Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses


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Author notes

A group of natural and social scientists at MSU looked at the well-being of people after a disaster. Their focus was on the recovery of the massive Wenchuan Earthquake in the Wolong Nature Reserve in southwestern China, but the results have relevance for areas worldwide that seek to balance sustainability recovery with the long-term well-being of people.

In Wolong, governmental agencies were eager to replace homes and infrastructure and move people out ofResidents of a housing resettlement in Wolong, China the mountainous hills of the nature reserve and closer to more flat areas such as towns and roads. The intentions were good and provided what seemed like multiple levels of solutions.

People once living in the high mountains had more access to work in towns, and people were moved further from the fragile biodiversity that is home to the threatened and iconic giant pandas and other valuable animals and plants. To build new housing, cropland was eliminated, as were opportunities for income from farming. Many people from Wolong were able to find work in distant urban areas, but city work came with hardships and stress, such as increased living expenses and an unfair education system for their children and a lack of sense of belonging in the cities.

Unintended consequences, in essence, were in many ways eroding their well-being. These were examples of how factors distant from the earthquake's epicenter could have an impact on the people there.

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Disaster recovery requires rebuilding livelihoods -- ScienceDaily

These socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances, known as telecouplings, can significantly influence on disaster recovery, both in Wolong as well in areas decimated by other natural disasters hurricanes, volcanoes, floods. Major adverse events such as these have the potential to cause catastrophic loss of life and physical destruction.

They are often unexpected and can leave whole communities in shock.


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People who live through a disaster can experience emotional distress. Feelings of anxiety, constant worrying, trouble sleeping, and other depression-like symptoms are common responses to disasters before, during, and after the event. Anyone can be at risk, including survivors living in the impacted areas and first responders and recovery workers. Natural disasters are large-scale geological or meteorological events that have the potential to cause loss of life or property.

These types of disasters include:. Severe storms and floods are the most common types of natural disasters reported in the United States.

Disaster: Challenges and perspectives

Disaster Distress Helpline staff are available to speak to those who call or text before, during, and after a natural disaster. Examples include industrial accidents, shootings, acts of terrorism, and incidents of mass violence. Roger del Moral and Lawrence R. Environmental Disasters is an overview of the effects of disturbance on plant communities. After the introduction and a chapter on the various types of disturbances, del Moral and Walker get to the heart of the book: four chapters on disturbances and their effects that divide the world into a two-by-two matrix of site productivity infertile versus fertile and stability unstable versus stable.

chapter and author info

The book concludes with a brief chapter on lessons learned from disturbances. As the headings indicate, humans are a focus of this book.

The writing is sprightly and engaging. Sprinkled throughout the text are side boxes, many of which describe the authors' personal experiences—such as the time that Walker sat through Hurricane Hugo. These lend a welcome personal touch to the book. The numerous photographs, mostly black and white but with a few color plates, serve well to illustrate the topics.

A curious mix of topics are discussed in the four main chapters, with some disturbances defined by type e. The sections on glaciers, volcanoes, and lava are the most thorough, reflecting the research areas of the authors. Unfortunately, organization on the basis of site characteristics creates the false impression that disturbances are confined to certain habitat types; for example, fire can occur in any type of habitat, not just in those that are fertile and stable.

What is missing are data. The closest the authors come to supplying data is in the section on glaciers, where they include some information on the current effects of global warming on glacial melt. There is not a single graph in the book, and there are only a couple of data tables. It is this lack of data that makes me doubt the claim that this book will appeal to ecologists: to the professional ecologist, the generalizations are very likely already well known, even if the many anecdotes are not.

This book is not a good teaching tool, because it also lacks citations beyond a very short list of readings at the end of each chapter.

Disaster recovery requires rebuilding livelihoods

Although the lack of in-text citations facilitates reading, it is impossible for someone to track down the details behind the anecdotes, to find out the bases for the generalizations, or to discover the people responsible for the ideas and information. A graduate student would be better off with more specialized texts, and an undergraduate would find much of the same knowledge in a good textbook. Similarly, land managers interested in restoration would be frustrated by this book.

Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses
Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses
Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses
Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses
Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses
Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses Environmental Disasters, Natural Recovery and Human Responses

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