2015 may seem a long time away for the majority, but in the developing and disaster risk reduction sectors it is a year that will come around all too quickly. It is a year of great promises, change and reflection.

So, why is 2015 such a landmark year? Well, it is the year when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) should be achieved; and the year when a new global consensus on climate change must be reached. It is also the year that marks the 10th anniversary of the voluntary disaster risk reduction (DRR) agreement, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA).

2015 presents an opportunity like no other to revolutionise the way that humanitarian organisations, global decision makers and governments look at development, disasters and climate change. Read the rest of this entry »

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DAD Students, Alumni and Friends Workshop

Posted: February 18, 2013 by Steven Forrest in Topical

(Written by Mark Pelling and Steven Forrest)

DAD Workshop 2013, courtesy of King's College London Geography Department

DAD Workshop 2013, courtesy of King’s College London Geography Department

Some 50 MA DAD students, PhDs and researchers crowded the Pyramid Room and then decamped to the postgraduate bar following a series of thought-provoking lectures and interactive activities.

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Post Typhoon Bopha/Pablo: Immediate observations and reflections

Posted: December 6, 2012 by Steven Forrest in Topical

(This article was written by Hannah Tankard on the 5th December 2012 from San Francisco in the Philippines. Hannah is currently interning with the Red Cross and is helping with their emergency response to the disaster)

It is difficult to describe what Veruela looked like today, so here is an attempt: like a bomb site; a scene from a horror movie about a wide-ranging exploded nuclear power station; or perhaps imagine a scene from the movie The Day After Tomorrow. Homes were destroyed, whole forests flattened, there was infrastructural damage, landslides, flooding, no electricity and many, many, many, vulnerable people evacuated, some without food. It is clear from this one municipality alone that immediate relief is a must. With the Red Cross team I was with today we went to a barangay quite remote from the centre of this town. The relief effort has begun when we started to help out with emergency food. My personal contribution felt so limited considering all the devastation surrounding me. Read the rest of this entry »

Shakespeare on disasters

Posted: September 7, 2012 by Huub Nieuwstadt in Disaster, Etymology

As a student of disaster management, it has been repeated to me ad nauseam that there is no such thing as a natural disaster. Disasters are not unfortunate “acts of God”. In this context one is often reminded of the vote-loving, press-pleasing and responsibility-shifting politicians who claim that a disaster happening under their auspices is beyond their control. Disasters – I am told instead – find their root causes in more man-made circumstances.

I find it interesting to see that academia has accepted a definition of disasters that is pretty much the exact opposite of the actual historical and etymological meaning of the word.

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Much Ado About…Alberta?

Posted: June 25, 2012 by aydencumming in Topical

Rio, Kyoto, Copenhagen, Durban: International climate change conferences and negotiations attract the world’s attention. Hundreds of thousands of news releases, blogs and tweets report the on-goings of delegates and protestors alike. We hope that world leaders will put aside their differences and genuinely try to reach an agreement about how to protect our environment. But no one holds their breath.

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Statistics indicate that, unfortunately, ‘natural’ disasters are on the increase.  Irrespective of the uncertainty associated with predicting when and where they will occur, we must do more to prepare for future shocks. In 2010, 110 million people were affected by disasters. There is a pressing need for more pre-emptive policies i.e. actions taken before the disaster strikes. Only through these actions will it be possible to curtail unnecessary suffering and realign both poor and rich countries towards a greener more equitable development path.

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How can we perceive something that makes such a colossal sound as a silent phenomenon? Yes, light travels almost 900, 000 times the speed of sound. So when lightning strikes, we often don’t hear thunder until seconds later.  But this isn’t the kind of silence I am talking about. I am talking about the fact that lightning kills an estimated 24, 000 people and injures a further 240, 000 each year, yet it rarely features in our news headlines or as a significant topic in disaster studies.

Lightning never strikes twice?

Lightning never strikes twice?

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An Undeclared Disaster…in Canada?

Posted: May 2, 2012 by aydencumming in Disaster
Tags: , ,

The title of this blog is “Masters of Disasters”, but what exactly is a disaster? For most people, the word conjures up a mix of images which consist of human suffering caused by something beyond our control, such as an earthquake or flood.  Most of us expect that a disaster would make the news, and that help would be sent to the affected region. It’s not hard to recognise a disaster, right?

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You’ve probably never asked yourself this question; to be honest, I hadn’t even considered it until I took a module about water as part of my disasters Master’s. As my kind blog reviewer pointed out, people may think the term “water wars” refers to people playing with “water bombs and super soakers in the back garden”. Alas, no: my definition of water wars is probably better phrased as “water conflicts,” which occur due to limited or unfair access to trans-boundary water. Water is a vital resource: it sustains life by quenching our thirst and growing our food.  Perhaps now you are pondering – really, why are there no water wars?

Namibia - where the mean rainfall is 285 mm/year, making it one of the driest countries worldwide! They overcome lack of water by trading mainly with South Africa.

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Thanks to the internet, communication between people has become easier than ever. We can now share information quickly and easily with a large global audience or a few specific people through ‘social media’. Examples of such ‘interactive dialogues’ include community-generated materials (e.g. Wikipedia), blogging sites and social networking sites.

So what has social media got to do with disasters? Well, social media is not always associated with disasters, however, we are beginning to see some innovative examples of its use. These include the incorporation of social media into the disaster arena to aid in disaster risk reduction (DRR), act as an early warning system, as well as its use to raise public awareness of ongoing disaster situations and even comfort family and friends.

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