GEOG 258: Geography of Environmental Hazards (same as ENVI 258)
The study of environmental hazards stands at a key point of intersection between the natural and social sciences. Geography, with its focus on human-environment interactions, provides key analytical tools for understanding the complex causes and uneven impacts of hazards around the world. We will explore the geophysical nature and social dimensions of disasters caused by floods, droughts, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires. For each of these hazard types, we apply theoretical concepts from major hazards research paradigms, including quantifying the human and economic impacts of disaster; assessing, managing, and mitigating risk; and reducing the impacts of disaster, not only through engineering works but also by reducing social vulnerability and enhancing adaptive capacity. Looking into the future, we will discuss how global-scale processes, such as climate change and globalization, might affect the frequency, intensity, and geographical distribution of environmental hazards in the decades to come.In this class, we emphasize using current and recent events to explore how to prevent, mitigate, and adapt to natural disasters. Special units of the course examine the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2011 Japanese tsunami and nuclear accident, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Students also have the opportunity to debate the merits of US flood policy, examine the future of disasters under global climate change predictions, and conduct specialized research on the “anatomy of a natural disaster” of their choice.