Resilience Questions

While my PhD research team is visiting, I have been in many meetings discussing the concept of resilience in the midst of natural disasters. A developing consensus among my colleagues in academia and government in Chile is a definition of resilience that defines it beyond the traditional concept of an innate and/or acquired individual and/or systemic capacity. Resilience in the context of disaster directs us to think how we reduce and eliminate social vulnerabilities and enhance community capacity to prevent and mitigate the impact of natural hazards. When we move from resilience as an individual or group inherent capacity alone, we start asking different questions.

How are communities ready to withstand the impact of natural hazards? What healthy contexts are preventing the emergence of social vulnerabilities that decrease the ability to continue function, adapt, and bounce forward when natural hazards and climate change impact our communities, particularly the most vulnerable?

There are no natural disasters, disasters are a social phenomena. A natural hazard should not cause the lost of human lives. If that principle informs how we prepare, react to, reconstruct after, and mitigate natural hazards, disasters and its catastrophic consequences would be not social but only affect the natural landscape. Natural disasters should not equal the lost of human life. It seems an audacity to suggest this as a goal for a natural research center.

If the goal is not loss of lives or the quality of life of those impacted by a natural hazards, what research questions should we ask?  I am going to ask my research team this question as we embark on a research field trip to Tocopilla to dialogue with community survivors of a catastrophic flood last year.