The Long Shadow of Human generated Geohazards Risks and Crises

The Long Shadow of Human generated Geohazards Risks and Crises

Jun 9th, 2016

We received an invitation to write a Chapter in a book. The tite of the book is “Geohazards Caused by Human Activity”. The title of the chapter will be “The Long Shadow of Human generated Geohazards Risks and Crises”.

We are eager to get this text up and running and wish to get our readers’ opinion on the concepts we are using as a backbone of the Chapter.

Please let us know your thoughts!

The Long Shadow of Human generated Geohazards Risks and Crises.

Data courtesy Marc Imhoff of NASA GSFC and Christopher Elvidge of NOAA NGDC.
Image by Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA GSFC.

The Long Shadow of Human generated Geohazards Risks and Crises

Geohazards and Anthropocene

We define geohazards as geological (geotechnical, hydrogeological) states that may lead to widespread damage or risk. Geohazards are geological and environmental conditions and involve long-term or short-term geological processes. In the mean time Humans are also altering the planet since the beginning of civilization. The effects, traceable back to the Neolithic age agriculture have varying, certainly increasing, levels. We can call this interaction between geosphere and humanity Anthropogenic global changes.

As we can safely assume we are in the Anthropocene it is also safe to assume that many of the processes we observe nowadays may be man-made or man-altered.

It is therefore obvious that we have to study risks and crises, hazard and risk perception and related decision-making, loaded with their social aspects in a holistic way. We have to integrate humanistic and social aspects to the usual technical, scientific approach. We are not suggesting by any means to dilute the level of the technical approaches, on the contrary, but to couple them with a humanistic approach.

One can assume the list man-made or man-altered, geohazards as coincident with the natural-occurring geohazards one. That applies even to seismicity as lately exposed by research on fracking and other oil extraction techniques. Exceptions are special hazards like, for example:

  • the spread of unexploded ammunition,
  • landmines contamination via erosion and flooding processes,
  • the spread of heavy metals or other contaminants via leaching or tailings dams failures, etc.

Purpose of the Chapter

The purpose of this chapter is to focus attention on the “damage or risk” side of the phenomena instead than on the generating processes. 

Generating processes —> leads to —>

-> targets T potentially hit with a probability ph —-> leads to —->

-> damages (losses) or Consequences Ch

Riskh on T= ph*Ch

Geoscientists often neglect damage (consequences) evaluations and obviously so. Indeed those analyses are not within their scope of knowledge. Geoscientists are of course more interested in studying the science behind processes rather than their potentially grim outcomes. Thus damage evaluations become oversimplified by predictive studies and thus risks poorly understood.

The themes we will discuss

In this chapter we will first review the technical glossary of risk, damages, crises. We will then discuss various terms, including simplified ways to evaluate probabilities, frequencies, their relationship, based on real-life examples.

The second section will bear on multi-dimensional consequences analysis, which we will again explain based on real-life examples.

The discussion will include:

  • accident consequences and risk perception;
  • identical consequences generating different behaviour and finally,
  • third party hazards possibly requiring strategic shifts as common mitigations are impossible.

We will finally define risks and risk tolerance, while we discuss them using a real-life case history.

This section will also focus on ethical (geo-ethical) issues linked to Geohazards caused by Human Activities and their mitigation decisions and possible unintended consequences. The discussion will include the sometimes excessive, sometimes lacking (blindness) perception of risks by the public, corporate and public officers, using real life examples.

We will then discuss the root cause of some odd human behaviour when facing risks (biases) like, for example, the survivor bias.

Tagged with: , , , , ,

Category: Consequences, Crisis management, Risk analysis, Risk management

One response to “The Long Shadow of Human generated Geohazards Risks and Crises”

  1. Roy Wares says:

    I trust you will take a look at this recent journal

    Global Policy
    © Durham University and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
    Cover image for Vol. 7 Issue S1
    Special Issue: Too Big to Handle: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Question of Why Societies Ignore Looming Disasters

    May 2016

    Volume 7, Issue Supplement S1
    Pages 1–118

    Issue edited by: Anne van Aaken, Janis Antonovics


    Roy Wares, Vancouver

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