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Kuhlicke C.,Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research | Scolobig A.,International Institute For Applied Systems Analysis | Tapsell S.,Middlesex University | Steinfuhrer A.,Johann Heinrich Von Thunen Institute | de Marchi B.,Institute of International Sociology of Gorizia ISIG
Natural Hazards | Year: 2011

Social vulnerability is a term that has been widely used in the natural hazards literature for quite a few years now. Yet, regardless of how scholars define the term, the approaches and indicators they use remain contested. This article presents findings from social vulnerability assessments conducted in different case studies of flood events in Europe (Germany, Italy and the UK). The case studies relied upon a common set of comparable indicators, but they also adopted a context-sensitive, qualitative approach. A shared finding across the case studies was that it was not possible to identify a common set of socio-economic-demographic indicators to explain social vulnerability of groups and/or individuals for all phases of the disastrous events. Similarly, network-related indicators as well as location- and event-specific indicators did not have the relevance we expected them to have. The results underline that vulnerability is a product of specific spatial, socio-economic-demographic, cultural and institutional contexts imposing not only specific challenges to cross-country research concerning social vulnerability to flooding but also to attempts at assessing social vulnerability in general. The study ends with some reflections upon the methodological, practical and theoretical implications of our findings. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Scolobig A.,Institute of International Sociology of Gorizia ISIG | Scolobig A.,International Institute For Applied Systems Analysis | De Marchi B.,University of Bergen | Borga M.,University of Padua
Natural Hazards | Year: 2012

The low risk awareness of the residents living in flood-prone areas is usually considered among the main causes of their low preparedness, which in turns generates inadequate response to natural disasters. In this paper, we challenge this assumption by reporting on the results of a sociological research in four communities exposed to flood risk in the Eastern Italian Alps. The research design included semi-structured interviews and focus groups with key local stakeholders and a standardized questionnaire submitted to 400 residents. Results revealed that residents felt both slightly worried about flood risk and slightly prepared to face an event. Considerable differences were found between the evaluations of individual subjects as opposed to overall communities. There was also a clear discrepancy between the actual adoption of household preparatory measures and the willingness to take self-protection actions. Overall, the risk awareness was significantly higher among those residents who had been personally affected by a flood in the past, were living in isolated (vs. urban) communities, in the most risky areas or had a lower level of trust in local authorities. The improvement of residents' knowledge about their environment and the residual risk seemed to be crucial to increase risk awareness, and the same was true for the strengthening of local support networks to foster preparedness. The link between risk awareness and preparedness was not at all straightforward. Results revealed instead the complexity of residents' perspectives, attitudes, behaviours and decisions about risk-related issues. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Kuhlicke C.,Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research | Steinfuhrer A.,Johann Heinrich Von Thunen Institute | Begg C.,Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research | Bianchizza C.,Institute of International Sociology of Gorizia ISIG | And 17 more authors.
Environmental Science and Policy | Year: 2011

Social capacity building for natural hazards is a topic increasingly gaining relevance not only for so-called developing countries but also for European welfare states which are continuously challenged by the social, economic and ecological impacts of natural hazards. Following an outline of recent governance changes with regard to natural hazards, we develop a heuristic model of social capacity building by taking into account a wide range of existing expertise from different fields of research. Particular attention is paid to social vulnerability and its assessment, as well as to risk communication and risk education as specific strategies of social capacity building. We propose to distinguish between interventionist and participatory approaches, thus enabling for a better understanding of existing practices of social capacity building as well as their particular strengths and weaknesses. By way of conclusion, we encourage more research on social capacity building for natural hazards in the European context which at present is highly diverse and, at least in parts, only poorly investigated. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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