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Über dieses Buch

With the major growth of the world’s population over the past century, as well as rapid urbanisation, people increasingly live in crowded cities. This trend is often accompanied by proliferation of poorly built housing, uncontrolled use of land, occupation of unsafe environments and overstretched services. When a natural hazard strikes such a city many people are vulnerable to loss of life and property. This book explores what these people think and feel about the threats that they face. How do they live with perils ranging from earthquakes to monsoons, from floods to hurricanes, in the 21st century?

The authors are drawn from a large range of disciplines: Psychology, Engineering, Geography, Anthropology and Urban Planning. They also reflect on how perils are represented in multiple cultures: the United States, Japan, Turkey, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The book therefore not only brings to light the ways that different cultures represent natural hazards but also the different ways in which various disciplines write about living with perils in the 21st century.

The book is addressed both to researchers and to organizations involved with risk management and risk mitigation.



Chapter 1. Introduction – Living with Perils in the Twenty-First Century

This chapter introduces some of the questions that spurred the writing of this book, particularly whether there are underlying commonalities in beliefs about natural hazards across the globe, and whether links can be drawn between people’s perceptions or representations of their risk from natural hazards on the one hand, and the actions they take to mitigate against these hazards on the other. The book brings together a number of risk perception/representation studies that traverse several countries and hazards and are authored by academics from a diverse set of disciplines. Challenges and gaps are identified in relation to the risk perception field, and it is argued that cross-cultural, multi-disciplinary studies are required to answer the questions raised in the chapter.

Tiziana Rossetto

Chapter 2. Risk Society and Representations of Risks: Earthquakes and Beyond

This chapter explores how lay publics respond to potential disasters. It contends that the current risk perception field largely neglects the common-sense beliefs and emotions that lie at the root of public responses to risks. The chapter challenges several of the assumptions that buttress the conventional construal of the terms ‘risk’ and ‘perception’. It proposes that the current focus on how the individual mind cognitively processes predictable, calculable phenomena should be replaced by emphasis on how emotional and socio-cultural beings represent often unknowable potential catastrophes. Social representations theory is put forward as a viable theoretical framework within which this shift could be achieved. The chapter illustrates the value of a social representations approach to studying risk by presenting the findings of a cross-cultural study examining social representations of earthquakes in cities at risk of earthquakes in the US, Japan and Turkey. The chapter concludes by proposing routes by which the findings of such studies could be channelled into behavioural intervention programmes.

Helene Joffe, Cliodhna O’Connor

Chapter 3. Risk Compensation in Cities at Risk

Cities face many risks. This book focuses mainly on natural hazards. This chapter explores what perceptions of, and responses to, natural hazards have in common with society’s way of coping with risk more generally. It proffers four

framing devices

. First a categorisation of risk: is it directly perceptible, perceptible only with the help of scientific instruments and statistical surveys, or is it ‘virtual’ – perceptible only with the assistance of unquantifiable imagination? Second, the

risk thermostat

introduces the concept of

risk compensation

: this presents the idea that risk perceptions influence behaviour in predictable ways. Third,

Cultural Theory

introduces a framework for organizing the biases that one encounters when trying to understand diverse responses to what appear to be statistically similar risks. Finally, the significance of

voluntary versus imposed

risks: why are there such enormous differences in responses to statistically similar risks?

John Adams

Chapter 4. Responding to Flood Risk in the UK

This chapter considers the response of UK householders to the country’s most widespread and damaging natural hazard, flooding. Although flood risk affects 3 million UK residents and major floods in 1998, 2000, 2005, 2007 and 2009 received extensive media coverage, few at-risk householders take any action to reduce their risk exposure. Research conducted in London, Reading and Leeds suggests that people who have insufficient confidence in their ability to manage their exposure to the material impacts of flooding choose instead to adopt anxiety-avoidance strategies such as blame and fatalism. These strategies protect social representations that enable citizens to achieve a feeling of safety in their lives but they also de-legitimise the discourse of risk mitigation. The research suggests that protection of self-identity and social identity also play a role. Only when traumatic or repeated experiences of flooding force changes to identity and make the retention of old representations untenable are these psychological strategies abandoned. When this occurs, individuals either learn to accept the existence of the risk or else fall into a state of disabling anxiety.

Tim Harries

Chapter 5. A Historical Overview of Social Representation of Earthquake Risk in Japan: Fatalism, Social Reform, Scientific Control and Collaborative Risk Management

The historical development of social representations of earthquake risk in Japan can be summarised in terms of four stages:


(before the eighteenth century),

social reform

(from the mid-nineteenth century),

scientific control

(after World War II) and

collaborative risk management

(after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995). This evolution is not a linear, chronological movement through these modes of representation. Rather, these four basic styles of risk representation create a multilayered structure, allowing two or more types of risk representation to coexist. In Japanese society since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, in particular, these four types of social representation of earthquake risk have developed into a complicated mixture. Seismologists have publicly referred to the ‘failure of earthquake sciences’, and criticism from society is increasing in regard to the ineffectiveness of safety measures regarding nuclear power plants. Thus, confidence in scientific control, which previously had been trusted and relied upon, is greatly shaken. Concurrent with this declining trust in science, vernacular science knowledge regarding disaster and disaster prevention is being disseminated at much higher rates to society at large, and the line separating such vernacular knowledge, older traditional views and ‘pure’ scientific knowledge is being blurred. Hence, a growing trend towards cognitive polyphasia (Moscovici 1976) is apparent. Furthermore, because widespread damage occurred in spite of the mutual cooperation of residents of local communities at the time of the emergency tsunami evacuation, the limits of collaborative risk management, which came into prominence after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, have been quickly indicated. Meanwhile, through statements such as that by a prominent politician claiming that “this disaster is divine punishment for our selfishness”, and arguments that the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 should represent a great turning point for an economically and politically stagnant Japanese society, it has become evident that old risk representation styles such as fatalism and social reform also remain firmly entrenched.

