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Sometimes the risks that receive the most attention in hindsight are actually less likely than what we realise. But there are important reasons for finding effective ways to respond to high-profile risks. Thinking through risk and taking a rational approach to mitigating it, or becoming more resilient to it, may mean looking at risk in terms of applying regulations that reduce threats of harm from the start (as in the case of reducing risk through positive reinforcement), or better understanding how populations respond to risky behaviours like smoking.
Instead of analysing the risk, people often respond to the emotion or feeling a particular risk will incite. Risk of a large earthquake, nuclear meltdown, or lung cancer from smoking cigarettes are all risks that may produce emotional responses, what Professor Paul Slovic, a leader in psychological research of risk perception has called ‘the feeling of risk’, also known in psychology as the affect heuristic – the positive or negative feelings we associate with experience. Affect is used as a kind of mental shortcut in order for people to make decisions or solve problems quickly, it is also better known as ‘gut feeling’. Read the rest of this entry »
There seems to be a paradox in how some risks are mitigated. For instance, there is a tendency to believe that implementing safety regulations will in effect reduce the risk of harm
. While implementing safety regulations helps reduce the levels of risk people are exposed to they can also redistribute the risk, eliminating some risks, but increasing others by decreasing the level of perceived risk. This has been given several names by researchers including ‘risk homeostasis’, ‘risk compensation’ and ‘offset hypothesis’ and there are good reasons to think that it could help to better inform policies and regulations for making people’s lives safer, but it is also controversial amongst scientists and practitioners working in public safety.
A satellite view of the floods at Somerset Levels as heavy rains earlier this month brought severe flooding to South West England. This comes at a time when extreme weather events have become more frequent throughout the world, particularly rainfall. In order to prepare for such events finding ways to adapt built infrastructure and coordinate services across the public and private sectors is vital.
Scholarships and bursaries are available for the Risk Masters programmes based in the Department of Geography and the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience at Durham University.
Civil Society Leadership Awards
The Civil Society Leadership Award provides a fully funded master’s level scholarship for the MSc Risk and Environmental Hazards and MA Risk and Security programmes within the Geography department. The program aims to support individuals who demonstrate both academic and professional excellence and have the potential to become civil society leaders in their home communities.
Eligible countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus; Cambodia; Egypt; Ethiopia; Laos; South Sudan; Sudan; Syria; Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Friday, 31 January, 7.30 PM at the Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle
In a world stressed by climate change and population growth, the issue of GM crops is again rising to the top of the socio-political agenda. Agri-business, as supported by some scientists, promotes GM as the only way forward.
The Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle in collaboration with Durham University’s Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, is holding a film led debate with experts across multiple disciplines to help the community appreciate what is at stake. The discussion will be led by Executive Director of IHRR Professor Sarah Curtis, Professor John Gatehouse, Dr Susana Carro-Ripalda and Dr Philip Garnett. Read the rest of this entry »
Dr Philip Garnett, a researcher on the Tipping Points project, reports on the 30th Chaos Communications Congress he attended in Hamburg, Germany in December that addressed topical issues such as mass surveillance, the future of the Internet and the Snowden affair.
The 30th Chaos Communication Congress (30C3) was always going to have at its heart the events surrounding the leaks of NSA files by Edward Snowden. In some ways I was banking on it. Why else would I drag myself away from Christmas leftovers and warm fires to get on a plane to Hamburg in the cold and rain? I’m glad I did. Amongst the talks on automatic fermentation of beer, and the vacuum tube races around the conference building, was a rich vein of presentations and discussions around (to paraphrase the opening speaker) the nightmare reality to which the community has woken up to from a bad dream.
Despite this, there was still a sense of fun at the congress. There were many stalls where you could enjoy learning to pick a lock, program a board of LEDs with the message of your choice, or check out the latest DIY 3D printers. However there was also a punishing timetable of talks reacting to, discussing, and trying to grasp the new post-Snowden future. One thing they all shared was in common was a sense of disbelief, or speechlessness. It wasn’t the confirmation that we are being monitored exactly (we all knew that) it was perhaps the scale of it, and a sense that nothing can be done to reverse it. 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.
Governance struggles and policy processes: A comparison of earthquake risk
reduction in Nepal and Bihar, India
9 December, Monday 1pm-2pm
Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, Durham University
In this presentation we share some preliminary findings on the national level governance landscape of earthquake risk reduction in Nepal and Bihar State in India. Located along the Himalayan Arc, Nepal and Bihar are both highly susceptible to earthquake hazard and were both affected by the 1934 earthquake. Despite the shared earthquake hazard, and some similarities in terms of ethnic and caste based inequalities and conflict, they have very different political and economic histories. Nepal is emerging from a recent conflict and receives relatively high levels of development aid while Bihar has a strong state system and is now making rapid economic progress after decades of stalled development due to weak governance. They therefore make for an interesting comparison in earthquake risk governance. In-depth interviews with over 40 stakeholders were conducted and focus groups were held to map out stakeholder relationships, interests and challenges of earthquake risk governance. Read the rest of this entry »
As concerns about global food security are on the rise, there are many questions as to how the world will face growing demands for a sustainable food supply. While poverty and food distribution seem to underlie many of the challenges regarding food security, biotechnology in the form of genetically modified seeds could continue to play an increasing role in how food is grown and traded in both developed and less developed countries.
Does patenting seeds create new risks to food security or provide a way of securing the world food supply through centralisation? Are we simply looking at a new way of meeting the demands placed upon agriculture or a new way for chemical corporations such as Monsanto, Dupont, Dow Chemical and others to place new demands on society? Most importantly, where does this leave farmers and the communities they support?
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 »