Spring 2005 Environment & Society News Archive

Excerpts from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania)
January 3, 2005
"As the Tsunami Reminds Us, 'Mother Nature Will Win When She Wants To'"
...Whether in the lab or the pew, humans continue to struggle against larger powers, often trying to control or at least harness nature, and sometimes succeeding -- until dramatic events mock human presumption. This bothers some scientists, including Kathleen Tierney, a University of Colorado sociologist and the director of the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center. By damming natural rivers and building large cities in hurricane-prone Areas such as Florida, "we are continuing to act as if nature doesn't even exist, And that we can do anything we want on this planet and we're not going to suffer the consequences from it," Tierney said.
..."Do we respect nature and do we live with nature? No, we want nature to do our bidding," Tierney said. "We live in a society that believes that technology can solve all of our problems, that we can overcome our own human limitations through technology." ...When a tsunami comes, she said, it shows that Earth "doesn't care. It's nature." "What I see in disaster," Tierney said, "is the tremendous resilience of people."
byline: Seth Borenstein, Knight Ridder Newspapers

Christine Bevc joined the Natural Hazards Center as a graduate research assistant in January. Christine is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Sociology. Beyond helping plan and organize the Natural Hazard Center's annual workshop, Christine is looking at how stakeholders negotiate and construct the meaning of risk with Kathleen Tierney.

Kathleen Tierney responded to several requests for information related to the South Asian tsunami. The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Denver Post, and the Knight-Ridder News Service are some of the news outlets that conducted interviews with the Natural Hazards Center. Kathleen did a live interview on MSNBC on January 1, and Dennis Mileti also responded to a large number of requests for information from various media. The Center's Web site was updated to provide useful links on information related to the current crisis as well as tsunamis in general.

Greg Guibert and Kathleen Tierney represented the Natural Hazards Center at the UN Conference of World Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Japan. The week long gathering of government delegates, NGO representatives, activists, and donors highlighted the pressing need to integrate comprehensive natural hazard planning into the development process. Just three weeks after the South Asian tsunami, a number of thematic sessions were devoted to examining specific issues of recovery and response. Other featured topics included climate change and disasters, women and social vulnerability, and effective public education.
Tierney gave a presentation entitled, "Response, Recovery, and Resilience." While in Kobe, she also participated in the First International Conference on Urban Disaster Reduction.

Jeannette Sutton participated in a seminar on the South Asian tsunami on the Boulder Campus January 26. The CU-Boulder Tsunami and Disaster Experts panel was composed of CU faulty members with expertise in issues related to the event and the region. Jeannette discussed warning systems and the need to include public education in the design of effective systems. The free public symposium was held in the auditorium of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences in the Ekeley Sciences building.

Kathleen Tierney has been chosen to lead a study of "societal issues associated with terrorism in the U.S." as part of $12 million grant from Homeland Security Department.

Kathleen Tierney spoke about her research on disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, and terrorist attacks) Thursday, February 10, 2005 at the Koenig Alumni Association. Her talk "The Truth about Homeland Security" was part of the Newsworthy@CU series sponsored by the CU Alumni Association.

On March 16, 2005 the City of Aspen passed the Canary Initiative that maps out a comprehensive strategy for Aspen to address climate change and local green house gas emissions. One part of the Canary Initiative is the Aspen Climate Change Impact Assessment Project. Bill Travis is one of the lead scientists on the assessment and Nicholas Flores is on the project's advisory panel.

Lori Hunter acted as discussant for the session "Population and the Environment" at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America in Philadelphia, PA, March 31-April 2.

Two members of the Program on Environment and Behavior participated in the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in Denver, CO, April 5-9:

Gilbert F. White gave the introduction to the Presidential Plenary session Geographies of Fear and Hope: Environments, Societies and Sustainability.

William R. Travis was a discussant at the session on Conservation and private lands in the New West I: Institutions and ownership.

Wayne Twine presented the following work at the "International Conference on HIV/AIDS, Food, and Nutrition Security" in Durban, South Africa (April 14-16, 2005) sponsored by the International Food Policy Research Institute. Participation in the conference was highly competitive and we were pleased to have our work chosen for presentation!
Hunter, Lori M. and Wayne Twine. "Adult Mortality, Natural Resources and Food Security: Evidence from the Agincourt Field Site in Rural South Africa."
(Environment and Behavior Program working paper series: EB2005-0001 full text PDF)

Hannah Brenkert has been named a 2005 recipient of the Brown/Ricketts/Udick Grant from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Boulder, Colorado Branch. This is a $1000 grant for doctoral candidates and is based on candidate's background, experience, career goals and contribution to community.
Congratulations Hannah!

Chuck Howe addressed 26th Annual Summer Conference of the Natural Resources Law Center at UCB, June 8-10th, 2005.
The subject of the conference was "Hard Times on the Colorado River: Drought, Growth and the Future of the Compact." Attendance at the conference of 150+ was from all over the U.S. and a few other countries. The conference was very timely given the near-crisis situation facing the states of the Colorado Basin resulting from the five years of drought and resultant strains on the Colorado River Compact that divides the river's water between Upper and Lower Basins. Howe's talk, "Establish True Basin-Wide Institutions", addressed the need to return to the river basin as a whole for management and planning. While that seems obvious from the hydrologic point of view, the Colorado has been divided among political jurisdictions (states, special districts) that share decision powers over the water but fail to consider the basin-wide effects of their decisions. The costs of failing to treat the basin as a whole are sharply increasing as population grows rapidly and as environmental demands are made on the river. A brief history of multi-state inter-basin compacts in the U.S. illustrated the willingness of states to cooperate in river management when the purposes of cooperation are well focused but several Colorado proposals for interstate water sharing through markets have been sharply rejected by the Upper Basin states. Seemingly viable proposals for interstate cooperation and water marketing include a proposal by California in 1991 for closely supervised interstate "water banking". If such banking is accepted by the states, water can be leased among the states during droughts and to protect instream flow values. Another proposal follows a suggestion of Governor Roy Romer in 1991 that upstream states with unused water contract with downstream states to guarantee that the water will continue to flow downstream over a specified period. For interstate water cooperation to work, the water rights of each state must be clearly understood. This is proving to be difficult from a legal point of view because of ambiguities in the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

