Sapiezoic geo-ethics demands new tools for slopes’ management

Sapiezoic geo-ethics demands new tools for slopes’ management

Nov 22nd, 2017

Sapiezoic geo-ethics demands new tools for slopes’ management. Landslides of natural and man-made slopes are well-known hazardous geo-morphological processes. Rather high frequencies and extremely variable consequences, hence highly variable risks are usual characteristics of landslides. Consequences are often multidimensional, insofar lives, infrastructures, environmental and cultural assets may be damaged.

The Lidong Village landslide, in Yaxi Township in Lishui, Zhejiang Province in East China occurred at about 1050 pm on 13th November.

Important geoethical issues cover the actions needed to prioritizing and mitigating slopes’ risks in a sustainable way. Thus Sapiezoic geo-ethics demands new tools for slopes’ management.

The root cause of slopes’ failures

The root cause of slopes’ failures may be linked to human activities or natural processes. Undeniably, humans have altered their habitat for tens of thousands of years of Anthropocene. Thus there is a tendency to consider human endeavours as the root cause of many failures. That is because impacts on the geosphere during the Anthropocene, including climate change, have altered the natural evolution of slopes, hence frequency and magnitude of failures. Example of this alteration are easy to see.

At one end of the spectrum we have are large alpine slow creeping landslides, which started at the end of the last glaciation (say 14,000 years ago). At the other end we can cite, as an example, mountainous highways and their cut and fill construction, earth moving for residential areas, tailings dams and other major infrastructures.

The definition of “failure” is paramount, as it can occur:

  • suddenly (one time “fragile” failure of a dam, for example) or
  • slowly, under the form of a continuous movement with discrete bursts of acceleration, paroxysms.

The discussion related to causality can go on forever, as one could consider some paroxysms of large natural alpine landslides as the result of long term climate change.

We will halt this particular aspect of the debate here, as prioritizing and mitigating are more important goals that the exploration of the true root cause of the phenomena, at least in the short/medium term.

Understanding the impacts: welcome to the Sapiezoic

Until now we did not have the means to understand the global impacts of ma-made modifications. Like every industrial accident was a “fatality”, all slopes failures were “natural”. In other words, humans unwittingly altered the planet for millennia, but only now have the means to understand when and where their actions generate impacts and the related scale. This marks the beginning of a new epoch which can be named Sapiezoic (from latin sapienza, wisdom). Today self-blinding humans clearly act against geo-ethics.

Sapiezoic geo-ethics demands new tools for slopes’ management

Discussing simultaneously Anthropocene, Sapiezoic cognitive biases, sustainable Risk Management and related ethical issuesat regional or national scale, avoids the usual “discipline silo’s trap”. Indeed, there are four elements that characterize Anthropocene, Sapiezoic and require the utmost attention related to Risk Management and geoethics:

  1. unprecedented scale,
  2. understanding of our role,
  3. evaluation skills,
  4. ending cognitive bias such as, for example, blind-spot and therefore accept we have to end the usual societal condoning.

A new research program by Riskope

Riskope is developing a research program on slopes’ management as Sapiezoic geo-ethics demands new tools for slopes’ management.

The research program will discuss:

  • the unprecedented scale of impact and alteration through systemic inter-dependencies, with the related loss of resilience;
  • our role, including the capacity to transition from inadvertent global changes to thoughtful and deliberate control of our effects on the planet. Indeed we use by far the largest volumes ever of toxic and hazardous chemicals and radionucleids;
  • how incomplete risk assessments do not help evaluate or control man-made or natural hazards and therefore should be proscribed. Our ability to live sustainably is linked to the capacity to evaluate voluntary and involuntary risks and establish reasonable tolerances to risk, thus prioritize them and their mitigations in the best possible manner;
  • why geo-ethics demand the ending of our societal condoning. We have to foster the widening of what we see and perceive and what others see and perceive. That means fostering the “public arena” at the expense of our blind-spots — what we cannot see, but others see. These objectives outline a very ethical and beneficial way of ending of our innocence, a way to ensure Anthropocene, Sapiezoic and Risk Management seamlessly integrate to deliver a more livable, geo-ethical world.

In particular the research will discuss the management of large portfolios of slopes (e.g. regional, provincial or even national scale), show the difference between hazard management and risk management using, for example, a sample portfolio of tailings dams and a portfolio of natural slopes.

The above will support the theses that developing transparent discussions with all stakeholders and sensible mitigative programs, ensures better allotment of mitigative funds while complying with the goals described above and geoethics.

An invitation

We hope our readership will provide comments about the research program and objectives, ideas, suggestions.

If you decide to participate, we will be delighted to acknowledge your contribution in the final report. We anticipate the final report to be publicly available when finished.

Contact us!

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Category: Consequences, Risk analysis, Risk management

2 responses to “Sapiezoic geo-ethics demands new tools for slopes’ management”

  1. Davjde says:

    Very interesting idea and topic. I would like to be involved in your program. Please contact me.
    Best regards.
    Davide Bertolo.

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