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Long term risk mitigation plans at country wide scale can be measured. The elements of humanity’s global risk equation, which already seem, also thanks to media and informational pressures, to describe an ascending and worrisome trajectory, will change radically in the future (Financial Times, 2007). Among these changes we can cite:
By analyzing historic choices and decisions one could conclude that adequate risk evaluation had scarce relevance in history. Some well known historic blunders corroborate that impression. These were decisions where critical hazards were not properly identified. Another paradox of our society is the general awe we demonstrate towards risk takers, but only when they are lucky.
However, as pointed out in a recent Book “Improving Sustainability through Reasonable Risk and Crisis Management” (ISBN 978-0-9784462-0-8), alternative choices and decisions can only be compared by pairing them with their risk profile, from cradle to grave.
The conditions in which our predecessors operated were very different. They often were desperate, within no social freedom, under duress of regimes etc. As a result, choices and options were in some cases non existent or a mere illusion. Paradoxically however, if today, choices available to an individual seem wider, today’s decision makers options are often way more limited. For example, no one in an elected position can actually afford to propose a tough choice. That would seal his/her political destiny. As an example let’s cite retirement age and policies, public health care, counter terrorism etc.).
What lies ahead in the very next future are tough choices. For example when shrinking resources will make it impossible to shelter everyone in a country from natural or man-made disasters, we will require transparency and clear rules in order to avoid upheavals and turmoil.
In our world, very often, decisions, planning and development of large governmental and/or humanitarian efforts occur without any measuring of their efficiency.
That way, we waste vast amounts of public/donation money.
Saving a life at certain enormous cost, rather than possibly saving thousands, often works the best from a political/elective standpoint today. However, future decision makers will not be able to go that way.
As an example, let’s take a new environmental protection law. Generally such a law (or international ban) that imposes incredibly costly environmental cleanup programs to save a few lives will have more backing than a law that accepts a lesser level (including a number of victims due to residual hazards) but frees funds to mitigate another less publicly vivid, or media-genic, hazard. Humanity does not seem to be ready to accept proper, sensible, sustainable and transparent risk evaluations. No matter what the real costs of its choices are. Thus, very often, our society rejects risk based approaches applied to society rather then corporations as excessively cynical.
The real question, however, is: can we measure the effects of large scale risk mitigations programs?
Risk approaches call for more equitable and informed choices in the allotment of funds and mitigation. Thus they are more democratic.
Also some will argue that this thinking does not apply to major strategic decisions. Example of those are, for example:
These will remain the exclusive sphere of politicians, elected people and diplomats. However, the thinking applies to tactical and operational level. For example, choosing where and how to fight poverty, how to reduce production of drugs, where and how to enhance coastal protection.
If that was the choice, we would already have gone a step further towards a sustainable future.
Saving lives is good, but at what cost?
A recent study has shown that it is possible to measure the efficiency of a large scale risk mitigation program (The Case Study was the Japanese Typhoon Mitigation Program over the last 54 years), based on publicly and readily available data, using assumptions and simplification to bridge informational gaps.
So, it is possible to show how, despite:
the generous investment allotted by the government to reduce flooding victims, has been efficient over the last 54 years.
It is also possible to evaluate first the investment per past/future life saved. Then and to compare it with the “Willingness to Pay” for a life saved of other G8 countries.
Of course appropriate methodologies exist. They allow to perform the evaluation of a future program, for any considered hazard or set of hazards.