Special Issue "Difficult Decisions in Disaster Risk and Environmental Management"

A special issue of Resources (ISSN 2079-9276).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2016).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Tim Prior
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich, Haldeneggsteig 4, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
Interests: natural resource management; environmental risk; disaster risk reduction; decision making; socio-technical resilience; disaster preparedness
Dr. Anna Scolobig
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Climate Policy Group, Department of Environmental Systems, Science, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Universitätstrasse 22, Zürich 8092, Switzerland
Interests: climate adaptation; disaster risk reduction; science-policy coproduction; risk governance

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Making decisions is a daily business, but some decisions are harder than others. For practitioners working with complex socio-environmental issues, decisions are often made under conditions of uncertainty, unpredictability, and controversy. Given the broad variety of time-, politically-, and socially sensitive issues that practitioners are often dealing with, their decisions can have profound consequences. In supporting the fields of disaster risk and environmental management, an academic focus on understanding decision making has existed for some time. There have been considerable theoretical and methodological efforts to better understand individual and collective reasoning behind decisions, the values and assumptions guiding stakeholders´ views, the use of multi- and inter-disciplinary knowledge, the creation of alternatives and related trade-offs, and the convergence on a consensus or compromise solution. Science-based, economic-multi criteria or consensus-based approaches have so far dominated the academic debate on environmental decision making. However, making progress often requires an integration of these approaches, for example, a combination of analytical methods drawn from the decision sciences with deliberative insights from negotiation theory or an integration of quantitative models and qualitative information from stakeholders.

This Special Issue seeks contributions that illustrate how these approaches can be, or have been used to inform decisions in complex and sensitive disaster risk and environmental management contexts. It also focuses on how research can assist decision makers, individuals, organisations, and communities to improve their decision-making processes.

Key themes for the Special Issue include, but should not be limited to: natural and technical disaster management, water and natural resource management, environmental protection, renewable energy, climate change, and adaptation.

Dr. Tim Prior
Dr. Anna Scolobig
Guest Editors

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Resources is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. All well-prepared manuscripts submitted to this special issue will be published free open access. English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.

Keywords

  • environmental management,
  • disaster management,
  • decision making,
  • environmental psychology,
  • risk,
  • behaviour,
  • multi-criteria,
  • consensus building,
  • deliberation,
  • integrated approaches.

