Brunel International Lecture: Shifting Agendas - From Response to Resilience
‘By our actions we either compound disasters or diminish them’
(Ban Ki Moon, Global Platform for Disaster Reduction 2011)
The frequency and impact of disasters is increasing, whether measured by loss of life or economic costs. This trend is set to continue as the risks associated with climate change are compounded by rapid urbanisation and environmental degradation.
In 2010, 300 million people were affected by disasters, and according to recent studies, the number of people living in cities that are vulnerable to earthquakes and cyclones will treble by 2050. The last 30 years has seen increasing recognition of the vital role that engineers play in humanitarian response providing clean water, sanitation and shelter, and the roads, bridges and buildings needed to facilitate delivery of food and medical supplies.
Yet the uncertainties of climate change and the pace of urbanisation challenge the ‘predict and prevent’ paradigm that has underpinned geo-hazard engineering to date, whilst recent disasters have emphasised the limitations of international response. A new approach is required which prioritises creating resilient communities which are able to respond and adapt to changing circumstances and unexpected catastrophes.
Launching the 9th Brunel Lecture Series, in this lecture Jo Da Silva, Director International Development at Arup proposes that it is time for civil engineers to cease practising ‘the art of directing the great sources of power in Nature for the use and convenience of mankind’. Instead we should acknowledge the fundamental role we have to play in reducing the vulnerability of mankind.
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