmental changes Nain Island and the Bajo have gone through during the past decades, along with studying Baon Sama (Bajo Language), which developed in the island as a pidgin of different ‘Sama-languages’ and intertwines with Manado Malay (a creole of Bahasa Indonesia and Malay spoken in Manado). New concepts are introduced that were approached differently among the Bajo: ‘nature’, ‘the environment’, ‘natural disasters’, ‘socializing networks’, ‘fishing/seaweed market’, ‘general elections’.

A mixture of black sand obtained from the bottom of the sea and a bit of cement delivered from Manado has been used through decades to turn wooden/bamboo houses into ‘stronger’ structures. Credit: Elena Burgos-Martinez

A mixture of black sand obtained from the bottom of the sea and a bit of cement delivered from Manado has been used through decades to turn wooden/bamboo houses into ‘stronger’ structures.

But the environmental, the architectural and the linguistic features of Nain Island and the Bajo are far from being independent features. As a flux of interactions through motored boats and more frequent trips to Manado increase, the social landscape continues to develop by adopting and adapting some of the concepts, ideas and understandings described above. Read the rest of this entry »

Building on the recent success of the last IHRR PG Forum, we now wish to invite all postgraduate students at Durham to the next PG Forum on Wednesday 5th February. The discussion at this meeting will focus especially on the theme of Resilience, Recovery, Psychology.

All postgraduate students with an interest in risk, hazard and resilience research are invited to participate. The title for this session is deliberately broad, and could include research on any aspect of any of these themes. The aim of the session is to consider the psychological dimensions of risk, resilience and recovery in an interdisciplinary context. We especially wish to encourage Arts and Humanities students to participate as well as students from all disciplines. Read the rest of this entry »

From humanitarian aid to disaster risk reduction the word ‘resilience’ is involved in nearly every aspect of people’s ability to recover and adapt after a catastrophic event. Many researchers from various fields along with emergency practitioners, who are depended on during times of disaster throughout the world, use resilience in their everyday language, and even incorporate it into their operations in the field. Although its meaning remains elusive, researchers and practitioners have opportunities to learn from each other about resilience.

There is no one way of defining resilience yet this does not seem to have prevented it from growing in popularity (See The rise of the word resilience). On the contrary, it may have allowed it to spread far and wide in the first place. Within the context of disaster resilience reminds us that even the most damaging, traumatic experiences may reveal how vulnerable communities are able to adapt to unusual situations or environments. In recent academic and practitioner literature resilience is continually evolving.

resilience usage

Usage of resilience in English books over the years. (Google Ngrams)

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Hanna

Hanna Ruszczyk in Nepal.

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 »

Typhoon_Haiyan

Prof Sarah Curtis and Prof Lena Dominelli are calling for immediate global support to help survivors of the typhoon disaster in the Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan has caused severe devastation in the Philippines leaving an unknown number of people dead. While early estimates have been made, the number of fatalities is likely to rise. Survivors are without food, clean drinking water or shelter. Immediate global support, especially funding, is needed for providing assistance to affected communities.

Durham University Professor and IHRR Co-Director Lena Dominelli, a sociologist and international social worker in disaster resilience, is in touch with survivors of the typhoon disaster in the Philippines who she says are desperately in need of humanitarian aid.

“It’s absolutely essential that money is sent to people for buying food, clean drinking water, and medical supplies for those who have critical conditions. A lot of the areas destroyed by the typhoon have no power supplies and no communications except by satellite phone,” said Dominelli. Read the rest of this entry »

Professor David Divine who is pursuing doctoral studies at Durham University on the resilience of young people in a care setting, shares excerpts from his recent book, Aberlour Narratives of SuccessWhile orphanages are usually portrayed grimly in popular media, David found through his ethnographic research, including interviews with former residents and staff at the Aberlour Orphanage, along with his own childhood experience there, that personal sense of resilience and community within these institutions allow young people to eventually lead successful lives as adults.

In the last of a series of posts on the subject of personal resilience, David provides some of the findings from his research that casts new light on the experience of growing up in an orphanage.