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Article
A Participatory Process to Develop a Landslide Warning System: Paradoxes of Responsibility Sharing in a Case Study in Upper Austria
Resources 2017, 6(4), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources6040054 - 03 Oct 2017
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 4471
Abstract
During a participatory process in Gmunden, Austria, the organizational and responsibility-sharing arrangements for a landslide warning system proved to be contested issues. While questions on the warning system technology and the distribution of information, including the alarm for evacuation, could be resolved with [...] Read more.
During a participatory process in Gmunden, Austria, the organizational and responsibility-sharing arrangements for a landslide warning system proved to be contested issues. While questions on the warning system technology and the distribution of information, including the alarm for evacuation, could be resolved with the support of experts, controversies arose on the financial and legal responsibilities that ensure long-term and effective monitoring for the protection of the landslide-prone community. This paper examines how responsibilities can be shared among the residents, experts, and public authorities during the design and operation of landslide warning systems. In particular, we discuss the outcome and implications of three stakeholder workshops where participants deliberated on warning-system options that, in turn, were based on a discourse analysis of extensive stakeholder interviews. The results of the case study show that an end-user orientation requires the consideration of stakeholder worldviews, interests, and conflicts. Paradoxically, the public did not fully support their own involvement in the maintenance and control of the warning system, but the authorities promoted shared responsibility. Deliberative planning does not then necessarily lead to responsibility sharing, but it proved effective as a platform for information and for shared ownership in the warning system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Difficult Decisions in Disaster Risk and Environmental Management)
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Article
Warning System Options for Landslide Risk: A Case Study in Upper Austria
Resources 2017, 6(3), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources6030037 - 11 Aug 2017
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 4111
Abstract
This paper explores warning system options in the landslide-prone community of Gmunden/Gschliefgraben in Upper Austria. It describes stakeholder perspectives on the technical, social, economic, legal and institutional characteristics of a warning system. The perspectives differ on issues such as responsibility allocation in decisions [...] Read more.
This paper explores warning system options in the landslide-prone community of Gmunden/Gschliefgraben in Upper Austria. It describes stakeholder perspectives on the technical, social, economic, legal and institutional characteristics of a warning system. The perspectives differ on issues such as responsibility allocation in decisions regarding warnings, technologies used for monitoring and forecasting, costs and financial aspects, open data policies and the role of the residents. Drawing on the theory of plural rationality and based on a desk study and interviews, stakeholder perspectives and discourses on the warning system problem and its solution were elicited. The perspectives formed the basis for the specification of three technical policy options for a warning system in Gschliefgraben: a minimal-cost and cost-effective system; a technical-expert system; and a resident-centered system. The case demonstrates the importance of accounting for a plurality of values and preferences and of giving voice to competing discourses in communities contemplating warning systems or other public good policies. This paper concludes that understanding the different and often conflicting perspectives and technical policy options is the starting point for formulating an agreed compromise for an effective warning system. We describe the compromise solution in an accompanying paper included in this Special Issue. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Difficult Decisions in Disaster Risk and Environmental Management)
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Article
Improving Decision Making about Natural Disaster Mitigation Funding in Australia—A Framework
Resources 2016, 5(3), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources5030028 - 19 Sep 2016
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3374
Abstract
Economic losses from natural disasters pose significant challenges to communities and to the insurance industry. Natural disaster mitigation aims to reduce the threat to people and assets from natural perils. Good decisions relating to hazard risk mitigation require judgments both about the scientific [...] Read more.
Economic losses from natural disasters pose significant challenges to communities and to the insurance industry. Natural disaster mitigation aims to reduce the threat to people and assets from natural perils. Good decisions relating to hazard risk mitigation require judgments both about the scientific and financial issues involved, i.e., the efficacy of some intervention, and the ethical or value principles to adopt in allocating resources. A framework for selecting a set of mitigation options within a limited budget is developed. Project selection about natural disaster mitigation options needs to trade off benefits offered by alternative investments (e.g., fatalities and injuries avoided, potential property and infrastructure losses prevented, safety concerns of citizens, etc.) against the costs of investment. Such costs include capital and on-going operational costs, as well as intangible costs, such as the impact of the project on the visual landscape or the loss of societal cohesion in the event of the relocation of part of a community. Furthermore, dollar costs of any potential project will need to be defined within some prescribed budget and time frame. Taking all of these factors into account, this paper develops a framework for good natural hazard mitigation decision making and selection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Difficult Decisions in Disaster Risk and Environmental Management)
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Article
A Qualitative Hydro-Geomorphic Prediction of the Destiny of the Mojana Region (Magdalena-Cauca Basin, Colombia), to Inform Large Scale Decision Making
Resources 2016, 5(3), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources5030022 - 24 Jun 2016
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3223
Abstract
Colombia is undergoing a period of rapid development. In particular, the Magdalena-Cauca Rivers basin, and the Mojana region within it, is going to experience rapid expansion in infrastructure growth, entailing hydropower development, road and navigability works along hundreds of kilometers of channels, as [...] Read more.
