It has been recognized that environmental conditions and events have the potential to undermine international stability. Although natural hazards are sometimes not considered in the arena of ‘environmental security’, these issues have some of the greatest impacts of any environmental threat. It will be argued here that human preparations (or lack thereof) for natural hazards have effects that can transgress national boundaries far more readily than is commonly recognized. Systematic assessment of disaster-causing processes can be the first step towards policies to reduce the major national and international impacts of these hazards.Natural hazards vary widely in their effects and the best approaches for reducing damages. These differences can be illustrated best by examining hazards according to five criteria: 1) potential magnitude; 2) frequency; 3) avoidability of damages; 4) engineerability; and 5) what we call “Pandora’s Box” potential. Two case studies, earthquakes and flooding, illustrate two ends of the natural-hazards spectrum. Earthquakes represent relatively infrequent, diffuse, but potentially catastrophic events. Public policies in the USA, particularly in California, demonstrate that this hazard can be dramatically reduced by zoning and engineering guidelines. In contrast, floods are typically much more discrete events, but the history of flooding in the USA demonstrates that economic and political pressures tend to overwhelm the limitations of engineering protections, resulting in damage potential that has spiraled upward over time. Flooding also illustrates how a local hazard can be internationalized as a result of national policies and activities.These observations lead to a blueprint for dealing with natural hazards. For hazards that are discrete, by far the best strategy is to avoid the hazard. The lesson from the USA is that encroachment into hazardous zones is almost inevitably a one-way process. For hazards that are diffuse but engineerable, and in societies with sufficient resources, then structural protection may be an appropriate and effective solution. Finally, scientists and planners must be aware of the potential for opening “Pandora’s Box”, whereby increases in hazard risk may result from human activities, because this phenomenon has the greatest potential for crossing national borders and thereby threatening international security.
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- Side-Stepping Environmental Conflicts
Nancy S. Philippi
- Springer Netherlands
Systemische Notwendigkeit zur Weiterentwicklung von Hybridnetzen