A ResearchGate.net recommendation led me to an excellent piece in Nature Magazine dealing with the value of sharing information in building resilience among nations and communities. The article cites a number of recent events that, had better information been available (and acted upon appropriately in advance), could have resulted in fewer deaths and less loss of property.
The article notes, for example, the lack of proper building code enforcement in Nepal and poor flood mitigation in parts of Southeast Asia were, in part, due to a lack of communication of “best practices” among those that need them most. But the problem isn’t limited to developing countries. Industrialized nations, as well, don’t heed the lessons learned from others, like those in the text box below copied and pasted here from the article. Indeed, this blog itself started to help fill, in a small way, the need to disseminate information on this topic more widely to the general public.
But having the best information is only part of the solution. Those that listen must then act on what they hear and encourage, entice (e.g., through reward programs), and perhaps even coerce through legislation, others to do the same. The Nature piece continues:
Sadly, hazard mitigation is not a vote-winner. It pits long-range investments against short-term political cycles — even though it is cheaper to prevent losses than to rebuild after them. Reinforcing the levees of New Orleans, Louisiana, against hurricane storm surges would have cost ten times less than rebuilding neighbourhoods after Hurricane Katrina. It is more politically expedient to respond afterwards when constituents are demanding assistance. Public awareness of the scale of disaster risks is hindered by the breadth and complexity of research, spanning the natural, social and health sciences, law, humanities and engineering.
This says it all. Planning has a no more important role than in preventing or reducing the impact of hazards to human life. Disaster risk reduction policies should be a high priority for governments all around the world who should not only understand the risks they face, but (according to the article) “strengthen risk governance to manage risks across all sectors; invest in risk-reduction measures that promote resilience; and enhance disaster preparedness and responses so that [their] nations build back better in their recovery.”