Colombia is undergoing a period of rapid development. In particular, the Magdalena-Cauca Rivers basin, and the Mojana region within it, is going to experience rapid expansion in infrastructure growth, entailing hydropower development, road and navigability works along hundreds of kilometers of channels, as well as standard flood control measures. This paper argues that unexpected and undesired outcomes are very likely to occur as a consequence of the hydraulic and geomorphological reaction of river systems to such development schemes; namely, we foresee heightened hydro-morphological risks, along with the loss of environmental services and strong increases in maintenance costs. River behavior has been the subject of extensive study by diverse disciplines. As a result, key principles of fluvial dynamics have been elucidated and specific quantitative prediction tools developed. In this paper we do rely on this wealth of knowledge. However, since specific local information and interpretative tools in Colombia are either lacking or unreliable, it is inevitable that, at the moment, any basin scale analysis has to remain qualitative and must incorporate several assumptions, leaving it open to questioning and further refinement. Nonetheless, we argue that advancing such type of speculative conjectures is the “right thing to do”. The undeniably desirable but hard to achieve alternative of waiting for sufficient datasets and tools would entail excessive delay in obtaining relevant answers while large-scale development would continue to occur with potentially damaging results. Therefore, our analysis is conceived along the precautionary principle. This paper is primarily aimed at technical advisors of policy makers as it offers scientifically-based arguments for informing the political debate, hopefully guiding decision makers towards better choices. Rather than advocating specific solutions, the focus is on pointing out the likely adverse consequences of the currently planned course of action. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Difficult Decisions in Disaster Risk and Environmental Management)
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Article
The Dilemmas of Risk-Sensitive Development on a Small Volcanic Island
Resources 2016, 5(2), 21; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources5020021 - 09 Jun 2016
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 5104
Abstract
In the Small Islands Developing State (SIDS) of St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, the most destructive disasters in terms of human casualties have been the multiple eruptions of La Soufrière volcano situated in the north of St Vincent. Despite this [...] Read more.
In the Small Islands Developing State (SIDS) of St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, the most destructive disasters in terms of human casualties have been the multiple eruptions of La Soufrière volcano situated in the north of St Vincent. Despite this major threat, people continue to live close to the volcano and national development plans do not include risk reduction measures for volcanic hazards. This paper examines the development options in volcanic SIDS and presents a number of conundrums for disaster risk management on the island of St Vincent. Improvements in monitoring of volcanic hazards and ongoing programmes to enhance communications systems and encourage community preparedness planning have increased awareness of the risks associated with volcanic hazards, yet this has not translated into more risk-informed development planning decisions. The current physical development plan in fact promotes investment in infrastructure in settlements located within the zone designated very high-hazard. However, this is not an anomaly or an irrational decision: severe space constraints in SIDS, as well as other historical social and economic factors, limit growth and options for low-risk development. Greater attention needs to be placed on developing measures to reduce risk, particularly from low-intensity hazards like ash, limiting where possible exposure to volcanic hazards and building the resilience of communities living in high-risk areas. This requires planning for both short- and longer-term impacts from renewed activity. Volcanic SIDS face multiple hazards because of their geography and topography, so development plans should identify these interconnected risks and options for their reduction, alongside measures aimed at improving personal preparedness plans so communities can learn to live with risk. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Difficult Decisions in Disaster Risk and Environmental Management)
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Article
Ensuring Resilience of Natural Resources under Exposure to Extreme Climate Events
Resources 2016, 5(2), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources5020020 - 08 Jun 2016
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3729
Abstract
Natural resources directly support rural livelihoods and underpin much of the wealth of rural and regional Australia. Climate change manifesting as increasing frequency and or severity of extreme weather events poses a threat to sustainable management of natural resources because the recurrence of [...] Read more.
Natural resources directly support rural livelihoods and underpin much of the wealth of rural and regional Australia. Climate change manifesting as increasing frequency and or severity of extreme weather events poses a threat to sustainable management of natural resources because the recurrence of events may exceed the resilience of natural systems or the coping capacity of social systems. We report the findings of a series of participatory workshops with communities in eight discrete landscapes in South East New South Wales, Australia. The workshops focused on how natural resource management (NRM) is considered in the Prevent-Prepare-Respond-Recover emergency management cycle. We found that NRM is generally considered only in relation to the protection of life and property and not for the intrinsic value of ecosystem services that support communities. We make three recommendations to improve NRM under extreme climate events. Firstly, the support to communities offered by emergency management agencies could be bolstered by guidance material co-produced with government NR agencies. Secondly, financial assistance from government should specifically target the restoration and maintenance of green infrastructure to avoid loss of social-ecological resilience. Thirdly, action by natural resource dependent communities should be encouraged and supported to better protect ecosystem services in preparation for future extreme events. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Difficult Decisions in Disaster Risk and Environmental Management)
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Review

