Disaster Resilient City

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Environmental Science ・APA ・4 Sources

The arguments that have been raised by various scholars that there is no such thing as disaster have been centered on the definition of natural disaster. Natural disasters have been widely termed as an extreme natural phenomenon that results in massive destructions and are out of human control, hence the reasons why communities call for support and human assistance. The claim that there is no such thing as a disaster argues out that without human involvement and existence, the so called natural disasters would not exist. According to the argument, natural hazard turns out to be a disaster only when human civilization is negatively affected. Therefore, in an environment where there is no human settlement, and natural disasters occur, it cannot be classified as a disaster. The primary objective of this paper analyzes the argument on there is no such thing as a natural disaster by considering the naturalness concerning disaster and emphasizing on vulnerability and what causes disaster. To achieve this objective, the paper will analyze a case study of the incidence of Hurricane Katrina in the city of New Orleans, by examining how the human factor contributed to the happening of the disaster which was labeled as the worst in the history of United States (Cutter, 2006).

The meaning of the term vulnerability revolves around three words, exposure, resistance, and resilience. Exposure concerning vulnerability refers to the physical locality and surroundings of a particular place. For instance, those communities situated within the coastal regions such as New Orleans, that are below the sea-level, they are more exposed to coastal flooding and hurricane occurrences. Resistance refers to the human capability to protect themselves from environment related events which could either be economic or social by providing reliable protection schemes. For instance construction of elevated homes and adhering to the building code, could help in preventing hazards thus minimizing the impacts on human habitats. Resilience by vulnerability refers to ability or inability to cope or recover from disasters. A high exposure rate translates to low resistance and resilience which is an indication of high vulnerabilities of the affected community, leading to an increased potential loss (Peduzzi, Dao, Herold, & Mouton, 2009).

There are various definitions of the term natural disaster across the many academic disciplines. The reason for the existence of a different definition of the phrase is founded on the different views and definitions of the term nature. Some arguments support humans should be part of nature while there are those that argue humans are not part of nature and should be viewed as a separate entity. There is some scholar, define nature as a resource that is in existence for purposes of benefiting humans. Nature is perceived to have been socially constructed from the perspective that it is a transformation through the labor process and molded by the technological elements of human production. The present paper perceives nature as a separate entity from humanity.

The Bush administration launched and operated an oil industry and commercial transport even though they were knowledgeable of the hurricane that would hit New Orleans. The launching of the industry hundreds of square miles of wetlands eroded the wetlands that served as protection against storms hitting New Orleans (Smith, 2006). The wetlands eventually became dumping sites for the toxic waste from the industry, causing toxic floodwater which was associated with long-term adverse effects. After the flooding incidence in 1995, New Orleans realized that there was a need to make upgrades in its pumping and levee system. The Bush administration was against the idea and cut its budget by 80% thus inhibiting and measures taken to make any improvements, making New Orleans very vulnerable. If the administration had agreed to observe the proposed environmental improvements on the wetlands and levee systems, it would have helped minimize the disastrous consequences (Nelson, Adger, & Brown, 2007).

According to Cutter, (2006), analysis of Katrina phenomena, a socially vulnerable condition in New Orleans. A socially unsafe state refers to the result of social inequalities that is the social factors and forces such as income that make a community become vulnerable to hazards and lack any the ability to manage the disaster. It also comprises of the provision of basic health care services and accessibility of basic goods and services such as emergency services. Social vulnerability is highly dependent and influenced by factors such as race, class, and gender (Cutter, 2006,). On the onset of Hurricane Katrina, the evacuation process presented several inequalities based on race and class, where the rich were less vulnerable as compared to the poor who mostly constituted the African American individuals. The wealthy communities had access to better means of transport and emergency accommodation resources necessary for the evacuation procedure. Also, they also had access to insurance policies for their buildings. The poor population had insufficient access to adequate evacuation resources mostly associated to lack of finance. Hence, they ended up being stuck with no means of escaping the disaster. The African American population had public houses situated in areas that were regarded as highly exposed to a natural phenomenon in New Orleans. Unlike the African American communities, the white who were constituted the wealthy class population lived in places that were less vulnerable to a natural disaster (Baker, 2005). Such distinctions regarding the wealthy and poor communities were apparent in the outcome of Katrina whereby the Lower Ninth Ward in Orleans Parish, which was mostly inhabited by the African American communities had the highest number of deaths and property damage. Therefore, it is evident that New Orleans was socially vulnerable.

The social vulnerability of the poor societies in New Orleans, mostly comprising of the African American individuals has been in existence since the 1960s. Despite the fact that there has been gradual improvements measure implemented throughout the country, the state was ranked as the third most socially vulnerable regions in the United States in 2000. Therefore, the residents of New Orleans had a low resilience and insufficient abilities to cope and manage disasters since 1960. The National Weather Services issued out warnings and alarms about the unique strength of a hurricane in the region. However, the response was the deployment of very few search and rescue personnel the storm had passed (Smith, 2006). The New Orleans population was denied the right move and to claim rights due to the issued political order. The residents were prevented from getting out at gun point, leaving the African American communities helpless before the rescue teams and aid reached them after several days. From the response team and handling of the incidence, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that chances of surviving the disaster in New Orleans were dependent on race, class, and ethnicity.

In summary, the paper illustrates that Hurricane Katrina turned out as the worst disasters in the history of United States due to social vulnerabilities. The regions became physically vulnerable to disaster due to the poor infrastructure and eroded wetlands, which were attributed to the administration failing to take the necessary measures to improve the condition. The poor infrastructural conditions in the regions caused major flooding, resulting in the destruction of property and deaths of many civilians. Other factors that contributed to the vulnerability state of New Orleans included the lack of quality of life, racial and social status inequalities and many years of impoverishment. All these factors made it difficult for the African American individuals to evacuate during the disaster, leading to loss of life and suffering. However, if the conditions of New Orleans were different, that is if marginalization and abandonment issues had been addressed, the region would not have been vulnerable both physically and socially.

Consequently, the intensity of hurricane Katrina, the loss of lives associated with the disaster and loss of property would have been minimal. The socially marginalized and poorer groups in any society are the most affected by natural disasters. These particular groups within the society are characterized by the tendency of being less resilient and vulnerable as compared to the wealthy individuals. From the definition of the term resilience, the poorer groups of society lack the ability to absorb shock and the capacity to address natural disasters that come their way. For that reason, they end up being very vulnerable in a post disaster event, which is attributed to the lack of access to insurance as well as the lack of necessary resources required for rebuilding and rehabilitation. Such groups in the society have very limited options that they could use to flee themselves once a disaster strikes their location. Natural hazards considered as natural phenomenon that have no negative impact to the natural surrounding because they are part of nature. It can be concluded that both social and economic conditions form the basis of rescue aid in relation to a disaster event, however, the effectiveness of the available aid could be questionable due to human involvement. Therefore, the main argument can be supported from the illustration presented on the social, and economic issues that are directly connected to the human interaction with the hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.


Cutter, S. (2006). The geography of social vulnerability: Race, class, and catastrophe. Understanding Katrina: Perspectives from the social sciences, 120-122.

Nelson, D. R., Adger, W. N., & Brown, K. (2007). Adaptation to environmental change: contributions of a resilience framework. Annual review of Environment and Resources, 32.

Peduzzi, P., Dao, H., Herold, C., & Mouton, F. (2009). Assessing global exposure and vulnerability towards natural hazards: the Disaster Risk Index. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 9(4), 1149-1159.

Smith, N. (2006). There’s no such thing as a natural disaster. Understanding Katrina: perspectives from the social sciences, 11.

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