1st Edition

The Vulnerability of Cities Natural Disasters and Social Resilience

By Mark Pelling Copyright 2003

    When disaster strikes in cities the effects can be catastrophic compared to other environments. But what factors actually determine the vulnerability or resilience of cities? The Vulnerability of Cities fills a vital gap in disaster studies by examining the too-often overlooked impact of disasters on cities, the conditions leading to high losses from urban disasters and why some households and communities withstand disaster more effectively than others. Mark Pelling takes a fresh look at the literature on disasters and urbanization in light of recent catastrophes. He presents three detailed studies of cities in the global South, drawn from countries with contrasting political and developmental contexts: Bridgetown, Barbados - a liberal democracy; Georgetown, Guyana - a post socialist-state; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - an authoritarian state in democratic transition. This book demonstrates that strengthening local capacity - through appropriate housing, disaster-preparedness, infrastructure and livelihoods - is crucial to improving civic resilience to disasters. Equally important are strong partnerships between local community-based organizations, external non-governmental and governmental organizations, public and private sectors and between city and national government. The author highlights and discusses these best practices for handling urban disasters. With rapid urbanization across the globe, this book is a must-read for professionals, policy-makers, students and researchers in disaster management, urban development and planning, transport planning, architecture, social studies and earth sciences.

    Section I: Cities and Environmental Risk - tracing the Roots of Urban Risk and Vulnerability * Cities as Sites for Disaster * Social Vulnerability in the City * Urban Governance and Disaster * Section II: The Case Studies - Maintaining Civil Society in a Liberal Democracy: Bridgetown, Barbados * Post-Socialism and Barriers to Building a Civil Society: Georgetown, Guyana * Patrimonal Regimes and the Maintenance of a Constructive Civil Society: Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic * Section III: Towards Safer Cities - Action for Safer Cities * Appendix * References * Index


    Mark Pelling has worked as a Lecturer at the University of Guyana and as a Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool where he is currently a Lecturer in human Geography.

    'An ambitious book.' Open House International 'This thought-provoking book can be seen as a foundation stone for a new research agenda.' Journal of International Development 'Pelling has provided another compelling argument against the naturalness of natural disasters...a study that is both comprehensive in its review of theory, varied in its selection of case studies, and concise in their representation on the printed page..' The Geographical Journal 'A valuable addition to the natural hazard literature.' Geographical Association '...a welcome addition to the literature on urban disaster' Journal of Environmental Planning and Management May 2004 '...a readable and rewarding book that should prove as genuinely useful to those working in disaster preparedness as to academics' Journal of Environmental Planning and Management May 2004