December 27, 2005
John Bohannon notes in Science that the last year has been one of unprecedented natural disasters -- the 2004 "Christmas tsunami" in the Indian Ocean, Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and the Pakistan earthquake, which left nearly 300,000 dead and millions homeless.>
Natural disasters are anything but natural: societies can mitigate their impacts by making the right decisions about where and how people live, how information is shared, and what kind of research to invest in.
Some ideas include:
- Disaster mitigation consultant Aromar Revi's proposal for "a public database like Google Earth" that would allow researchers around the world to map the "risk landscape down to the ZIP-code level." Nations with shared risks could build better warning networks -- if they are willing to share data and the expense.
Economist Reinhard Mechler's proposal for nations to use the disaster insurance market to improve risk-sharing, rather than rely on international charity -- which would require the same sort of detailed risk data.>
the US National Science and Technology Council's call for enhanced interdisciplinary communication as well as social science research to aid emergency risk communication>
As he notes:
One thing is all but certain: Even worse years lie ahead. Vulnerable urban populations of the developing world are set to double by 2030, as are coastal populations everywhere. Meanwhile, changing climate threatens to bring more hurricanes due to warming and chronic coastal flooding due to rising sea levels, among other worrying possibilities.
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