Promoting Disaster Resilience Around the World
Kenneth C. Topping
Lecturer, senior advisor, and former project director of the California State Hazard Mitigation Plan Support Team for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services,
City and Regional Planning Department, California Polytechnic State University–San Luis Obispo, USA
Congratulatory Message Congratulations to the Journal of Disaster Research on successfully completing 10 years of publishing scientific, technical, and policy articles and studies examining and refining issues related to disaster management. Among the Journal’s many contributions to scientific knowledge is its progressive development of the disaster resilience concept benefitting societies and communities worldwide.
With social, environmental, economic, and technological conditions changing continuously and with new uncertainties discussed daily in the media, we must question how well we can plan to safely and productively develop our societies and communities. How well can we embrace and respond effectively to new information about natural and human-based hazards that increase uncertainty and interfere with orderly, beneficial societal and community development?
The number and intensity of disasters appear to be increasing around the globe due to a combination of factors such as natural hazards, technological accidents, urban growth, inadequate planning, and most recently climate change. Some societies and communities may be more vulnerable than others to specific hazard events, but it must be realized that none are immune. Key questions that must be answered include how to minimize potential future loss from natural and human hazards through timely mitigation and preparedness and how to safely and expeditiously respond and recover after disasters strike.
The JDR and other scientific publications have demonstrated how prominent the concept of disaster resilience has become in the last decade alone. The concept of resilience is broadly defined as the capacity of a community to
1) Survive a major disaster or other damaging crisis,
2) Retain essential community structure and functions, and
3) Adapt during post-disaster recovery to conditions for transforming community structures and functions and meeting new challenges (Topping et al., “Toward Disaster Resilient Communities” in Journal of Disaster Research Vol.5, No.2, April 2010).
Operating alongside resilience is the concept of sustainability. Sustainability emerged initially from the environmental movement. The Bruntland Commission (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) has defined sustainable development as that “… meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainability has broadened in meaning to include preserving and maintaining resources – environmental, physical, social, economic, and cultural. Together with this arises the realization that disasters destroy resources of all kinds.
Disaster resilience and sustainable development are intertwined. A society or community that is not disaster-resilient risks suffering irreversible losses of resources – something that cannot be considered sustainable.
A disaster-resilient society or community, in contrast, minimizes the risk of losses due to natural or technological hazards by executing mitigation and preparedness efforts in a timely way – thus protecting resources for use by future generations.
Congratulations again to the many JDR authors, reviewers, and editors who have so carefully and thoughtfully contributed to the evolution of the important concepts above – concepts that, implemented over time, will help protect and preserve societies and communities around the world.
504 Warwick Street, Cambria, CA 93428, USA
June 15, 2015