By Zuri Garcia
What is good Hazard Governance?
Dr. Ashley Ross-Wootton, an associate professor, author and proud Aggie, posed this question to our Natural Hazards Resilience class in February. Dr. Ross began by laying out the consequences of the 2010 Deep Horizon explosion and oil spill off the Louisiana coast: the event directly spurring her research to answer the very question she posed to us. And, with good reason.
On April 20, 2010, BP’s Macondo prospect exploded. Very soon after, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caught fire and began gushing oil. The rig sunk while continuing to spew crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico before finally being capped on July 15. So, how did that end? Not well. About 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf, leaving 11 people dead and devastating family livelihoods built on fishing and shrimping. The spill had and will have catastrophic and irreparable impacts on the health of human, animal and plant life for generations.
As Dr. Ross watched the Deepwater Horizon spill unfolding, the inextricable connections between public and private disaster-related service provisions stood out starkly to her. When events such as Deepwater Horizon or Hurricane Harvey happen, their impact is polarizing and often exacerbates a community’s vulnerabilities, wicked problems and deficiencies.
Siloed interventions will not cut it. Hazards are complex problems, at times with overlapping events. Therefore, these problems need strategic capacity-building through an intersectional lens aimed at equity-driven outcomes. There are fiscal and human capital restraints, institutional bounds, infrastructure, and social vulnerabilities to work out. Such that an expansive set of instruments and expertise collaboration are necessary to bolster inclusive community resilience.
You need a coalition. One grounded in good (Resilient) hazard governance as established by Dr. Ross (See Figure 1 and Figure 2). The defining characteristic of good hazard governance is community cooperation and citizen power. The coalition, or collective, should include resident experts, professors, therapists, clergy, engineers, teachers, non-profits, for-profits, and well, I think you get the picture.
The collective can then identify and agree on hazard management objectives together. Once the collective vision is set, the community can then strategize how to proceed. During this process, the coalition must be built with a profoundly critical eye. If neighborhoods are to become truly resilient, then the structures and powers which barred their progress must be interrupted. In other words, if a part of the community remains oppressed (i.e., by selective capacity building and inclusion, gatekeeping, etc.), that inequity thwarts any attempts toward community resiliency. Continue reading