UN3360: Disasters and Development | S. Deraniyagala, J. Mutter
Human welfare status is very unevenly distributed throughout the globe – some of us live very comfortable lives, others remain in desperate poverty showing little progress away from their condition. Between are countries that are rapidly developing and converging toward the welfare of the richest. At all levels of economic development, human activities place significant pressure on the environment and threaten all of Earth’s vital functions and support systems for human life. This challenge requires timely responses based on solid understanding of the human/environment interface, technological and economic approaches to mitigate adverse effects on the environment, and routes to understanding the complex dynamics of the coupled human/natural systems that can chart a pathway to improvement in the lives of the poorest and continued well-being for those who have achieved prosperity without forcing natural systems into decline or massive fluctuation. This course offers undergraduate students, for the first time, a comprehensive course on the link between natural disaster events and human development at all levels of welfare. It explores the role that natural disasters might have and have had in modulating development prospects. Any student seriously interested in sustainable development, especially in light of climate change, must study the nature of extreme events – their causes, global distribution, and the likelihood of future change. This course will cover not only the nature of extreme events, including earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and droughts but also their transformation into disaster through social processes. It will ultimately help students to understand the link between such extreme events, the economic/social shock they represent and development outcomes. The course will combine careful analysis of the natural and social systems dynamics that give rise to disasters and examine through group learning case studies from the many disasters that have occurred in the first decade of the 21st century.
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