Three myths in our dealings with disasters, climate change and development

Date/Time: 15/09/2015  16:15 - 17:45

Location: Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Our affiliated partner, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, is holding a seminar on disaster, climate change and development. In this presentation, key areas of work that overlap between development, climate change and disaster preparedness are discussed in relation to three myths. The first is that people give priority to severe natural hazards, and that this is the same outlook as that of outsider “disaster managers”. Most people do not, because they have other priorities (of everyday life). The second is the myth of “community”. Does it actually exist, or do we pretend it is there in order to enable us to do our work? From this, it is explored the problems that arise when we do use the notion of community in what we do, or what others do. This is linked to the assumption that people are “rational” in the way we assume, and that evidence is collected and acted on. Instead, we need to take account of different rationalities (rather than irrationality) and the significance of emotions and experiences in determining behaviour in relation to “evidence”. The last myth relates to whether governments actually care about their people. When we do research to provide evidence for policy (“policy uptake”) we are making an assumption that there will be a rational, logical process that links our research to policy design and implementation. But what if the responsible organisations (national governments and international organisations) don’t actually care, or are constrained by factors that make evidence-based policy irrelevant? In all this the missing element is any consideration of power relations as the major determinant of what does and does not happen.

The presenter, Terry Cannon, has a background in development studies, and specialises on rural livelihoods, disaster risk reduction, vulnerability analysis and adaptation to climate change. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in the UK, and previously worked with International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), University of Greenwich (London) and the Natural Resources Institute (UK). He recently co-edited and co-authored theWorld Disasters Report 2014 focus on Culture and Risk, and is co-author of At Risk (with Wisner, Blaikie and Davis), which is one of the most widely cited and used works in disaster risk reduction. He is currently working on a project in Bangladesh on cyclone preparedness and how to protect livelihoods as well as lives.

Further information is available here.

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