Book Review: Justice, Equity, and Emergency Management

Review of Justice, Equity, and Emergency Management, edited by Allessandra Jerolleman and William L. Waugh, Jr.  Vol. 25. Community, Environment and Disaster Risk Management. Emerald Publishing Ltd. 2022. (199 pp.)

Review by Donald Watson, co-author with Michele Adams of Design for Flooding: Resilience to Climate Change (Wiley 2011). He has since served in over thirty nations worldwide as consultant for United Nations, U.S. AID, EPA, FEMA, and numerous international humanitarian and disaster relief organizations.

More than twenty authors are represented in this timely book, edited by Alessandra Jerolleman and William L. Waugh, Jr.  Each chapter gives examples for emergency management to achieve “Just Disaster Recovery,” proposed in 2019 by Jerollemen in Disaster Recovery Through the Lens of Justice. [reviewed in Recovery Diva March 29, 2019 ]. William L. Waugh is editor in chief of the Emerald Book Series, “Community, Environment and Disaster Reduction Management,” of which this book is Volume 25.

The Chapter 1 Introduction by Jerolleman and Waugh sets forth four principles of “Just Recovery.” The principles establish a high and, for all the authors of this volume, a necessary standard for the aspirations of emergency managers and the communities they serve, to work toward disaster recovery processes and practices whereby:

#1 ….all community members…be provided with the ability exercise their agency fully through free and informed choice in support of their personal well-being.

#2 … begins with the Principle of Prima Facie Political Equity (PPFPE) which clearly establishes that any different or unequal treatment must be justified by the discriminator; only equality is inherently defensible.

#3 …requires full harnessing of the communities transformative and adaptive capacity in order to reduce risks for the future…working to eliminate existing patterns of unequal distribution of risk.

#4 …is not possible without equal access to resources and programs. (pp. 2,3)

The chapters that follow describe challenges along with lessons learned to carry Just Recovery principles into action, given the fact noted in Chapter 6 that, “the impact and outcome of disasters are always inequitable.”(p. 126)

Chapter 2, “Mutual Aid: Grassroots Model for Justice and Equity in Emergency Management” by Miriam Belblidia and Chenier Kliebert, describes successful lessons of a Mutual Aid Response Network (MARN) involving over 5,000 participants in a grassroots response to COVOID-19 pandemic and a record-breaking Gulf Coast hurricane season 2020.

Chapter 3, “Agricultural and Fishery Disasters: Public Policy Challenges and Just Recovery in a Critical Infrastructure Sector ” by Jerry V. Graves ,offers a helpful critique and recommendations to improve federal agricultural and fishery disaster policies, each with important differences and communities served.

Chapter 4 “Lessons from Co-occuring Disasters: COVOID-19 and Eight Hurricanes”by Alessandra Jerolleman, Shirley Laska and Julie Torres is a complimentary review of Louisiana government leaders and emergency managers responses to a set of simultaneous disasters: global pandemic and an “epidemic” of landfalling hurricanes during the 2020 season. The disasters included Hurricanes Marco and Laura passing over the same location within 36 hours, creating a fujiwhara [interaction of two adjacent cyclonic vortices], plus 150 mph winds inadequately forecast and at near-unprecedented speed, initial reporting errors, plus Storm Zeta. The chapter is an essential read for emergency managers pursuing the priority topic, how to prepare for multiple overlapping disasters.

In Chapter 5, “Federal Indian Policy and the Fulfillment of the Trust Responsibility for Disaster Management in Indian Country,” Samantha J. Cordova gives a fully annotated review of Federal Trust roles and responsibilities to increase capability, continuing self-governance and sovereignty to Indian Country citizens and residents.

Chapter 6, “Equity and Justice in Hazard Mitigation” by Oluponmile Olonilua, focuses on the Disaster Mitigation Action 0f 2000 with recommendations from annotated sources on how to achieve diversity, inclusion of communities most impacted in recovery and mitigation planning, pre-established public-private partnerships to recovery services of transportation, health and housing, mitigation planning, opportunities for “Smart Growth” principles, affordable, walkable, culturally diverse public realms, and planning meetings, with full citizen participation to air and help solve the “wicked problems, such as “NIMBY.”

In Chapter 7, “Just Recovery for Individuals with Access and Functional Needs,” author Jacob Fast notes that, “virtually no studies …. have examined the long-term recovery phase for individuals with disabilities” (p. 133). The chapter reviews recovery needs of older adults, those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), children, and pregnant women, opportunities in housing, health, transportation, employment, and access to services.

A special treat in the book, is found in Chapter 8, “The Underside of Epiphany: Wandering Wonderings.” The chapter is based on the writing of the late Rev. Richard Krajeski, presented with transcribed commentary by a dozen participants of a special session held in his memory as part of the July 2020 Natural Hazard Workshop. The session was titled, “Just Dialogue: An intergenerational conversation on Justice, Sustainability and Abundance.”

The chapter opens with the quote from Krajeski’s writings, (incomplete as he passed away as he was preparing for this volume):

What is the role of ethics and values in justice and [what is] the role of justice in ethics and values? How do we do them?  These questions, ever-present and often unacknowledged, undergird efforts to survive, practice mutual aid, and work to prevent and address harms produced through disasters and environmental changes. (p. 154)

In the concluding Chapter 9, “ The Role of Emerging Technologies and Social Justice in Emergency Management Practice: The Good, the Bad, and the Future,” authors

Paula R. Buchanan and Chayne Sparagowski give an overview of digital information-sharing, communication, and social media impacts on disaster management.  The “good” is that disasters are more predictable in real time and location, emergency management far more rapid, responsive, and flexible. The “bad” or negative impacts include communities most at risk do not have access or ability to benefit from the tools. Recommendations proposed by the authors include community emergency and resilience centers, library internet access available to all community members, public transportation systems, and internet as a public utility (p. 187).

The quality of thought and thoroughness of scholarship in this volume raises a nagging concern that too few can afford to access and read it, given a high cost and limited options for purchase only as a print version (typically affordable only by ample university or research library budgets). Making some chapters or the entire volume accessible at lower cost by e-books or web download would serve emergency management and its larger community whose needs for Just Recovery are addressed by the authors of this volume.

The standout to this volume is Chapter 8 by Krajeski and others. It could serve as an assignment for any class in philosophy and ethics, fulfilling one of the several definitions of ethics, cited as “Aspirational ethics: going beyond obeying moral rules and “doing no harm,” in order to seek the best futures for all.” (p. 156)

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