Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ethical challenges in disaster studies: 
following the discussion of the session NH9.8 on Geoethics at EGU 2014

Yuriy V. Kostyuchenko
(responsible of IAPG-Ukraine)

Fearful disaster dynamics that we observe in the last decade, are creating new problems for society. At the same time a multi-level and complex structure of social relations is developing rapidly. It requires to be accounted in different fields of disaster study: risk analysis and forecast, preparedness practices, public awareness, disaster response and general emergency management.
In this context IAPG-related activity, and especially the session NH9.8 on Geoethics at EGU 2014 is an essential effort to propose an answer to modern challenges in disaster studies. Anyway the session organized by the IAPG has attempted to define existing challenges during an open scientific discussion.
What has been crystallized in the discussion in the NH9.8 session, from the viewpoint of a risk and disaster analyst?
Major part of risk analysts declared new nature of modern risks [1]. We faced coherent or systemic risks, realization of which leads to domino effect [2, 3], unexpected growing of losses and fatalities [4]. This type of risks originated by complicated nature of heterogeneous environment, close interconnection of engineering networks, and changing structure of society. Formal basis for analysis of this type of risks has been developed during the last 5-7 years [5]. But issues of social fairness, ethics, and education require further development.
Ethics challenge in disaster studies could and should be analyzed in the context of ethics of our forecasts. There are two aspects of this problem. First, as it was perfectly showed in presentation of Prof. Stefano Tinti [6], our forecasts should be balanced from the viewpoint of accurateness/correctness, successfulness/efficiency, and usefulness.
But our forecasts should be also robust towards different scenarios [5]. Requirement of robustness is based on rejection of deterministic models of security management, which is usually discriminating. So, the robustness of forecasts in some sense is the “humanizing tool” for emergency management.
Our studies - from trend calculation to prospecting analysis - should meet peoples needs and to produce ethical forecasts – responsible, correct and useful. In this context, foundations of our studies should be correct and comprehensive. For example, in disaster studies we should base on correct paradigm of sustainability, to analyze multi-component security concept. This concept includes few interrelated components, describing hazards, natural environment, society and resources as the whole system:

  • availability of life resources (existing and distribution of systemic resources, production and re-production of resources needed to safety support for the population, policy issues, education and economy);
  • accessibility of resources (accessibility of different types of resources, including survival and rescue facilities, income distribution, infrastructure state, political security);
  • vulnerability of resources, connected with direct extremes frequency/probability (multi-scale vulnerability of humans and infrastructure towards extreme events);
  • utilization of consumed resources (issues of life style, culture, education, market features).

Efficient research development in this field requires continuing education and expert discussions on multi-level flexible basis.
Expert networking is also extremely necessary for increasing the public awareness. And taking into account expanding gap between increasing number of high educated people and decreasing of scientific education, as it was noted by Prof. Marone [7], we need to use media – both social and traditional - as an important tool for education and awareness [8].
And in conclusion: discussion demonstrates that the role of geoscientists in emergency management is increasing. And the IAPG is trying to become a tool for increasing the awareness on natural risks, with the aim at reducing losses and stimulating society to a self-organization towards changing nature of challenges.
Besides, it might be noted that the both tasks of nature management and complex security management are not the “zero-sum games”. And number of “players” in these “games” is always more than we usually consider. Set of “players” should include also “nature” and additional uncertain “factor of future” – something we don’t know and can’t predict about the system. In this case our planning will be ethical and responsible towards nature and future.
I would like to express my great thanks to Silvia Peppoloni, Eduardo Marone, Joe Gill and Giuseppe Di Capua for the brilliance organization of our NH9.8 session "Geoethics: Ethical Challenges In Communication, Geoeducation And Management of Natural Hazards" at EGU 2014.
I also sincere gratitude to all participants for fruitful discussions and the perfect executing of the meeting.


[1] Marti K, Ermoliev Y, Makowski M. Coping with Uncertainty: Robust Solutions. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany, Lecture Notes in Economics and Mathematical Systems, Volume 633/2010, 2010, 286 p.

[2] Oboni F. and Oboni C. Ethics and transparent risk communication start with proper risk assessment methodologies // Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 16, EGU2014-1655, 2014, EGU General Assembly 2014, http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2014/EGU2014-1655.pdf.

[3] Kostyuchenko Yuriy V., Kopachevsky I., Zlateva P., Stoyka Yu., and Akymenko P. Role of systemic risk in regional ecological long-term threats analysis // in: Sustainable Civil Infrastructures – Hazards, Risk, Uncertainty, Phoon, K. K., Beer, M., Quek, S. T. & Pang, S. D. (editors), Research Publishing, Singapore, - 2012, p.551 – 556, ISBN: 978-981-07-2219-7:: doi:10.3850/978-981-07-2219-7 P226.

[4] Kostyuchenko Yu., Movchan D. Risk perception as the quantitative parameter of ethics and responsibility in disaster study // Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 16, EGU2014-831, 2014, EGU General Assembly 2014, http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2014/EGU2014-831.pdf.

[5] Robust Management of Heterogeneous Systems under Uncertainties. Y Ermoliev, M Makowski, K Marti (eds), Springer, Heidelberg, Germany, Lecture Notes in Economics and Mathematical Systems, Vol. 658/2012, 2012, XXIII, 378 p., ISBN 978-3-642-22883-4.

[6] Tinti S. Ethical issues in forecasting of natural hazards // Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 16, EGU2014-16474, 2014, EGU General Assembly 2014, http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2014/EGU2014-16474.pdf.

[7] Marone E., Camargo R., and Salcedo Castro J. Marine Extremes and Natural Hazards: when the key is variability // Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 16, EGU2014-2590, 2014, EGU General Assembly 2014, http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2014/EGU2014-2590.pdf.

[8] Rapisardi E., Di Franco S. Open Geosciences Knowledge: foster Information Preparedness in a Disaster Resilience Perspective // Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 16, EGU2014-11304, 2014, EGU General Assembly 2014, http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2014/EGU2014-11304.pdf.

(Photo: courtesy of Max Yuschenko, CASRE, 2012)