From the June 13, 2005 High Country News feature article "How dense can we be?" (written by Allen Best):
"You can put a lot of people in the landscape, but with less impact if you do it in certain ways," says William Travis, a geographer at the University of Colorado-Boulder. "We will have to pay a lot of attention to the patterns rather than the raw numbers."
Full article available at http://www.headwatersnews.org/hcn.sprawl061305.html

Congratulations to Terry McCabe on his promotion to Full Professor in 2005.

Janet is not the only person that we are saying goodbye to. Mara Salazar, our trusty, dependable work study student and another member of our front office staff, decided that it was time to graduate and take her economics degree and move on. Mara has been with the Center for four years and four workshops and has proven to be a valuable member of the team and one that could be counted on time and time again. The dedication that Mara showed the Center is rare for a student employee whose passion is not hazards and disasters. In addition to being a hard worker, she brightened the office with her youthfulness, cheerfulness, and good attitude.

Janet Kroeckel, the Natural Hazards Center's publications administrator, has answered one call we hoped she wouldn't receive this soon...the call to retire. After 16 years of dedicated service, Janet has decided to leave Colorado and head home to her family and the beautiful hills of Missouri. Over the years, Janet became a whiz at managing the Center's database, processing publication orders, responding to information requests from around the world, and, in general, representing the Center to the public. She played a lead role in coordinating the Center's annual workshop and has been the person that the staff turned to when they needed anything, no matter how big or small. Janet has not only been a wonderful colleague, she has also been a friend of the highest order with a listening ear, a caring gesture, and a kind word, just when they were needed most.

Alexandra Marks writes about the valuable role citizens have played in providing the initial, and often lifesaving, assistance during acts of terrorism in her article "The Real First Responders: Citizens?" that appeared in the July 14, 2005 issue of the Christian Science Monitor. In her article Marks notes the "upstart group of sociologists, physicians, and terrorism experts contends that the use of ordinary citizens during a large-scale emergency could save hundreds if not thousands of lives. And they are determined to ensure the public is properly prepared before the next catastrophic event." She quotes Kathleen Tierney regarding the need to "... readjust our thinking. If you look at the 9/11 commission report they talked about first responders versus what they called 'civilians,' as if all of the civilians did was just stand at the sidelines," ... "That is so radically at variance with what actually happened that day."

Kathleen Tierney was one of three researchers from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) interviewed for the article, "Facing the Terrorist Threat" written by Michael Hill of the Baltimore Sun on July 10, 2005. The article addresses the reality of terrorism in our everyday lives, how it compares to and differs from other types of life threatening situations, the importance of unity, the need "to very systematically and very carefully assess risks, responsibilities, and plans;" the dangers of certain reactions; and "some simple things that can be done quite quickly."

Kathleen Tierney was interviewed for Kiplinger's Magazine August publication, In the article "Brace Yourself for the Hurricane Season," she notes that the big problem in the areas subject to hurricanes is that they are the fastest growing in population. Tierney then addresses how to determine risks, the most common mistakes made in emergencies, and the best way to prepare for disaster.

Workshop 2005

The Natural Hazards Center hosted its 30th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop July 10-13, 2005. This invitational meeting brings together representatives from academic and practitioner communities around the world who work to reduce disaster losses to foster face-to-face networking and discussion about current issues and trends that affect how society deals with hazards and disasters. The 30th anniversary presented an opportunity to reflect on how the hazards community has developed and evolved as well as what the future holds. This year it addressed the hazards issues of the day and used the past as a lens for anticipating future challenges. Sessions topics included the 2004 Asian Tsunami, megacities and disasters, the legal issues surrounding outbreaks and quarantine, innovations in earth observations, gender issues, and many others. The keynote address, "The Natural Hazards Center, a Leadership Platform for 30 years" was given by William Anderson, associate executive director of the Division on Earth and Life Sciences and director of the Disasters Roundtable at the National Academies. The final workshop program, session summaries, and abstracts are available online at http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/workshop/2005/.

As always, a number of people at IBS were instrumental in the success of the event, with a special thanks to John Wiener for recording a plenary session, "Climate Change and Unpredictability in Hazards Management", and Sugandha Brooks for preparing the invitations and participant lists.

In July, 2005, just in time for her first workshop, Julie Baxter joined the Natural Hazards Center staff as our communications specialist. Julie holds a master's degree in community and regional planning from the University of Oregon and a bachelor's degree in natural resources from the University of Michigan. Julie's interests include natural hazards mitigation, land use planning, and public participation strategies. Her master's thesis addressed public support for land use regulations in the wildland/urban interface. In addition to her academic interest in hazards, her experience preparing park stewardship plans for Colorado State Parks and developing a county wildfire protection plan as a project manager for the Oregon Natural Hazards Work-group make her a welcome addition to the Natural Hazards Center's staff. Julie will be responsible for compiling and editing the Disaster Research e-newsletter, implementing outreach activities, managing the Center's Web site, and coordinating special projects and publications.