Friday, March 26, 2010

The Risk Society

Yesterday I took a break from my sabbatical projects in Munich to attend an event at the Deutsches Museum (DM) sponsored by the Rachel Carson Center of the Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) and the DM.

It was very refreshing to listen for the day to academics from the social sciences and the humanities, who approach the "environment" with a different perspective, vocabulary, and mindset than we natural scientists do.

For the topic of this blog, perhaps my most interesting discovery yesterday was the concept of the risk society, part of the talk by Dr. Egner. At the "risk" or presenting the words of an unknown person, I will refer you to the entry on the risk society in Wikipedia - the idea of how modern societies deal with natural and manufactured risk, and how social relations are related to the nature of risk.  As I have previously blogged about, I think of seismic risk evaluation as a rather technical and objective exercise.  However, Dr. Egner's presentation discussed, from her perspective as a geographer, the social decisions that might go into a risk evaluation, and the differential impact of risk on various groups within a population.  I'm not sure I agreed with all of it, but the point of view was provocative. I think these ideas must be useful, for example, in contrasting the hazard situations related to the Chile and the Haiti earthquakes.

The Hasbro board game

Carson Workshop Program

Sherry Johnson, Florida International University, USA
Climate, Colonialism, Crisis, and Change in the Carribean in the Age of the Revolution, 1748-1804

Andrew Isenberg, Temple University, USA
The American Government Program in 1832 to vaccinate Indians against Smallpox

Martin Knoll, TU Darmstadt, Germany
Topographies of Nature - Nature of Topographies. Settlements, Territories, and Environment in early modern historicaltopographical Literature

Heike Egner, Universit├Ąt Mainz, Germany
Space, Place and Knowledge: Natural Disasters and Cultures of Risk in Modern Societies

Gary Martin, Global Diversity Foundation, Marrakech, Morocco
Anthropogenic Forests, Agroecosystems and post-agrarian Landscapes: Local Knowledge Societies in a globalized World

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