Vulnerability, Risk, and Hazards

Burrell E. Montz and Graham A. Tobin

in Geography

ISBN: 9780199874002
Published online February 2013 | | DOI:
Vulnerability, Risk, and Hazards

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Consideration of the nexus between the geophysical and social components of natural hazards can be dated to Gilbert White’s recognition in 1942 that “floods are acts of God, but flood losses are largely acts of man [sic].” Since that time, hazards researchers have sought to understand the extent to which the losses from extreme natural events can be explained by physical processes of the events and characteristics of those at risk. This has led to considerations of how risk and vulnerability are conceptualized, measured, and mitigated. Some researchers have focused on geophysical risk and the vulnerability of locations, while others have been concerned with understanding vulnerability comprising social, demographic, and economic factors, no matter what the risk. As a result, the body of literature is diverse, with foci ranging from works addressing a physical perspective of risk to those documenting vulnerability as a product of the political-economic systems in which people reside. With this diversity has come a variety of definitions of the terms “risk” and “vulnerability.” For instance, risk analysts often define risk as the product of the probability of an event’s occurrence and its magnitude (i.e., probability × magnitude = risk), while hazards researchers in geography and other disciplines tend to view this relationship as including an exponent to account for social values or societal impacts (i.e., probability × magnitude n), although n may be difficult to measure. Similarly, there has been much discussion in the literature about defining vulnerability, with some equating it with risk and others expressing it in relationship to resilience. Yet, it has been recognized that the mitigation and adaptation options available to reduce risk and vulnerability may be quite different. This bibliography addresses these topics by focusing on works that seek to improve our understanding of the complexities of each term and then turning to research that has advanced our understanding of how risk and vulnerability might be measured and, ultimately, mitigated to reduce losses. The references cited do not compose a definitive list of publications on vulnerability and risk but instead represent a sample of those available. The references have been organized into different categories based on general vulnerability factors, such that readers will see a cross-section of the available literature. However, many citations could easily fit into two or more categories; indeed, it is the overlapping and interdisciplinary nature of the topic that exemplifies this area of research.

Article.  11213 words. 

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography ; Human Geography

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