Guest Posting on Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy at 10, Katrina at 20: How do we study recovery over decades?

As I was wrapping up my book on long-term recovery after Hurricane Sandy, due this fall from Lexington Press, I realized that we are fast approaching the 20th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Decadal milestones are important in the study of long-term recovery because they provide opportunities for assessment and stock taking. While recovery may look complete there are often “hidden pockets” of people and neighborhoods who are still struggling to complete the rebuilding process and individuals and communities that may still be financially, medically, emotionally, and psychologically impacted by the disaster or catastrophe. What we may also miss by turning away at 2-year or 5-year milestones are those continued and accelerated political, social, and demographic trends that reshape whole communities, such as those analyzed by Andy Horowitz in New Orleans and the nearby Parishes in his masterful 100-year history of Katrina and its impacts. We see similar reshaping and transformation in coastal New Jersey as long-time working and middle class communities become enclaves of the wealthy and the supply of naturally occurring affordable housing rapidly diminishes.

Sustained research on long-term recovery after disaster is difficult given funding exigencies and academic tenure and promotion timelines. Yet it is vitally important that scholars and practitioners don’t look away and that we find ways to continue to study the long-term aftereffects of catastrophe and disaster, even as media and government attention has moved on to other problems and other disasters.

Are there scholars still working on post-Katrina New Orleans  through analysis of its recovery and transformation over the last 15-20 years? I’d love to connect.

Now may be the time to revisit the excellent scholarship on post-disaster recovery conducted after Katrina and to do a retrospective assessment of 20-years of long-term recovery in New Orleans. Let’s talk.

Jack L. Harris. Author of Hyperlocal Organizing: Collaborating for Recovery over Time (Forthcoming Fall 2022, Lexington Press)
Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication
Internship Program Director, Department of Communication
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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)

Book Review: The Invention of Disaster

Book Review: The Invention of Disaster: Power of Knowledge in Discourses of Hazard and Vulnerability.  Author: JC Gaillard, Professor of Geography, University of Auckland, New Zealand. Publisher: Routledge by Taylor and Francis Group London and New York. ISBN: 978-1-138-80562-0(hbk); ISBN: 978-1-032-16272-0(pbk); ISBN: 978-1-315-75216-7(ebk);DOI: 10.4324/9781315752167. Pages: 252; hardcover price $128.00; eBook: $39.16; Amazon hardcover price $137.66 USD.

The book is part of Routledge Studies in Hazards, Disaster Risk and Climate Change. Series Editor: Ilan Kelman. For more information:

Keywords: Disaster; hazard paradigm; vulnerability paradigm; climate change; risk; disaster risk reduction; capacity building; resilience; Sendai Framework; Paris Agreement; enlightenment; modernity; postcolonial; Western hegemony; neoliberalism; pantometry; dispositif; anthropological particularism; participatory pluralism; discourse; power; governance

Reviewer: Irmak Renda-Tanali, D.Sc. is a disaster risk management specialist, currently working for the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC Global).

This book is a discourse on the current disaster risk reduction paradigms, suggesting that they are dominated by Western postcolonial dialectic that does not necessarily take into account the unique and diverse experiences of millions of people across very different cultures. This problem is more salient in the context of climate change adaptation policies.

The author critically posits that the understanding of disasters and strategies to reduce disaster risk is built upon fabricated divides between a ‘safe’ West that has allegedly built up the necessary knowledge of disaster risk and developed appropriate strategies so that there are fewer human casualties, and a ‘dangerous’ rest of the world needs to learn from the “common sense” created by the West.

The author posits that the attempt to reduce disaster losses by bridging the “nature/hazard versus culture/vulnerability binary” by the Western governments in the lesser developed parts of the world has only been partially effective. The neoliberalist interventions at the local levels in other parts of the world, aside from only a few tangible outcomes, have largely been ineffective. This is despite the fact that climate-driven discourse and frameworks generated by the Western world (particularly the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) focus emphasis on adaptation and inclusiveness and participation of those at risk including indigenous people, migrants, people with disabilities, women, and children. The seeming failure to achieve tangible outcomes is because of the repackaging of the Western-style normative and regulatory governmental approaches to climate change adaptation to non-Western cultural settings. The climate change adaptation imperatives often overlook the underlying unequal power relations that prevent access to resources that foster adaptation. Those imperatives by the West are based on the dominant discourse that nature is a threat itself and climate change is a long-term challenge. This does not sit well with indigenous or local populations (or at-risk populations) whose planning and decision-making mechanisms differ from those of Western governments. The locals perceive foreign-designed projects, not for their intended long-term outcomes, but rather in the context of pressing daily priorities. Locals usually see such adaptation projects as threats to their daily needs: expenditures towards realignment of government priorities that could lead to significant cuts in health and education which matter in the short term. Thus, ([or project implementers], reframing the climate discourse within the context of everyday needs and emphasizing their importance within local cultures and traditional forms of government could not only strengthen people’s coping capacity but also empowers them and does not necessarily undermine the importance of climate change.

The author also challenges the “inclusion” agenda of the Sendai and UN Climate Change frameworks. That Western formulated term “at-risk populations” leads to “exclusive inclusion” as it is based on the implicit assumption that the at-risk populations are outside or at the margin of the society. Categorizations or rather labeling groups such as people with disabilities versus people without disability, women versus men, children versus adults, etc. would put people in narrow and exclusive boxes. These boxes do not allow for intersecting situations such as an elderly woman with a disability, or they lead to stereotypes. Labeling certain groups as vulnerable justifies the intervention of outside actors (i.e. Western governments) and prolongs an “imperialist legacy”.

The book is organized according to 11 chapters, each as an attempt to explain further the above issues as well as additional arguments.

The book delves into the theoretical underpinnings of disaster scholarship with heavy references to the works of various disaster scholars (e.g. White, Quarantelli) and heavily quotes earlier (Kant) and contemporary (Foucault) seminal philosophers of enlightenment, governance, and power.

The book’s contribution is its effort to critically deconstruct the current disaster governance paradigms formulated by disaster scholars, international aid organizations, and Western governments across the globe and provides thought-provoking arguments regarding reducing vulnerability and increasing resiliency against disasters with bottom-up rather than top-down approaches. It takes a highly philosophical approach but presents constructive criticism and lands on solid ground with useful takeaways.

New GAO Report on Earthquakes

Earthquakes: Opportunities Exist to Further Assess Risk, Build Resilience, and Communicate Research.

The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program helps U.S. communities strengthen their earthquake resilience. For example, the program educates the public on earthquake risks and helps communities update building codes and improve design and construction practices.

The program has started assessing progress, for example, by tracking building code adoption in 22,000 jurisdictions. But we found that a national assessment hasn’t been done. Such an assessment could help the program more strategically address inconsistencies in how states, localities, territories, and tribes mitigate earthquake risks.

[The Diva apologizes for the faulty link, but posted it in crude form to facilitate sharing it.]