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Review
Comparing Approaches for the Integration of Stakeholder Perspectives in Environmental Decision Making
Resources 2016, 5(4), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources5040037 - 08 Nov 2016
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 4669
Abstract
Including stakeholder perspectives in environmental decision making is in many countries a legal requirement and is widely seen as beneficial as it can help increase decision legitimacy, likelihood of implementation, and quality of the outcome. Whereas the theoretical literature on stakeholder engagement is [...] Read more.
Including stakeholder perspectives in environmental decision making is in many countries a legal requirement and is widely seen as beneficial as it can help increase decision legitimacy, likelihood of implementation, and quality of the outcome. Whereas the theoretical literature on stakeholder engagement is large, less attention has been devoted to comparing and discussing different methodological approaches. Here, we compare three approaches—multi-criteria analysis, plural rationality theory, and scenario construction—that include stakeholders’ perspectives in environmental decision making. We find differences between the approaches concerning the assumptions about stakeholder rationality and whether experts and/or stakeholders are in charge of framing the problem. Further differences concern the type of data input from stakeholders and how it is used by the experts, as well as the role of stakeholders and whether they are involved early—already for identifying options—or later in the process, for evaluating or ranking alternatives analyzed by the experts. The choice of approach thus predetermines the type and depth of stakeholder engagement. No approach is “better” than another, but they are suited for different problems and research aims: the choice of the approach, however, has a large impact on the results. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Difficult Decisions in Disaster Risk and Environmental Management)
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Review
Economic Efficiency or Gender Equality: Conceptualizing an Equitable “Social Framing” for Economic Evaluations to Support Gender Equality in Disaster Risk- and Environmental-Management Decision-Making
Resources 2016, 5(3), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources5030025 - 13 Jul 2016
Viewed by 2582
Abstract
It is unlikely that cost–benefit approaches will be effective in identifying investments that support gender equality without a relevant “social framing”. Criteria for a “social framing” are lacking, yet cost–benefit approaches often guide investment decisions for disaster risk and environmental management. Mainstream approaches [...] Read more.
It is unlikely that cost–benefit approaches will be effective in identifying investments that support gender equality without a relevant “social framing”. Criteria for a “social framing” are lacking, yet cost–benefit approaches often guide investment decisions for disaster risk and environmental management. Mainstream approaches typically do a poor job identifying and characterizing costs and benefits, and often fail to address distributive concerns (i.e., how costs and benefits may be distributed throughout society, to whom, etc.). Gender-blind investments may project responsibility for equality “problems” onto one sex, potentially augmenting gender inequalities and disaster risk. This article examines evidence from the gender, disaster, and development literature to identify distributive concerns and criteria for an equitable “social framing” for economic evaluations. Primary distributive concerns identified regard assumptions of women’s homogeneity, agency, “active” participation, and the influence of customary practice and displacement on disaster vulnerability. The need for a “gender-responsive” “social framing” that considers the needs of men and women in relation to one another is evident. Second, cost–benefit studies focused on gender equality concerns are reviewed and the “social framing” is critiqued. Results show most studies are not “gender-responsive”. Women’s health concerns, often exacerbated by disasters, are sidelined by assumptions regarding distributive concerns and reductive outcome measures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Difficult Decisions in Disaster Risk and Environmental Management)
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