Untitled-15 copy

A dormitory of Aberlour Orphanage, around 1913.
Photo courtesy of Jenny Maine from Aberlour Narratives of Success

I have cried more in the past two years of this research than I have in a lifetime prior to this, not because of the heartache, loss, hardship, thwarted potential and sheer unjustness of the circumstances surrounding the early start of the child participants, unfolded in these narratives, but because of the resilience, the strength and the refusal to be beaten by the odds lined up against them. Astonished, awed by their determination and achievements, knowing that I am part of their select company. I’m privileged to be regarded as part of their family, as they are of mine. I was not as alone as I had thought as a child. I had a family. It was all around me in Aberlour Orphanage.

We need to balance these various sources of knowledge, and ask ourselves, whose life are we addressing: our own or that of the child and young person? The child and young person takes a risk, whether known or unknown, in having us, as care staff, attempt to make life decisions which could fundamentally alter their future life outcomes. Perhaps, just perhaps, we should consider taking a balanced risk, in trusting the opinion and judgement of the child and young person. Linked with this point, are the ‘space’, opportunities, and resources, we grant children and young people to create and re-create themselves. Read more

Professor David Divine who is pursuing doctoral studies at Durham University on the resilience of young people in a care setting, shares excerpts from his recent book, Aberlour Narratives of SuccessWhile orphanages are usually portrayed grimly in popular media, David found through his ethnographic research, including interviews with former residents and staff at the Aberlour Orphanage, along with his own childhood experience there, that personal sense of resilience and community within these institutions allow young people to eventually lead successful lives as adults.

In the second of a series of posts on the subject of personal resilience, David shares the story of a former resident of Aberlour Orphanage, including verbatim extracts from interview.

Billy P. was born in a slum in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1933. His mother had died in childbirth in 1936 when Billy was three years old. Billy’s father, who was a merchant seaman, had custody of him and his elder brother who was two years older. Billy recalls that in 1938, around the time of the Great Depression, when his father was unemployed, being told by a ‘matronly lady in a grey uniform’, that he and his brother ‘were going on a day trip into the Highlands’. The ‘matronly lady in the grey uniform’ took the boys on a train from Glasgow to Aberlour railway station, about half a mile or so from the Orphanage buildings:

We didn’t know we were going to an Orphanage. We were just told that we were going on a day trip to the Highlands. Papers I’ve seen since tell me that in fact what happened was that (our father) handed us over to the Orphanage in the hope that he might be able to retrieve us at some unspecified future date, but in fact he never did. That was the last we ever heard of him, so he just disappeared from our lives. Never had a Christmas card, never a birthday card, absolutely no contact whatever and I’ve not heard to this day, any information or advice about what happened to him. I wasn’t aware then and I’m still not aware now of any other family members, any uncles or aunts or cousins or anything. We were completely on our own. Read the rest of this entry »

Professor David Divine who is pursuing doctoral studies at Durham University on the resilience of young people in a care setting, shares excerpts from his recent book, Aberlour Narratives of Success. While orphanages are usually portrayed grimly in popular media, David found through his ethnographic research, including interviews with former residents and staff at the Aberlour Orphanage, along with his own childhood experience there, that personal sense of resilience and community within these institutions allow young people to eventually lead successful lives as adults.

In the first of a series of posts on the subject of personal resilience, David shares an insider’s view of living in a residential care setting. 

I was admitted to Aberlour Orphanage at the age of 18 months from the residential nursery in Edinburgh, and entered Princess Margaret Nursery School in 1955. As I grew older I slowly realized that I had not been wanted in my original birth family and was ejected because of how I looked and never reclaimed. That still hurts and I am now in my late fifties. But I also grew to feel a strong belonging to Aberlour Orphanage and to the carers at the Orphanage, and particularly to Aunty Phylis, my Housemother at Spey House (one of the houses for boys at Aberlour Orphanage), where I stayed from leaving the Princess Margaret Nursery School until I left Aberlour at the age of 11 in 1964. I then entered foster care hundreds of miles south in a coal mining village, four miles outside Edinburgh.

orphanage

Aberlour Orphanage 1875, from Arberlour Narratives of Success

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magazine

IHRR is pleased to announce the second issue of its full colour magazine, reporting on research in hazards, risks and resilience from Durham University and throughout the world.

These are some of the topics featured in this issue:

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Hazard Risk Resilience Magazine Issue 2 Out Now!

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