Katsuya Yamori

Chapter 6. Facilitating Community Participation in Disaster Risk Management: Risk Perception and Preparedness Behaviours in Turkey

This chapter aims to present a brief review of disasters and the disaster management system in Turkey, followed by a presentation and evaluation of some psychological models developed for explaining individual disaster preparedness behaviours. The models all stress the importance of facilitating awareness of risks, having information about methods to combat hazard (i.e. what to do) and the role of resources in predicting preparedness behaviours. Also highlighted are the significance of evaluations of coping choices, the perceived efficacy and cost of these choices and the availability of personal (e.g. education; self-efficacy), social (e.g. availability of social networks; civil society organisations dealing with particular hazards) and economic (e.g. financial resources; availability of long term credits) resources. Additionally, some factors that hinder preparedness behaviours, such as helplessness, fatalism, denial and externalisation of responsibility (i.e. belief that mitigation and preparedness is the responsibility of local or central government institutions) are presented. The chapter reports findings from studies on individual and community training and involvement in disaster risk management and predictors of hazard adjustment behaviours in Turkey (mostly conducted in Istanbul). It offers suggestions for community training programmes that aim to facilitate mitigation and preparedness behaviours in individuals and communities.

Nuray Karanci

Chapter 7. North American Cities at Risk: Household Responses to Environmental Hazards

This chapter updates Lindell and Perry’s (Environ Behav 32(4):590–630, 2000) review by summarizing the results of ten more recent North American studies on earthquake hazard adjustment and adding 16 studies on flood, hurricane, tornado, and volcano hazard adjustment. This research indicates that risk perceptions are consistently related to the adoption of hazard adjustments, but people’s perceptions of stakeholders and hazard adjustments are also relevant and deserve greater attention. There is considerable evidence that hazard experience increases hazard adjustment adoption, but hazard proximity and hazard intrusiveness also appear to play significant roles and should be a topic of additional research. Finally, demographic variables continue to be unreliable predictors of hazard adjustment adoption but should receive continuing attention to assess their effects on risk perceptions, stakeholder perceptions and hazard adjustment perceptions, as well as hazard experience, hazard proximity, and hazard intrusiveness.

Michael Lindell

Chapter 8. Community Understanding of, and Preparedness for, Earthquake and Tsunami Risk in Wellington, New Zealand

The city of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, is exposed to a wide range of potentially devastating impacts from various natural hazards. It is situated in one of the most active seismic regions in New Zealand, creating a significant earthquake risk. Another hazard to which it is exposed is that of tsunami from local and distant sources. Given the variety of hazards that Wellington faces, consideration of how the risks from such hazards can be reduced is necessary. Preparedness activities can be undertaken to try and reduce risk, with individual household preparedness forming one such activity. Motivating citizens to prepare can be a difficult task. Educators have often long assumed that if individuals are told about the risk of hazards, then they will begin to prepare; however, this is not usually the case. This is reflected in Wellington where traditional public education (i.e. information dissemination) has predominantly been undertaken to inform people about the risk of earthquakes and tsunami. Results from evaluation surveys show that in the wake of the public education campaigns, awareness of the risk is high, but levels of comprehensive preparedness low. Consequently it is apparent that risk perception does not usually link directly with preparedness, but is amplified or attenuated through a variety of individual, social psychological and community factors. Such factors are important to the preparedness process and must be considered when developing public education programmes. Programmes should include a traditional information dissemination element to build awareness of the risk, as well as a more interactive community-based component to foster important factors such as critical awareness, self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, action coping, participation, engagement and trust.

David Johnston, Julia Becker, John McClure, Douglas Paton, Sara McBride, Kim Wright, Graham Leonard, Miriam Hughes

Chapter 9. Perceptions of Climate Variability and Coping Strategies in Informal Settlements in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Many of the urban poor living in Dhaka city, Bangladesh are frequently exposed to flood hazards, as most of the informal settlements are located in highly flood-prone areas of the city. Based on findings from household surveys in two informal settlements in Dhaka, this chapter seeks to examine the relationship between people’s perceptions of flood hazards and the actions they take to reduce their vulnerability. It also explores the latent drivers (psychological, environmental and political) behind these perceptions and behaviours. The findings conclude that risk perceptions and related preparedness actions are framed by the highly vulnerable context in which the urban poor live in. Although they are extremely anxious about their exposure to a range of hazards or any life stresses, their limited power to influence institutional-level affairs encourages undertaking more individual and household preparedness through a range of different activities. The chapter suggests that the experience of relatively small hazard events on a yearly basis fosters highly-tuned perceptions about hazard risk and high levels of worry, thereby making the urban poor more resilient to a range of hazards and life stresses.

Huraera Jabeen, Cassidy Johnson

Chapter 10. Risk Perception, Public Education and Disaster Risk Management

This concluding chapter discusses the relevance of the different ideas about hazard risk perception, written about in the rest of this book, to the practice of disaster risk management, particularly with regard to current moves to encourage community-based resilience. It identifies the diversity of views about how risk is perceived and how to study risk perception, noting the importance of socio-cultural factors in understandings of risk. It questions the relevance of much of the risk perception research carried out in high-income countries to the situations of poor and vulnerable people in low-income countries, who in addition to living with natural hazards have to manage many other threats to their daily well-being and livelihoods. The implications of these discussions for public education about risk are examined, as are related issues of responsibility, authority and trust.

John Twigg


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